Monday, January 31, 2005

(19) Georgia (16-5) vs. (5) Tennessee (15-3)

Game Info: 7:00 pm EST Mon Jan 31, 2005

Tennessee has won seven straight games and is one of the top five teams in the country. Still, coach Pat Summitt still sees plenty of room for improvement.
The fifth-ranked Lady Vols look to make their coach a little happier as they host No. 18 Georgia on Monday.

Tennessee (15-3, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) beat South Carolina 68-53 on Thursday for their 39th straight regular season SEC win. However, the Lady Vols had 21 turnovers, shot just 39.1 percent and trailed in the middle of the second half.

``I'll tell you, I'm very disappointed that we came here and played the way we did,'' Summitt said. ``It's just not Tennessee's way. It's not acceptable. But I will accept a win.''

The Gamecocks pulled ahead 37-36 with 13:54 left in the game before Shyra Ely sparked a 16-2 run that gave the Vols control.

Ely finished with 16 points, and Tye'sha Fluker added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Fluker is averaging 13 points and 8.2 rebounds in Tennessee's five conference games.

``I think that when you are Tennessee and you are a marked program, and everyone wants to beat you,'' said Summitt, who is 13 wins shy of becoming the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. ``We have to first of all match that intensity. ... When you play at Tennessee, we are a program that has high standards.''

The Vols have won their first five conference games this season by an average of 15 points, including a 79-65 win over No. 21 Vanderbilt on Jan. 16. Tennessee, which has not lost a regular season conference game since February 2002, has outscored all of its opponents by an average of 10.5 points.

``We didn't take the initiative to bring the energy, to bring the intensity to them,'' said Shanna Zolman, who scored 13 points. ``We did once we finally got jump-started and got yelled at.''

The Lady Bulldogs (16-5, 5-2 SEC) won their third straight on Thursday, beating Florida 81-61. Freshman Tasha Humphrey had team-highs of 21 points and nine rebounds, just missing her seventh double-double in as many conference games and her 10th overall.

Summitt said the Lady Vols will be looking out for Humphrey, who leads Georgia with 18.7 points per game.

``She has had the scorer's mentality, and she wants to be the go-to player,'' Summit said. ``She has established herself as that, which makes Georgia a lot better now in terms of quickness and depth. She is a tough player to defend one-on-one.''

Guard Sherill Baker played all 40 minutes for the Bulldogs, and had 18 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.

Georgia has two conference losses so far, against Kentucky and top-ranked Louisiana State. Thursday's win was the 708th for Landers, tying him with Sue Gunter for fourth on the all-time list, one behind Rutgers' Vivian Stringer.

Tennessee leads the all-time series between the schools 32-14 and has won five of the last six meetings. However, Georgia is one of just three teams, along with Connecticut and Texas, to beat Tennessee twice at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Bulldogs are also the last SEC team to beat the Lady Vols at home, 94-93 in overtime on Dec. 8, 1996.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Lady Vols Look to Tame Bulldogs Monday Night

Monday's game against Georgia will be televised nationally on ESPN2

Since 1990, Tennessee (10) or Georgia (4) have won all but one regular-season Southeastern Conference Championship (Ole Miss in 1992), even finishing as co-champions in 2000. In that time frame, the Lady Vols have won four national championships, while the Lady Bulldogs have advanced to three Final Fours.

In addition, UT has defeated Georgia six consecutive times. This has been a strange season for women's basketball, as Georgia hosted then-No. 2/3 Texas on Nov. 21 and hung a 78- 64 loss on the Longhorns, but lost to TCU, 64-63, and fell at Kentucky, 73-61. Meanwhile, Tennessee was defeated by Texas, 74-59, but easily defeated both TCU, 82-55, and Kentucky, 67-49. So what's in store tonight as these two powerhouses square off at 7 p.m?

Five games into Southeastern Conference play, Tennessee has climbed to No. 5 in the AP poll, and having enjoyed a perfect SEC slate thus far, the Lady Vols have seen statistical increases across the board.

Whereas in the overall statistics, Tennessee boasts but one player (Shrya Ely) averaging double figures in scoring, league play has been a different story. Ely is joined by Shanna Zolman, Brittany Jackson and Tye'sha Fluker, who are all scoring at least 11.0 ppg.

Fluker has really stepped up her game, averaging 13.0 points and 8.2 rebounds in five conference games, up from her 6.0 and 5.5 non-conference averages. Her shooting touch has been right on against league foes, hitting 65 percent (30-46) from the field. The Big Orange had a bit of a scare on Thursday, as South Carolina's Stacy Booker hit a three-pointer to put the Gamecocks ahead 37-36 with 13:54 remaining, but Ely fueled a 16-2 run to end the upset bid. Fluker scored 15 and added 10 rebounds, while Jackson hit 5-of-9 three-pointers in the 68-53 win. The school record for three-pointers made in a game is six, set seven times by three players, the most recent of which was Tasha Butts, who hit six three-pointers against Vanderbilt on Feb. 14, 2004. UT has not lost to South Carolina since Jan. 23, 1980, and has won 39-consecutive SEC games going into today's contest.

Georgia began the season as a consensus preseason top-five pick, but after dropping three of five games between Nov. 27-Dec. 7, the team has plummeted in the rankings to 19th. Since that losing skid, however, the Lady Bulldogs have won 11 of their last 13 games to post a 16-5 record overall, including 5-2 in the SEC.

Georgia is led by freshman forward Tasha Humphrey, who tops the team at 18.7 ppg. Humphrey has paced the squad in scoring in all but four games and has posted 10 double-doubles on the season to average a team-high 8.8 rpg.

Two other Lady Bulldogs have averaged double-figure point totals, as junior Sherill Baker and sophomore Cori Chambers are contributing 11.1 and 13.5 points, respectively. Offensively, the team has shot quite well from the field, hitting at a 44 percent clip, paced by Humphrey, who has connected on 57 percent (149-259) of her shots.

On the defensive end, Georgia has held its opponents to just 59.3 ppg and is shooting 38 percent (466-1240) from the field. The Lady Bulldogs have also forced 375 turnovers, led by Baker with a team-high 50 steals.

It has been quite a different story offensively for Georgia in SEC play, however, as the squad has connected on just 40 percent from the field while allowing opponents to shoot 38 percent.

Pat Summitt is in her 31st year as head coach of the Lady Vols. Her overall career record stands at 867 wins and 170 losses, and she has led UT to six national championships. Summitt is assisted by Holly Warlick, Nikki Caldwell and Dean Lockwood.

Georgia is coached by Andy Landers, who is in his 26th season at the helm of the Lady Bulldog program. Landers has compiled a 626-194 record and is assisted by Michael Shafer, Brenda Hill and Katie Gilbert.

Shanna Zolman has stepped up her game for conference foes, connecting on 51 percent of her SEC field goal attempts, up from 37 percent on the season...The Lady Vols have seen their free throw shooting increase as well, connecting on 69 percent on the season, while converting 77 percent from the charity stripe during SEC matchups...Brittany Jackson has hit 50 percent (16-32) of her three-pointers in SEC play...Pat Summitt needs just 13 wins to become the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history...The Lady Vols hold a commanding +15.0 rpg average (42.3 to 28.3) in conference play, opposed to just +6.0 (42.7 to 36.7) overall...10 players are averaging double-digit minutes...With 16,471 in attendance at the game vs. Kentucky on Jan. 23, the Lady Vols passed the 100,000 fan mark this season, marking the 11th consecutive season that has occurred...To date, 102,355 fans have attended Big Orange games this season...Tennessee owns a 341-53 record all-time vs. the SEC, posting a 141-9 record all-time at home vs. league foes...Since 1998, UT is 100-3 against the SEC, with losses to Vanderbilt, LSU and Georgia.

