It was the reaction Tracee Wells wanted.
With a young team, Wells, who is in her sixth season as the women’s basketball coach at Tennessee State University, didn’t know what to expect. While most coaches train their players to keep a short memory of losses, this one was different.
When Tennessee State suffered an 82-11 setback at Georgia Tech on Dec. 30, the Lady Tigers set an NCAA Women’s Division I record for the fewest points scored in a game.
“That next day we felt it pretty bad,” said Wells, who was coaching in just her third game since having a baby on Nov. 30. “I was glad to see that they felt really bad about it. Sometimes with young players you don’t know how they will respond to things, to adversity. They did not like it and did not ever want to experience it again.”
The offensive struggles during that game were uncharacteristic. Though the Lady Tigers entered the contest with a 4-8 record, they had scored at least 46 points in every game prior to that and were averaging 58 per game.
But against Georgia Tech, the shots didn’t fall. TSU finished with just three field goals out of 50 attempts and missed all 24 shots it took in the first half. The Lady Tigers made just three free throws in the opening 20 minutes and trailed 49-3 at halftime, which equaled the NCAA Division I record for the fewest points in a half.
The team’s leading scorer, Meredith Stafford, entered the game averaging nearly 12 points but was 0-for-12 from the field and scored just one point. Freshman Jasmine Brimm, a Smyrna native, finished the night with a team-leading six points.
“It was just an off-night all around. It was just off. We just couldn’t get it together,” Stafford said. “I think it was more us — what we didn’t do — than what they did to us.”
Wells said Georgia Tech’s physical play “shocked” her young team. With five freshmen, seven sophomores and just one junior and one senior, the challenge of an ACC opponent was a new experience for most of the squad. The Yellow Jackets won 10 of their 14 games before they hosted TSU.
“With really seeing a big 6-4, 6-5 post player shooting threes and banging on the inside, that was definitely a different body type than what we’ve seen in a lot of our [Ohio Valley Conference] games,” Wells said. “For them, that is what they did. They were big. They were physical, and we did struggle with that.”
The toll was evident in a number of areas. The Lady Tigers committed 35 turnovers, lost the rebounding battle 59-35 and gave up 42 points in the paint.
“That was the first time I had seen everything go wrong on the same day,” Wells said. “No one was able to score, so you couldn’t rely on one person. It was just all things that went wrong on the same day, and it just made for an awful night for the Lady Tigers.”
TSU had a week before its next game to turn its attention back to Ohio Valley Conference action.
They were 1-3 in OVC play prior to recently beating Murray State, and the players realize winning will be an uphill climb.
After letting the loss sink in for a few days and receiving national attention for the dubious record, though, the Lady Tigers are ready to move forward.
“This is what will determine which way you are going to go,” Wells said. “I told them [the day after the loss] that we can make a great story at this point. If no one knew how we were doing or what was going on, we made national headlines. We got some attention. Now we have to do something with that attention and show people that, ‘OK, we had a misstep. Now we are focused, and now we’re ready, and we recognize where we want to go.’ ”