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Pepperdine poised in 89-57 loss to No. 3 Tennessee

Tennessee Lady Volunteers guard Meighan Simmons (10) shoots over Pepperdine's forward Skye Barnett (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee Lady Volunteers guard Meighan Simmons (10) shoots over Pepperdine's forward Skye Barnett (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
By Beth Rucker
AP Sports Writer / November 13, 2011

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Pepperdine coach Julie Rousseau hopes the Waves have set a standard for how they will play all season in how they competed against Tennessee.

Though they lost 89-57 to the third-ranked Lady Volunteers on Sunday, the Waves played tough defense and forced turnovers throughout the game, keeping Tennessee off balance for at least one half.

"We have very high goals and expectations for ourselves for the season, and I think that when we have those goals you have to play the best in order to see where you stack up," Rousseau said. "I think there's a lot of confidence that we leave here with."

Like Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, Pepperdine coach Julie Rousseau stresses defense to her team, which returned 10 letter-winners and all five starters from last year's team, which reached the WNIT tournament. The Waves, who finished fourth in the nation last year in turnover margin and fourth in steals per game, smothered the Lady Vols, keeping them uncomfortable on every single shot and forcing 22 turnovers.

It took over two minutes for the first shot to finally fall. Pepperdine never led, but kept within two baskets until an 8-0 run capped by Meighan Simmons' jumper with 10:32 left in the first half gave Tennessee a 20-9 lead.

The Waves got a pair of free throws followed by a layup from Skye Barnett to get the margin within seven points with 7:23 before halftime, but it was as close as they would get. Tennessee went on another 8-0 run before the break and scored 18 unanswered points early in the second half to put the game out of reach.

Summitt played her entire bench in the first half, including freshmen Cierra Burdick and Isabelle Harrison, and the Tennessee bench scored 20 points.

Glory Johnson led the Lady Vols with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Shekinna Stricklen and Simmons each had 13 points, Taber Spani contributed 11 points and Briana Bass had 10.

Pepperdine's tough defense came at a cost. The Waves had 14 personal fouls in the first half, though the Lady Vols were uncharacteristically sloppy at the charity stripe, making just 2 of 6 foul shots before halftime.

Still, it forced Rousseau to go deep into her bench, which was responsible for just four points in the first half and 19 total. Jazmine Jackson had 17 points for the Waves, who shot 28.4 percent to the Lady Vols' 49.2 percent shooting.

"I feel like we attacked them fairly well, but I also think that we settled for a lot of outside shots," Jackson said.

Tennessee outrebounded Pepperdine 54-34, but couldn't turn them into points. The Lady Vols gained control of the game with their 20 fast-break points and by sinking eight of their 10 3-point baskets in the second half.

Summitt gave a starting nod to point guard Ariel Massengale, making her just the 14th Lady Vol to start her first career game. The coach was so convinced of Massengale's talent and frustrated by a lack of a bona fide point guard last season that she dubbed Massengale a starter back in March.

Massengale sat for more than 13 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls and finished with just one field goal but had five assists to just one turnover and came up with two steals and three rebounds in 20 minutes of play.

Summitt had been waiting for the season to start, ready to get the attention off her and her dementia diagnosis and back on her Lady Volunteers and their quest for a ninth national championship.

The focus was still on her briefly before the game as U.S. Sports Academy director of communications Duwayne Escobedo presented Summitt with the Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award.

The award is presented annually in honor of an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport. Summitt disclosed her diagnosis in hopes of helping others understand they could still live their lives after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"It's a tremendous honor. Obviously, I appreciate it, and I'm humbled by it," Summitt said.