Georgia is just 1-2 on the road in SEC play, losing to then-No. 1 LSU, 76-52, and providing former UT assistant coach Mickie DeMoss with her first win over a ranked opponent, as her Wildcats upended the Lady Bulldogs, 73-61...Georgia has posted an all-time record of 14-32 against Tennessee, having dropped six straight...Georgia has been fantastic at the free throw line, hitting 77 percent (263-341), which is sixth best in the nation...Junior guard Alexis Kendrick leads the team with 74 assists on the year...Senior guard Tina Taylor, who is believed to be the first sixth-year women's hoops player in SEC history, had her comeback effort end in October. She suffered a career-ending injury, requiring the fifth knee surgery of her collegiate tenure...Georgia is 357-5 when scoring 80 or more points under head coach Andy Landers, including 6-0 this season...Landers is second to only Pat Summitt among Division I coaches with at least 20 seasons on the job, averaging 24.4 wins per campaign.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Lady Vol Basketball - Practice Report

Monday's game against Georgia will be televised nationally on ESPN2

Jan. 28, 2005

Five games into Southeastern Conference play, Tennessee climbed up to No. 5 in the AP poll. However, after a hard-fought 68-53 victory at South Carolina, the Lady Vols are not taking a break and have refocused their efforts at the defensive end of the floor.

"Today we did a lot of defense, and I think tomorrow we will too because defense wins games," senior guard Shyra Ely said. "With a team like Georgia, it's imperative we play really good defense."

The Lady Vols will try and shut out Georgia's star freshman, forward Tasha Humphrey, who scored 21 points in the team's 81-61 win over Florida on Thursday night.

"She has had the scorer's mentality, and she wants to be the go-to player," said Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt. " She has established herself as that, which makes Georgia a lot better now in terms of quickness and depth. She is a tough player to defend one-on-one."

Despite Humphrey and Georgia's high-scoring guards Sherill Baker and Janese Hardick, the team feels confident it is prepared to face the Lady Bulldogs.

"We had some tough road games, and for that reason I don't think we could be any more prepared to play Georgia and Florida," Summitt said.

Tennessee has just nine games left in the regular season before heading to Greenville, S.C., for the SEC Tournament to be held March 3-6.

The Lady Vols will be back in action again when they face Georgia on Monday at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling arena. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hornbuckle is making her point

KNOXVILLE — Even if Alexis Hornbuckle listens most of the time, she still sees the occasional opportunity to deviate from the coaches' plan.

Early in the second half of the Lady Vols' 67-49 win over Kentucky on Sunday, Hornbuckle heard the voice coming from behind her.

''Dribble middle … dribble middle,'' came the shout from Coach Pat Summitt.

Hornbuckle knew she had a better option. She snuck a pass underneath the basket to an awaiting Tye'sha Fluker, who laid it in for an easy basket.

It's improvisation that has made Hornbuckle an impact player as a freshman, but it's the fact she listens that caused Summitt move her into the starting point guard spot.

''I don't feel that I've been that tough on her because of how receptive she's been to really embracing that position,'' Summitt said.

As No. 5 Tennessee (13-3, 3-0 SEC) travels to South Carolina (6-13, 0-5) for a 6 p.m. tip-off, Hornbuckle will start for the second consecutive game.

''I am like the queen of questions when I don't understand something,'' Hornbuckle said. ''(Summitt) can tell when I don't really understand.''

Hornbuckle struggled to understand Summitt's expectations on defense her first few months on campus.

But when senior point guard Loree Moore was sidelined for a month after a tonsillectomy, Summitt had no other option but to start Hornbuckle.

The Lady Vols' other true point guard, freshman Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, was recovering from tendinitis.

Hornbuckle started five games during that stretch, and had moments of brilliance (17 points and five steals against Louisiana Tech on Dec. 15) as well as rough times (3-of-12 shooting in a 65-51 loss to Rutgers on Dec. 29.)

When Moore returned to action against UConn on Jan. 8, she took back her starting job.

However, some uninspired starts in the next two games led Summitt to give Hornbuckle a chance against Kentucky.

Tennessee opened that game on a 22-2 run.

''I love the way we started the game (Sunday),'' Summitt said. ''I complimented Lex right after the game. That was big. Her play was one of the reasons I felt like we got off to a good start.''

Hornbuckle was recruited to play the off-guard position, but so far this season, she has switched between both guard positions and even has played some at small forward.

The constant changes haven't affected the freshman much. She is leading the team in assists, blocks and steals, and she is fourth on the team in scoring.

''I don't think it's been difficult with me,'' Hornbuckle said. ''It's been a true learning experience. At one point in your career, you're going to come off the bench. You're going to start. You're going to be in one position. You're going to be in the next.

''For me to get all that in one year in a short amount of time, I think that's great.''

No. 5 Tennessee 68, South Carolina 53

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt watched her team beat South Carolina for the 30th straight time and didn't like what she saw.

``I'll tell you, I'm very disappointed that we came here and played the way we did,'' Summitt said after a 68-53 victory Thursday night. ``It's just not Tennessee's way. It's not acceptable. But I will accept a win.''

The fifth-ranked Lady Vols made 21 turnovers and trailed in the second half. Still, they extended their streak against the Gamecocks that began after a 56-52 defeat on Jan. 23 -- when Jimmy Carter was in The White House.

Most of those win came with ease, with the average margin of victory 33.3 points.

This time, it took until the final 10 minutes for Tennessee (15-3, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) to wear down South Carolina (6-14, 0-6) for its seventh consecutive victory.

Stacy Booker hit a long 3-pointer that put South Carolina ahead 37-36 with 13:54 remaining. That's when Shyra Ely fueled a 16-2 run to give Tennessee control.

She put back a missed shot, was fouled and converted the free throw to give Tennessee the lead for good. She followed with a short jumper and a wide-open 3-pointer for a 44-37 lead. Shanna Zolman ended South Carolina's upset bid with consecutive 3-pointers.

When Zolman's second long-range shot swished through, the Lady Vols were ahead 52-39 with 8:14 left.

Ely finished with a team-high 16 points, but had eight of her team's turnovers.

``We needed to play hard, to come out with intensity and we didn't do that until the second half,'' Ely said.

Early on, this certainly wasn't the sharp, polished Tennessee team that usually pounds South Carolina.

The Lady Vols' passes would bounce off hands and go out of bounds. They missed nine of their first 12 shots and had nine turnovers in the game's first 10 minutes to trail 19-11.

Even when Tennessee rallied to a 27-24 lead, Summitt was not happy with what she watched -- and she let her players know it.

``We didn't take the initiative to bring the energy, to bring the intensity to them,'' Zolman said. ``We did once we finally got jump-started and got yelled at.''

Asked what she told the team at the break, Summitt deadpanned that her speech was ``not as inspiring as you might think it was.''

Besides the dominating run over South Carolina, the Lady Vols have won their last 39 SEC regular-season games dating to February 2002.

South Carolina coach Susan Walvius thought her team played with passion and drive for three quarters of the game, but collapsed when Ely and the Lady Vols got going.

``I think we just lost focus,'' forward Iva Sliskovic said. ``They took advantage of that.''

While Ely was leading the decisive run, the Gamecocks went 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-3 on free throws.

Tye'sha Fluker had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee. Brittany Jackson added 15 points and Zolman 13.

Sliskovic had 14 points and eight rebounds to lead the Gamecocks.

Summitt sat at the interview table with Ely, Zolman and Jackson -- her three seniors who average nearly 35 points among them -- and made it clear the sting of this victory wouldn't disappear for a while.

``We can't let our play do what it did tonight and that is dip. Our play was uninspired and the execution was poor,'' Summitt said. ``We have to learn to get on a mission.''

Lady Vols look to stay perfect in league play as they visit Gamecocks

(5) Tennessee (14-3) vs. South Carolina (6-13)
Game Info: 7:00 pm EST Thu Jan 27, 2005

It's been almost three years since Tennessee has dropped a regular season Southeastern Conference game, and more than two decades since it has lost to South Carolina.

The fifth-ranked Lady Vols look to keep both winning streaks intact as they travel to the Colonial Center to face the struggling Gamecocks on Thursday.

Tennessee (13-3, 3-0 SEC), which hasn't lost a league contest since falling at Vanderbilt on Feb. 2, 2002, extended its regular season SEC win streak to 38 with a 67-49 victory over Kentucky on Sunday.

``We always talk about SEC play and put an emphasis on it when the time comes,'' Lady Vols coach Pat Summit said. ``You can talk about it, but they have demonstrated through their play and preparation that they really are focused on being successful. I have to credit this team and the leadership of the seniors.''

