- Charlie Creme, Women's College Basketball
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Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
Only the coming weeks will prove whether Sunday's absolute devastation of North Carolina solved Tennessee's 2012-13 consistency issues. But if Meighan Simmons' performance in Knoxville becomes more the norm than the aberration, then the Lady Vols should be just fine in their first season under Holly Warlick.
For now, it was the fuel that propelled the junior guard to espnW's player of the week honors. Simmons torched the Tar Heels, who entered the game as one of the stingiest defenses in the country, for 33 points, along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. More importantly, the efficiency that often lacked in Simmons' first two seasons in Knoxville sparkled on Sunday. She shot 12-for-22 from the field and made all six of her free throws. Simmons was an even better 9-of-11 from the floor during the opening 20 minutes that really decided the game.
Not only was the 33 points a career best, it was also the highest total for a Lady Vol since Candace Parker scored 34 against Notre Dame in the 2008 regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament. In the process, Simmons became the 37th player at Tennessee to score 1,000 career points.
While the 102-57 pasting of No. 22 North Carolina was Tennessee at its presumed best, the scare the Lady Vols received Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling against Middle Tennessee was the other end of the inconsistency narrative. Simmons also led Tennessee with 19 points in the 88-81 overtime win. Her nine first-half points kept the Lady Vols' hole a little more manageable to dig out of. Simmons also hit a bucket in a decisive 10-0 run in the overtime period.
As the Lady Vols' leading scorer this season (17.9 ppg), Simmons appears to be letting the game come to her more easily, letting her defense help her offense, and not forcing the issue. At the same time, she is still playing with the same aggressiveness that really does define her game.
It has been a two-year search for that balance. Sunday might have been the best example yet as to what the results can be when Simmons finds it.
17dBonnie D. Ford