Two of those seniors, forward Shyra Ely and guard Brittany Jackson, lead the team statistically as well, averaging 13.3 and 9.5 points per contest, respectively. Ely also contributes a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game.

The Lady Vols have won 33 of 35 all-time meetings with the Gamecocks, and 29 in a row since a 56-52 setback in Columbia on Jan. 23, 1980.

The Gamecocks are coming off a 61-49 loss to Arkansas on Sunday, and have dropped 11 consecutive SEC games dating to last season.

Sophomore guard Lauren Simms paces the South Carolina offense, averaging 13.0 points per game, but is the only starter averaging double figures for the Gamecocks.

Tennessee has beaten South Carolina by an average of 33.3 points during the 29-game win streak, but Summitt refuses to take any opponent lightly.

``We realize that when we come to town, we bring out the best in everyone,'' she said. ``I expect it to be a very tough game. That is just the makeup of our league and the competitiveness no matter where you are, home and away. That team has some talent and concerns me.''

Monday, January 24, 2005

Lady Vols hard on DeMoss

KNOXVILLE — Kentucky Coach Mickie DeMoss' return to Knoxville started off with a glimmer of hope.

DeMoss, an assistant under UT Coach Pat Summitt for 18 years, received a warm ovation from the Thompson-Boling Arena crowd. Just before tip-off, Summitt gave DeMoss a glass vase with a gracious inscription printed on it. And her Kentucky team took a 2-0 lead with a Chante' Bowman jumper 10 seconds into the game. That was pretty much it for the friendly welcome.

The Wildcats missed their next 17 shots, and the No. 7 Lady Vols ran out to a 22-2 lead on their way to a 67-49 win in front of 13,716.

''I was beginning to wonder if we were going to score again,'' said DeMoss, who is in her second year as UK's head coach.

Tennessee's defense, combined with Kentucky's inability to make some easy shots, put the Lady Vols (14-3, 4-0 SEC) in control early. The Wildcats (13-7, 2-3) did not score their second field goal of the game until a Sara Potts' lay-up with 8:02 left in the first half.

''That was pretty tough defense,'' Summitt said. ''Kentucky got a lot of good looks early and the shots didn't fall. Our defense did cause them to rush a little bit, because the defensive intensity was really good.''

Senior forward Shyra Ely led Tennessee with 13 points and defensively shut down Potts, Kentucky's best player. Potts was averaging 14.7 points coming into the game, but Ely held her five points on 2-of-10 shooting and 1-of-7 from 3-point range.

''Before the Auburn game, Coach was telling me that I wasn't a very good defender,'' Ely said. ''That's such an important role that I have to fulfill for the team.''

UT freshman Alexis Hornbuckle, who was moved back into the starting lineup after senior Loree Moore had started the past three games, scored 12 points.

Summitt made the switch because she had not been pleased with the way UT had opened up its past two games.

''This starting group, I like,'' Summitt said. ''Alexis was a very efficient player today, and if you look at her stat line, she did a lot of great things for us. She's very coachable, and I think she manages the huddles very well and has been very vocal in running our sets.''

Because of the quick start, Summitt was able to get all of her bench players extended playing time. But she was not necessarily pleased with what they did.

Kentucky outscored Tennessee 33-32 in the second half. Eleven different players logged double-digit minutes.

''We got a lot of people quality minutes today,'' Summitt said. ''I didn't suggest that it was quality play.''

Tennessee beat Kentucky 81-72 last year in Lexington, the first time that DeMoss had faced her old team. It was the first time she had been in Knoxville as the coach of the visiting team.

The crowd gave her a standing ovation when she met Summitt at halfcourt before the game, and DeMoss turned and waved to all sections of the arena.

''It wasn't surprising, because I know all the fans love her as much as we do,'' UT junior Shanna Zolman said. ''But I was really excited for her that she got such a warm welcome.''

Summitt had not told DeMoss about the pre-game ceremony to honor her.

''I guess [UT women's athletics director] Joan Cronan tried to pull a fast one on me, caught me off-guard there,'' DeMoss said, laughing. ''It was a very welcoming crowd, and I was excited to be back at Thompson-Boling and to be back in that atmosphere.''

No. 7 Tennessee 67, Kentucky 49

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee welcomed former assistant Mickie DeMoss in her first visit since leaving for Kentucky.

Then the Lady Vols made sure she went home feeling the way most of the other Southeastern Conference coaches who come here do.

No. 7 Tennessee raced to a 22-2 lead midway through the first half and held the Wildcats to six field goals before halftime en route to a 67-49 victory on Sunday. It was the Lady Vols' 56th straight SEC win at home and 38th overall in the league's regular-season.

``I didn't know how the game would unfold. Let's face it, Kentucky got a lot of good looks early and the shots didn't fall,'' Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. ``Our defense I thought perhaps forced them to rush a little bit because the defensive intensity was really good.''

Shyra Ely scored 13 points, Alexis Hornbuckle added 12 and Sybil Dosty had 11 rebounds for the Lady Vols (14-3, 4-0), who extended their winning streak over Kentucky to 24 games.

Before the game, DeMoss hugged Summitt when they met on the court and waved to the cheering crowd. To DeMoss' surprise, Summitt then presented her with a crystal vase in honor of her 18 years with the Lady Vols. DeMoss left for Kentucky in March 2003.

``I felt that it was a very welcoming crowd,'' DeMoss said. ``I was excited to be back in Thompson-Boling.''

Tennessee wasn't nice to the Wildcats (13-7, 2-3) once the game started.

Kentucky's Chante Bowman scored the game's first points with a jumper. But the Wildcats didn't score their second field goal until nearly 12 minutes later, when Sara Potts' layup cut the lead to 17.

``I was beginning to wonder if we were going to score again,'' DeMoss said. ``We missed a couple of easy buckets, and I think it shook our confidence a little bit.''

Tennessee led by as many as 23 in the first half, and 15 was the closest Kentucky got before halftime.

Tennessee won 81-72 last year at Lexington in DeMoss' first game against the Lady Vols as Kentucky's head coach.

DeMoss helped recruit most of Tennessee's players, and they were happy to see her.

``That was extra motivation. It was exciting just to see Mickie on the floor,'' Shanna Zolman said.

Kentucky was the fourth team Tennessee held under 20 points in first half this season.

In the second half, the Lady Vols pushed their lead to 28 on Dosty's putback with 14:11 to go. Kentucky got it down to 53-37 after Potts' 3-pointer, but Tennessee quickly restored its advantage to over 20. Zolman hit a 3, Sidney Spencer sank a jumper and Hornbuckle had a layup to give the Lady Vols a 60-37 lead.

Freshman Samantha Mahoney led the Wildcats with 15 points. Potts, Kentucky's leading scorer, was guarded by Ely and held to five points.

The Lady Vols had 10 players score at least a basket. Once the margin widened, Summitt played with several different lineups on the floor, including one with four freshmen.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Lady Vols welcome back DeMoss

KNOXVILLE — Tyler Summitt has his impression down perfect.

He claps. He shuffles his feet. He waves with his hands in an effort to push the players down the floor.

Tyler watched film of Kentucky's women's basketball team with his mother, Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, yesterday. Summitt would rewind the tape so that they could watch Kentucky Coach Mickie DeMoss' actions on the sideline.

''She was running all up and down,'' Pat Summitt said.

When DeMoss was an assistant at Tennessee under Summitt for 18 years, she was known as the easy-going assistant, the friend of the players if Summitt ever started to push too hard. During games, she left most of the animated sideline work to Summitt.

In her second year leading the Wildcats' program, DeMoss looks a lot more like her mentor as she paces up and down the bench.

She will pace in familiar territory today, as she comes back to Thompson-Boling Arena for the first time as the coach of the visiting team.

''It's like coming back home,'' Summitt said. ''This was her home for 18 years, the longest that she's been anywhere in any program. She's such a part of our family, and the success that we had while she was here is tremendous. At the same time, I know that she's at a new place with a new home and a new team, and doing very good things.''

The Wildcats won only three conference games last season, but Kentucky (13-6, 2-2 SEC) is beginning to see a shift in its program, thanks mostly to the dramatic improvement in recruiting under DeMoss.

Summitt knows all about DeMoss' ability to recruit. With the exception of three freshmen, DeMoss had a hand in recruiting every player on the roster of No. 7 Tennessee (13-3, 3-0).

The two coaches still talk to one another after big games to discuss their teams, and they are still best friends off the court. But they did manage to take a few light-hearted jabs at one another through the media this week.

DeMoss joked that she didn't want to talk to Summitt when she got a phone call from her on Friday morning.

''Pat and I are going to play one-on-one once the game starts,'' said DeMoss, who played at Louisiana Tech. ''I can beat her.''

Added Summitt: ''If she could get a shot off, she probably would. I'm not sure she could get a shot off. Although…what was it at La Tech? She did lead them in shot attempts. She held that record for a long time, most shot attempts – not most made shots.''

DeMoss still has a pretty close relationship with several of Tennessee's players since she was involved in the recruiting of nearly every player on the roster, including three of the freshmen.

Senior point guard Loree Moore tried to call DeMoss earlier this week, but the Wildcats were on the road and Moore had to leave a message.

''We talk off-and-on, not as much as I would like to,'' Moore said. ''When I do get the chance, I try to see how she's doing. And whenever I get to see her, I really enjoy that moment.

''She has a legacy here. I think a lot will come back when she actually sets foot on the court, and she's coaching on a different side.''

Moore, who has played and started in all three games since returning from a tonsillectomy, will not get the start against Kentucky. Summitt was not pleased with the way the Lady Vols started off their two most recent games against Vanderbilt and Auburn.

Moore has favored her left knee in the past two games, a result of rust from her month off and stiffness from an ACL injury she suffered a year ago tomorrow.

Freshman Alexis Hornbuckle will start in Moore's place.

''I like her penetration game,'' Summitt said of Hornbuckle. ''After looking at the tape, there hasn't been that much difference in the defensive intensity. You've got to reward performance.''

Kentucky (13-6) vs. (7) Tennessee (13-3)

Game Info: 3:00 pm EST Sun Jan 23, 2005

Mickie DeMoss helped make Tennessee a women's basketball powerhouse. Now, she'd like nothing more than to beat the Lady Vols.
DeMoss makes her first trip to Thompson-Boling Arena as an opposing coach when Kentucky faces seventh-ranked Tennessee in a Southeastern Conference matchup.

DeMoss served as Tennessee coach Pat Summitt's assistant for 18 years. She was responsible for recruiting some of the Vols' best-known players, including Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings.

DeMoss, who left to become Kentucky's head coach in March 2003, also helped lure freshmen Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, Alexis Hornbuckle and Candace Parker to Tennessee. The three are part of a group of six freshmen considered the best incoming class ever assembled.

``Just thinking about the impact she's had on the success of this program -- that's huge,'' said Summitt, who needs just 15 more victories to become the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history.

``She has been recognized as the best assistant recruiter in the women's game, and probably if you polled the coaches they would say over the years there hasn't been anyone better.''

DeMoss, who served as a graduate assistant at Memphis State from 1977-79, a head coach at Florida from 1979-83, and an assistant at Auburn from 1983-85, faced the Vols as an opposing coach 10 times before coming to Tennessee, posting a 1-9 record. She lost 81-72 to Tennessee last season in Lexington as coach of the Wildcats.

Kentucky has not defeated Tennessee since 1986 -- one year before Thompson-Boling opened.

``The first thing you've got to do when you walk in the door (is) you've got to believe you can compete. It starts mentally,'' said DeMoss, who remains close friends with Summitt.

The Lady Vols (13-3, 3-0) beat Auburn 81-71 on Thursday for their 37th straight regular season conference win. Tennessee has won five straight overall since a 65-51 loss to No. 6 Rutgers on Dec. 29.

Shyra Ely scored 20 points for Tennessee, which hit 10 of 11 free throws down the stretch after Auburn took a brief lead. Tye'sha Fluker added 18 points and 11 rebounds, including eight points in the final four minutes.

The Wildcats (13-6, 2-2) lost 72-59 to Mississippi State on Thursday for their second defeat in seven games. Sara Potts and Sarah Elliot each scored 13 points for Kentucky, which shot just 34.5 percent.

Tennessee leads the all-time series 39-5.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

(7) Tennessee 81, Auburn 71

AUBURN, Ala. -- Shyra Ely scored 20 points, Tye'sha Fluker had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Tennessee rode a late surge to an 81-71 victory over Auburn on Thursday night.

The seventh-ranked Lady Vols (13-3, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) made 10 of 11 free throws after briefly falling behind to extend their regular-season league winning streak to 37 games.

The Tigers (9-8, 0-4) lost their sixth consecutive game, Auburn's longest losing streak since dropping seven in a row during the 2001-02 season.

Auburn, which never led in the first 34 minutes, took a 64-63 lead on Natasha Brackett's pull-up jumper with 4:53 left. But Brittany Jackson hit all three free throws after getting fouled on a long 3-point attempt and Tennessee added six more points from the line in the final 44 seconds to thwart any comeback hopes for Auburn.

Fluker scored eight points in the final four minutes and grabbed seven of Tennessee's 17 offensive boards.

Jackson finished with 15 points for Tennessee, making four of seven 3-pointers. Fluker had 14 points and seven rebounds in the second half.

Brackett led Auburn with 20 points and three steals, making seven of 10 shots and six of seven free throws. Louise Emeagi added 19 points for the Tigers, who made 16 of 17 free throws and shot 61 percent in the second half.

The Lady Vols dominated the boards 32-23 to offset Auburn's 58 percent shooting.

Tennessee led by as many as 10 points in the first half before Auburn's Nitasha Brown banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 36-29. The Tigers shot 55 percent in the half but committed 13 turnovers.

Tennessee, the league's worst shooting team, made 47 percent of its shots.

Lady Vols on road again at Auburn

KNOXVILLE -- This will be a week full of nostalgia for Pat Summitt, but the Tennessee women's basketball head coach hopes the walk down memory lane is better for her than others.

Summitt faces former player Carla McGhee and recent assistant coach Mickie DeMoss in Southeastern Conference play this week.

DeMoss, whom the Lady Vols play on Sunday, is in her second year as head coach for the Kentucky program. McGee is now an assistant coach at Auburn. She won two national championships under Summitt.

The seventh-ranked Lady Vols will face Auburn at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum at 9 p.m. for their second straight road contest. The first didn't go quite as well as Summitt had wanted.

Tennessee (12-3, 2-0) had to rally to beat Vanderbilt on the road trailing in both halves of play. Summitt said her team should find a better offensive rhythm against the Lady Tigers.

``We played down (against Vandy) but our depth really allowed us to get back in it,'' Summitt said. ``It's nice to have that as backup, but we have to play aggressive and sound from the beginning.

``Trailing wears on a team at some point. I want our players to remember that.''

In their last showdown with Auburn, the Lady Vols needed overtime to grab a victory in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Tigers (9-7, 0-3) will look to Natasha Brackett to find similar success against Tennessee in this game. In three seasons and six games, the senior guard averages 15.3 points versus Summitt's team. Last year, Brackett never left the game earning her first-career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

She leads Auburn with 15.4 points per contest this season.

The Lady Vols have found improved play with movement in the starting lineup. Junior guard Shanna Zoleman scored 20 points off the bench against the Commodores after starting most of the early season.

Summitt said she is handling the reserve position well.

``In the last couple games, she has been a lot more comfortable, confident and relaxed,'' Summitt said. ``She is just letting the game come to her. Certainly, the way she has shot the basketball the last two games has taken the pressure off everyone else.''

That missing pressure is evident on the Lady Vols' frontcourt. Freshman forward Nicky Anosike and senior center Tye'sha Fluker have added a boost to the UT offense.

``I think she (Fluker) has become a much more aggressive player in the paint and is feeling a lot better,'' Summitt said, ``while also being more active defensively and on the boards. This (the match-up with Auburn's Marita Payne) will be a good challenge for her, as Payne can not only block shots, but she can make shots. She can post up and she can face up to the basket, so this will be a big test for Ty.''

Tennessee is 26-8 all-time against the Lady Tigers and 7-3 at Auburn.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

(7) Tennessee (12-3) vs. Auburn (9-7)

Game Info: 9:00 pm EST Thu Jan 20, 2005

With three losses heading into conference play, Tennessee might have seemed vulnerable. So far, however, the Lady Vols haven't had much trouble with their SEC opponents.

The seventh-ranked Lady Vols (12-3, 2-0) try for their fifth straight victory as they visit Auburn on Thursday night.

Tennessee beat No. 17 Vanderbilt 79-65 on Sunday for its 36th consecutive SEC win. The Vols have not lost a conference game since Feb. 2, 2002, when they fell on the road to the Commodores.

Reserve Shanna Zolman led Tennessee with 20 points and Alexis Hornbuckle added 16 off the bench, all in the second half. The Vols were coming off a 72-54 win over Arkansas in their SEC opener last Thursday.

``I thought our depth would be key,'' said Pat Summitt, who needs 16 victories to become the winningest coach in NCAA history. ``If our players play well, I want to keep a team's rhythm and let them play. I felt like we could compete with their bench and we might be able to wear them down by rotating.''

The Lady Vols trailed Vanderbilt by as many as 15 in the first half, but buckled down after Summitt went to a zone defense to capitalize on her team's size advantage.

``We were sluggish and let them have their way on offense and defense,'' Zolman said. ``We were confused defensively as to what we were playing. Some of us were in man, some of us were in zone. We were able to pull it back together, close the gap and move on from there.''

Tennessee shot 48.3 percent against the nation's third-best defense, which came in holding opponents to 36.3 percent.

Auburn (9-7, 0-3) is coming off its fifth straight loss, Sunday's 71-56 defeat to No. 21 Georgia. The losing streak is the Tigers' longest since they dropped seven in a row in 2002.

Center Marita Payne, who came in leading the nation with 4.4 blocks per game, matched her school record with 10. The junior from Melbourne, Australia also led Auburn with 11 points and six rebounds, falling four short of the first triple-double in school history.

``She's an exceptional shot-blocker, but she always plays a quiet game,'' coach Nell Fortner said. ``She is not a physical player. She had a good game, but I am greedy. I want the triple double, and I want the win.''

Tennessee leads the series with Auburn 26-8 and has not lost to the Tigers since March 2, 1997, in the SEC tournament. The Vols have not lost at Auburn since Jan. 19, 1991.

Monday, January 17, 2005

(8) Tennessee 79, (17) Vanderbilt 65

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee got off to a very slow start. Luckily for the Lady Vols, their state rival couldn't make them pay.

Reserve Shanna Zolman scored 20 points and No. 8 Tennessee rallied from a 15-point deficit Sunday to beat 17th-ranked Vanderbilt 79-65.

Zolman said she was surprised at how poorly the Lady Vols opened in a gym that has been their home away from home with plenty of vocal Tennessee fans.

``We were sluggish and let them have their way on offense and defense. We were confused defensively as to what we were playing. Some of us were in man, some of us were in zone. We were able to pull it back together, close the gap and move on from there,'' Zolman said.

With the victory, the Lady Vols (12-3, 2-0) won their 36th straight Southeastern Conference regular-season game. The streak dates to Feb. 2, 2002, a loss at Vanderbilt.

The Commodores (13-3, 2-1) looked ready to snap Tennessee's streak in the first half when they led by as many as 15 and hit their first 15 shots, including four free throws.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, now just 16 victories away from becoming the winningest coach in NCAA history, didn't worry and switched to a zone.

``I thought our depth would be key,'' Summitt said. ``If our players play well, I want to keep a team's rhythm and let them play. I felt like we could compete with their bench and we might be able to wear them down by rotating.''

The Lady Vols did exactly that against a Vanderbilt team that played its starters at least 34 minutes. With eight Lady Vols playing at least 15 minutes, they outscored Vandy's bench 41-4 and outrebounded the Commodores 37-24.

``Usually, we are the people that wear other teams down,'' Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. ``But when they are allowed to play that physical, they have the advantage. They definitely wore us down.''

The Lady Vols used a 21-6 run to tie the game at 37 at halftime. The teams swapped the lead five times with eight ties in the second half, the last at 59 before Tennessee took control with a 13-0 run started by freshman Alexis Hornbuckle's layup.

Zolman capped the spurt with a 3-pointer and a 72-59 lead. Ashley Earley finally scored Vandy's first bucket in nearly five minutes with 3:46 to go, and Dee Davis added a bucket to pull the Commodores to 72-63.

Zolman hit another 3 with 2:29 left, and the Lady Vols pushed their lead to as much as 14 down the stretch.

Reserve Hornbuckle added 16 points, all in the second half. Brittany Jackson and Tye-sha Fluker had 14 apiece for Tennessee, which shot 48.3 percent (28-of-58) against the nation's third-best defense. Vanderbilt had been holding opponents to 36.3 percent shooting.

Carla Thomas led Vanderbilt with 18 points. Davis had 14, and Earley finished with 12.

With the Commodores driving to the basket for easy shots, the Lady Vols hurt themselves with five turnovers in the first eight minutes and too many shots from outside as Vanderbilt build a 24-10 lead.

Vandy led 31-16 after a pair of consecutive buckets by Thomas with 8:30 left.

But the Commodores started missing shots. Jackson jumpstarted the Lady Vols with her third of four 3-pointers in the first half, and Tennessee outscored Vandy 21-6 and tied the game at the break on Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood's 3.

``We started playing their kind of ball -- one pass and a shot,'' Vanderbilt senior guard Abi Ramsey said.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hornbuckle not disappointing

More than 300 miles from her home in Charleston, W.Va., Tennessee freshman guard Alexis Hornbuckle still feels high parental-like expectations.

In early December, head coach Pat Summitt and starting point guard Loree Moore sat down with Hornbuckle and made one thing clear: It was time for Hornbuckle to become a leader.

Moore had surgery to remove her tonsils on Dec. 10 and missed the next six games. Hornbuckle took her spot in the lineup at a time when the Lady Vols were struggling after losing to Duke and Texas. The expectations for Hornbuckle were great, but she didn’t see them as pressure.

"It was more of an understanding," Hornbuckle said. "If your parents tell you to do something, it’s not pressure. It’s an understanding. You want to do it for them. You don’t want to let them down."

In her first collegiate start, Hornbuckle didn’t disappoint. She scored 15 points - second best on the team - and grabbed eight rebounds as Tennessee defeated then-No. 15 DePaul in Knoxville.

The next game, however, could have been a trap. Tennessee traveled to Louisiana Tech to face a hostile crowd in one of women’s basketball’s oldest rivalries.

"I was a little nervous," Hornbuckle said. "I knew there was a lot in my hands to get the team set."

Although Hornbuckle grew up watching the Lady Vols and Lady Techsters play and she knew the significance of the game, she didn’t let her nerves hurt her game. She led Tennessee with 17 points and firmly established herself as the early star in Summitt’s highly-touted recruiting class.

Hornbuckle started six games while Moore was out and led Tennessee to a 5-1 record, including a win against then-No. 2 Stanford.

When Moore returned for the Connecticut game last weekend, however, Hornbuckle turned in her finest performance of her young career. She came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points and hit 4-of-5 free throws. She teamed with fellow freshman Nicky Anosike and Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood to score 11 of the last 14 points as the Lady Vols ended a six-game losing streak to the Huskies with a thrilling 68-67 win.

"You have an advantage coming off the bench," Hornbuckle said. "You have an edge over the starters because you get to see what they are doing. You can watch and learn things coming off the bench."

Hornbuckle earned SEC Player of the Week honors for her role in the Connecticut win, but Hornbuckle believes she still has a lot of improvement to make. She has to pay better attention to how the offense is run and understand how Summitt wants her to direct the passing.

In high school, Hornbuckle was so dominant that she rarely got a challenge from her West Virginia opponents. She led Capital High to two state titles before transferring to South Charleston High and winning two more.

"I am the type of person who is always looking for a challenge," Hornbuckle said. "In high school, it was a little frustrating when night in and night out, you weren’t going to play the top team until the tournament."

Hornbuckle is also the type of person who is always trying to learn more. Summitt said she has a good coaching relationship with Hornbuckle because the young guard is always trying to improve and get better.

"I have been pleased with how she has been able to communicate with her team and the coaching staff and not be afraid to rise up to the challenge when facing some tougher schools," Summitt said.

Hornbuckle constantly consults her coaches when she doesn’t understand how a play should be run or the exact philosophy of the defense. With high expectations on her, she doesn’t want to disappoint.

"I go back and say ‘I don’t understand,’" Hornbuckle said. "I need to understand exactly what you want me to do. I will ask 15 questions."

There are some questions that Hornbuckle has to keep to herself sometimes. Summitt’s high expectations for Hornbuckle are branching out to include a stronger understanding of the offense.

"I can’t ask too many questions about the offense because apparently, I should know that," Hornbuckle said with a laugh.

(8) Tennessee (11-3) vs. (17) Vanderbilt (13-2)

Game Info: 3:00 pm EST Sun Jan 16, 2005

Tennessee has won 35 straight games against Southeastern Conference opponents.

The eighth-ranked Lady Vols will return to the site of their last league loss when they visit No. 17 Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium on Sunday.

The defending SEC champions (11-3, 1-0) haven't lost an SEC game since Feb. 2, 2002, when the Commodores (13-2, 2-0) upset them 76-59 in Nashville. Vanderbilt was ranked eighth at the time, while Tennessee came in at No. 2.

The Lady Vols have won the last six meetings in the series, including a 94-88 road victory last February. Tennessee leads the all-time series 42-6, with four of those losses coming at Vanderbilt.

Despite Tennessee's dominance in the series, the Lady Vols won't take the Commodores lightly.

Vanderbilt is averaging an SEC-best 84.3 points per game, and also leads the conference in field-goal (52) and 3-point (39) shooting percentage. The Commodores allow 57 points per game, second-lowest in the league behind No. 3 LSU (50.8).

Vanderbilt has four players scoring in double figures. Junior forward Ashley Earley leads with 19.2 points and 8.7 rebounds, and is shooting a league-best 69 percent. Senior forward Carla Thomas averages 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.

``They're a solid team,'' said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, whose team has won seven straight regular-season SEC titles and 13 overall. ``Their inside game is really mobile and active.''

Junior Shanna Zolman, Tennessee's third leading scorer at 9.0 points per game, agrees with her coach.

``They're a great team,'' she said. ``We have to go in there knowing that this team is very dangerous. They play very well together. They have a great match-up zone that is so tough to play against every time.''

Thomas had a career-high 32 points and nine rebounds, and Earley added 22 points and six boards in a 73-67 win at Auburn on Thursday.

Vanderbilt improved to 2-0 in SEC play and has won seven of eight overall.

This is the SEC road opener for Tennessee, which began conference play with a 72-54 home win over Arkansas on Thursday.

Zolman scored 16 points, junior Tye'sha Fluker added 12 and senior Shyra Ely contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Vols, who have also won seven of their last eight.

Tennessee, averaging 66.4 points per game on a league-low 38.6 percent shooting, improved to 10-0 when scoring at least 60 points this season.

Ely, the team's only double-figure scorer, is averaging 13.2 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds.

The Commodores are facing their first ranked opponent this season. They are 7-1 at home, including an 88-43 win over South Carolina to open SEC play last Sunday.

Tennessee is 3-3 against Top 25 opponents this season.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Wiley-Gatewood held out of game for team rules violation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Freshman point guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood was held out of No. 8 Tennessee's 74-52 win over Arkansas on Thursday for violating team rules, coach Pat Summitt said after the game.

Summitt wouldn't disclose the nature of the violations.

Wiley-Gatewood, of Pomona, Calif., sat out the first games of the season to recover from patellar tendinitis. After she was cleared to play, Summitt held her out of two more games for violating team rules. Wiley-Gatewood made her debut on Dec. 19 against TCU.

A reserve, she is averaging 4.6 points a game. She had her best game in a 68-67 win at Connecticut with 12 points.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

(8) Tennessee 72, Arkansas 54

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Shanna Zolman followed most of her father's advice to get out of a shooting slump. She just left out the part about the streaker.

Zolman scored 16 points Thursday night to lead No. 8 Tennessee to a 72-54 victory over Arkansas, bouncing back from an awful performance in the Lady Vols' last game.

Zolman's shooting woes had already cost her a spot in the starting lineup when she went 0-for-4 in Tennessee's win at Connecticut.

After that her father and high school coach, Kem Zolman, told her to relax and ``just imagine somebody just running naked or something out there just to make you laugh and get your mind off basketball,'' she said.

Whatever she thought about worked, but she says it wasn't someone without clothes.

``I was mad at myself for saying that because now everybody probably thinks I'm a pervert. It's just something dad told me,'' she said. ``My dad has a sick sense of humor sometimes.''

Zolman got the Lady Vols (11-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) rolling in the first half with 10 points, and they held Arkansas to 17 points before halftime.

Tennessee, seeking an eighth straight regular-season league title, won their 55th straight SEC home game and their 10th in a row over Arkansas.

The Lady Razorbacks (10-5, 0-4) have been no match for Tennessee recently, losing the previous two meeting by 39 and 22 points.

Zolman, usually an accurate long-range shooter, started the first 11 games of the season, but she has been a reserve the last three games.

She got on track early against Arkansas, making five of her first six shots. She was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, two coming in the first half.

``When they called that timeout I asked her if she saw that streaker at the end of the court,'' coach Pat Summitt said.

A 95-percent free throw shooter, Zolman went 3-of-6 at the line. The crowd clapped to encourage her after each miss.

``Now we've got to deal with her free throw shooting. She missed three. How many did she miss last year?'' Summitt said. Zolman missed four last season.

Tye'sha Fluker scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half and Dominique Redding and Shyra Ely each had 10 points for Tennessee. Ely added a season-high 11 rebounds.

Freshman Brittany Vaughn had a career-high 13 points and Rochelle Vaughn had 10 to lead Arkansas, which used a tenacious and active defense but couldn't stop the Lady Vols.

Tennessee led by 23 at the break -- its largest halftime lead of the season.

The Lady Razorbacks scored first, but Rochelle Vaughn's 3-pointer 8 seconds into the game was one of just six field goals Arkansas had in the first half.

Tennessee put the game away with a 14-2 run over 8 minutes of the first half when Arkansas' only points were on free throws. Zolman capped it with a 3-pointer from the corner that put the Lady Vols ahead 23-7 with 9:58 left.

Brittany Vaughn ended Arkansas' drought with a driving layup 22 seconds later, and the Lady Razorbacks scored on their next possession with Sarah Pfeifer's jumper to cut it to 14. That was as close as Arkansas would get.

Tennessee outscored the Lady Razorbacks 15-6 the rest of the first half and pushed its lead to 26 midway through the second half.

Arkansas played much better after halftime, and Summitt was displeased that the Lady Vols lost focus on defense.

``After the game, I asked our players what they did well. They said we kept playing hard,'' Arkansas coach Susie Gardner said. ``When you are down 40-17, it's easy to throw in the towel, but we kept fighting to the very end.''

The Lady Vols had the rebounding edge, 46-30, over the much shorter Lady Razorbacks, who had three players 6-foot-1 or taller. Tennessee had five.

Arkansas was playing in its third game since starting forward Kristin Moore tore ligaments in her right knee. The Lady Razorbacks have lost three in a row since then.

Weekly Teleconference

Coach Summitt answers questions on a variety of topics this week
Jan. 12, 2005

Lady Vol Head Coach Pat Summitt

On the Connecticut game:
"Coming off the Connecticut game, we felt as a staff that we had a lot of players step up and make big plays and big shots. We are really pleased with our second half of play, and we are also very pleased with our freshmen, of Nicky Anosike's play and our guard play of Alexis (Hornbuckle) and Sa'de (Wiley-Gatewood). In situations like that, you know you need to have some big-play people. That is something we have missed in some of our close games this season. For us it was very positive for our basketball team to benefit from some or our younger players and receive some more consistent play from veteran Shyra Ely. I thought the leadership that Shyra and Loree (Moore) showed throughout the game is something that is necessary when you play in an environment like that."

On starting Southeastern Conference play:
"We are excited about starting SEC play. Fortunately, we were able to avoid it until this Thursday (Jan. 13). We always look forward to SEC play, and we know that it is going to be a challenge. Sometimes I look at our team statistically and I think, `how are we going to do this?' But with the difficult schedule we have played, I cannot imagine that we could be better prepared to open up our play in our conference schedule."

On having depth at the guard position:
"We see it as a tremendous asset to our team because of our style of play. If we are going to walk the ball up and play a half-court style of game, then I think we would have an issue. This team understands that we want to run and press, and that we are committed to doing that. As we continue to extend our defense and push tempo offensively, I think it will be important to have three guards that are combo guards. During the Connecticut game, they took turns running the point, which was not by design. I think having all the guards available will obviously help us to be able to play the way we want to play."

On having confidence in freshman athletes:
"I would say with this group (of freshmen) that I am not concerned that this is a one-time deal. I think they are big-game players. Alexis (Hornbuckle) has stepped up and played very well for us, while Sa'de (Wiley-Gatewood) has not had as many games for us to evaluate. In watching both of them play coming out of high school and both in practice and in early season games, I have the confidence that they will take the initiative to create and finish big plays. We need that because it is something that this team has missed. We need players that have the courage as well as the mental focus to complete plays."

On having a size advantage over Arkansas:
"It is an advantage only if you take advantage of it. One place where we have struggled for consistency is our inside play. That is a place where I think we need to make tremendous improvement to make. We are taking little steps in that direction. I think in our last game that we grew up a lot, but our consistency needs to be established game-in and game-out. That is certainly a point of emphasis for us. It remains to be seen if we can put up the numbers and dominate the boards this season the way Tennessee typically dominates the boards."

On the status of Loree Moore:
"I think she is pretty close (to being at 100 percent). She came back with a lot of energy in that game (versus Connecticut), but just looking at her in practice the last two days she has looked good. I walked up to her yesterday in practice, and she was drenched - there was not even a dry stitch on her. I just said, `Look at your shirt.' Of course, as a coach, you just look at the shirt the players are practicing in and you know a lot about what they are willing to give. I told her that it was a great thing because she is our leader, and that is exactly the example we want from her. I thought she had a very good practice as a competitor and a leader (yesterday). I think she is good to go now."

On the status of Candace Parker:
"What we're doing right now is just resting her for a couple of weeks, because of the swelling that she had after we put her into practice. We are not rushing into anything, but, hopefully, in a couple of weeks she will be able to get back into some practices. We will see how she responds then. We do not have a timetable."

On the status of Shyra Ely and Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood:
"I think Sa'de will be able to practice today, but I'm not sure about Shyra. I am not confirming that either will (practice today), but Jenny (Moshak) was hopeful that they would be able. We are just going to have a really light workout today. We have had two intense workouts, and today is going to be more of a scouting workout. Hopefully, if nothing else, they can do a walkthrough with us in our preparation for Arkansas."

On the starting lineup for the Arkansas game:
"We are going to go with the same starting lineup that we put on the floor at Connecticut."

On how the SEC Tournament has evolved since it was regularly hosted by Chattanooga:
"Obviously, Chattanooga laid a great foundation for us with the environment there and the promotion. Going to larger cities and bigger venues has been favorable. I am optimistic that the tournament will continue to grow in popularity, and that the strength of our teams will enhance the opportunity as well. All in all, I think it has done very well. There has been an effort on the part of the host cities to really promote. That is where we as a league have really gotten better."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Lady Vols get UConn-like breaks

HARTFORD, Conn. — They are the breaks that UConn always managed to get in this series.

Breakdowns on the defensive end. Loose balls and rebounds that seemed to lead to big plays. Missed free throws in the final minute.

But for the first time in six meetings, all those things went in favor of the Lady Vols — at least for the last five minutes of the game. Those plays were enough to lift No. 10 Tennessee to a 68-67 win over No. 15 Connecticut yesterday in front of a sellout crowd of 16,294 at Hartford Civic Center.

''I just felt this morning when I got up, it's just about time Tennessee won one of them,'' said UT Coach Pat Summitt, whose senior class was 0-for-6 against UConn before yesterday.

''I wanted so much for these seniors to have this opportunity, and without our freshmen they may not have had it.''

When UConn junior Ann Strother was fouled by freshman Alexis Hornbuckle while attempting a 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left on the clock, it looked like the seniors might get denied a win over the Huskies for the seventh consecutive time.

But Strother, UConn's best pure shooter, made only the first of three free throws, and UT's Tye'sha Fluker pulled down the rebound to send the Tennessee bench into a frenzy.

''There comes a time when you just want to say it's not going to happen anymore,'' UT senior point guard Loree Moore said.

''I felt like it was our turn to beat Connecticut.''

The last time the Lady Vols beat the Huskies was February 2001 in Knoxville.

Tennessee (10-3) trailed almost the whole way and found itself down by as much as 12 points in the second half. UT took its first lead when Hornbuckle made a layup off a pass from Shyra Ely with 2:37 left for a 62-61 advantage.

But UConn (8-4) jumped right back in front, and it took a 3-pointer and a 3-point play from freshman Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood to put Tennessee back in front.

''For the kids from Tennessee to make the shots that they made in the last five minutes and make the plays that they made ... I remember those days,'' UConn Coach Geno Auriemma said.

''It wouldn't be much of a rivalry if we won them all, would it?''

Lady Vols freshmen hold up under pressure

HARTFORD, Conn. — When Lady Vol freshman Alexis Hornbuckle walked into the postgame interview room a few minutes late yesterday, there was no place for her to sit.

So fellow freshman Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood slid over and shared half her chair with her teammate.

It seemed only fitting in the aftermath of Tennessee's 68-67 win over Connecticut (8-4) that the two freshmen who deserved to share the spotlight were also sharing a seat.

They may have started a new era in the rivalry that had been painted decidedly navy blue and white for almost four years. Hornbuckle led the Lady Vols (10-3) with 14 points, and Wiley-Gatewood added 12, including all six of UT's points in the final minute of the game.

''We had to become fearless,'' Hornbuckle said. ''We had to grow up and play like seniors basically.''

It may have been the return of one senior that made the two freshmen play more like upperclassmen. Point guard Loree Moore returned after she missed a month because of a tonsillectomy.

Moore led the Lady Vols' full-court pressure in the second half, and those three guards stayed on the floor together and made every big play Tennessee needed in the final minutes of the game.

Moore and Wiley-Gatewood made two 3-pointers each down the stretch to bring the Lady Vols back into the game.

''We knew from the beginning that they were going to sag off [the shooters],'' Moore said. ''We just took advantage of the defense, how they were playing.''

They also took advantage of having a quicker lineup. Tennessee's press took away the Huskies' ability to set up their half-court offense late in the game.

''I'm surprised they didn't (press) earlier,'' UConn Coach Geno Auriemma said. ''I don't know what took them so long, but I knew it was going to happen.''

Wiley-Gatewood is still finding her way around Tennessee's offensive and defensive sets after missing the first portion of the season with tendinitis, but she didn't show any tentativeness when the ball was in her hands in the final seconds of the game.

She calmly made a 3-point shot that brought the Lady Vols to 66-65 with 49.5 seconds left in the game. She later drove to basket, made a lay-up and was fouled with 15 seconds left.

''We just brought her along as quickly as we could,'' UT Coach Pat Summitt said. ''I knew it was just a matter of time. Now with Alexis and Sa'de on the floor, as you saw today, the three-guard lineup is one of our best lineups.''

Hornbuckle also made a key play in the game that looked inconsequential at the time. With time running down in the first half, Hornbuckle was grabbed as she crossed the half-court line.

UConn thought it had a foul to give, but it put Tennessee in the bonus. Hornbuckle made both free throws — which turned out to be the difference in the game.

Auriemma blamed himself for the miscalculation.

''I'm the head coach,'' he said.

Wearing orange: First-year UT President John Petersen was in attendance for yesterday's game, and he was dressed in orange. Petersen was UConn's executive vice president for academic affairs and provost before coming to Tennessee.

(10) Tennessee 68, (15) Connecticut 67 - Wiley-Gatewood scored UT's final six points

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Tennessee needed a little luck to end a four-year drought against Connecticut.

The Huskies' Ann Strother missed two of three free throws with 3.9 seconds left and the 10th-ranked Lady Vols escaped with a 68-67 victory over the 15th-ranked Huskies on Saturday.

``It's just about time Tennessee won one,'' coach Pat Summitt said. ``I wanted so much for these seniors to have this opportunity. Without our youth, without our freshmen, they may not have had it.''

Freshman guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood converted a three-point play with 15 seconds left for a 68-66 lead, and the Lady Vols (10-3) held on to end a six-game losing streak over four years against their top rival.

Wiley-Gatewood and fellow freshmen Nicky Anosike and Alexis Hornbuckle scored 11 of the last 14 points as Tennessee rallied from a 12-point deficit.

And like many Tennessee-UConn showdowns, this one came down to the wire.

The Lady Vols trailed most of the game, but took the lead on Wiley-Gatewood's twisting layup and foul shot. Connecticut (8-4) set up a final shot, and Strother was fouled by Hornbuckle while attempting a 3-pointer in the final seconds.

Strother, a 60 percent free-throw shooter, made the first to pull Connecticut to 68-67, but then missed the next two, the final one bouncing off the back of the rim. Tennessee's Tye'sha Fluker grabbed the rebound and time ran out.

``I really thought the 3-pointer was going in and I really thought they were going in,'' Strother said of her foul shots. ``I hope I get the chance to be in that situation again.''

Even Wiley-Gatewood said the win seemed a long time in coming.

``I was committed to Tennessee for four years, so it felt like I was losing for four years,'' she said. ``This game was actually dedicated to the coaches and seniors on this team.''

UConn leads the series 13-7, and for the first time in the 10-year history of the rivalry, neither team was ranked higher than third nationally. But it still had all the elements of a heavyweight fight, especially down the stretch.

Loree Moore hit a key 3-pointer with 4:15 left to get the Lady Vols within one at 61-60. Hornbuckle came back after a UConn turnover and hit a layup to give Tennessee its first lead at 62-61 with 2:38 left.

Ashley Battle countered with a 3-pointer and two free throws on UConn's next two possessions for a one-point UConn lead. But Wiley-Gatewood hit a 3-pointer with 40.5 seconds left and screamed from midcourt as the ball swished through.

``It wouldn't be much of a rivalry if we won them all,'' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ``The only time you win them all is when you play a bad team. We can accept the fact that Tennessee is going to win.''

Hornbuckle led Tennessee with 14 points. Wiley-Gatewood and Moore finished with 12 apiece.

The Lady Vols, who have been struggling offensively this season, shot 48 percent in the second half and chipped away at nine-point halftime deficit from the foul line with their physical play. They shot 13-of-17 from the line in the final period.

Freshman Charde Houston led UConn with 19 points and five steals. Strother added 16 points.

With the win, Summitt (862-170) needs 17 victories to tie Dean Smith as the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. It was also her first victory at the Hartford Civic Center.

The Huskies capitalized on four straight Tennessee turnovers midway through the first have to kick off a 10-0 run. Houston started the spurt with a spinning baseline layup. Battle followed with consecutive breakaway baskets off UConn steals, each one bringing a roar from the crowd of 16,294.

At the final buzzer, most of the fans had fallen silent and were streaming for the exits as Auriemma and Summitt, who have a combined 11 national titles, met for their 20th post-game handshake.

``I told him I hope we see you guys in March,'' Summitt said. ``Since everybody thinks we might curl up and die -- both programs -- I don't think it's going to happen.''

Tennessee vs. Connecticut Quotes

TENNESSEE HEAD COACH Pat Summitt Opening Statement
"First of all, I'm very proud of this basketball team and how they competed. We knew we were coming into a great environment, but on the road it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge from a communication standpoint. I thought our leadership was sound all day."

"UConn did a great job in the first half getting the ball on the glass, but not as quick in the second half. But, their pace in the first half limited our opportunities. The strength in the UConn team is in the front line. They have a lot of bodies they can throw at you, they're explosive in the paint, they pound the glass and they score. Going into the game, my biggest concern was could our inside game match the play of their inside game."

On the second half
"I thought in the second half we really maintained our intensity. We shared the basketball and played more efficiently in the half court because we didn't take quick shots and our rebounding was better. We obviously made two great runs and I thought to myself this morning, it's about time Tennessee won one. It's a great victory for us."

On game tactics
"I thought it was necessary to go with more athleticism and to extend our defense. The quickness we brought to the court was very disruptive. That's what we wanted to do from a defensive point of view- to disrupt."

On Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood
"I think she's always been a competent player. First and foremost, she started competing in practice offensively and defensively. She got enough reps where I think she got comfortable with out sets and our defensive schemes."

On Shyra Ely
"I thought she picked the second half back up defensively. I was a little upset with her early, but very proud of her late. I thought she got in a rhythm offensively and did what she had to do defensively. I thought her attitude of the game was one of a real competitor."

On Loree Moore
"To have her and her leadership on the floor allowed us to get what we wanted to do offensively and defensively. I thought she just played, and then made big shots. That's what you expect seniors to do- to make big plays. She got everyone involved and we got in a much better rhythm with her on the floor."

Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood on the game
"I was just pushing the ball. Whatever was open, that's where I was going to throw it or I took it to the hole. If I thought the lane was open, I took it to the hole. This game was dedicated to the coaches and the seniors on this team and I'm just happy that I was there to help them win this game."



What parts of this game can you accept and what can you not accept?
"Some parts of this game you can certainly accept. One is that wouldn't be much of a rivalry if we won them all. Would it? You are not going to win them all. The only time you win them all is when you play a bad team. There are teams in our league that we've beaten 25 straight times. We can accept the fact that Tennessee is going to win. That's not hard to do at all. You can accept that Ketia is going to do some things at the end of the game that cost us the game because she has never played in this game. Nicole Wolff got some open shots that she didn't make. Can you accept that? She hasn't played in this game either. What you can't accept is Wilnett Crockett not trapping that pick-and-role like we've done every single time any one has ever run it against us the entire year. For some particular reason she decided not to do it that time. There are some things you can accept, and there are some things that you absolutely cannot. Ann Strother missing free throws? I'm ok with that. I think if we are ever in that situation again this season she'll make them. I don't have any doubt in my mind."

What was the difference maker?
"In a game like this there are a lot of huge plays that don't seem huge at the time. We fouled a couple times in the first half where the person shooting the ball had absolute no chance of making the foul. Because you do that, those plays in it of themselves are not great, but become great. In the second half when the calls get really bizarre it compounds the problem. You can't complain about the bizarre calls when you've done some dumb things yourself."

Did you think the full-court pressure in the end is what hurt you?
"Yes. I'm surprised they didn't do it earlier. I don't know what took them so long. I knew it was going to happen and so did these guys. We came out this morning, and yesterday, and this is one of the things we really addressed. What I was afraid would happen is exactly what happened. That has kind of been the story of where we are at this point in time where we have some issues where we either turn the ball over or score. Hopefully that will get better with time."

What were some of the positive aspects of the game?
"For 30 minutes we were a better team than them. When Tennessee made their run we answered and got back the momentum and made some really big plays offensively and defensively. Charde (Houston) played really well for stretches. Ann (Strother) was really good. We got some great contributions from Nicole (Wolff) in some ways and Ashley (Battle) in a lot of ways. I thought we played really hard defensively. We got every loose ball in the first half. We got out in transition. I thought, for the most part, we played 30 minutes of really good basketball. Better basketball than we've played at any time this season."

Junior Ann Strother
"We did a lot of things well tonight but one of the biggest things that we need to work on is rebounding. Offensive rebounds for them, they had way too many and I really think that was one of the keys that hopefully we'll get better at and do a better job with next time."

Were you surprised by the shots at the end not going in?
"I really thought it (3pt. shot) was going in and I really thought they (foul shots) were both going in too so I was surprised by it"

Were you comfortable with the position you were put in at the end of the game?
"Yes I felt really comfortable. I hope I get the chance to be in that situation again."

Did the fouls changed the way that you played?
"I don't really think so. We were getting more shots inside, we were getting the ball moving more, getting more people involved than we did in the first half so it had to be that way. I don't think it really changed the defense that much."

Senior Ashley Battle
"I felt that they would still make another run but the entire time I was completely confident that we would pull this out. I'm sure that every one of us felt the same way."

How do you feel about being a spark off the bench?
"Being a spark is just something that I have to do. Whether I'm starting or not, it's just something that has to be done in every game."

Senior Jessica Moore
"The past couple of games and practices we've really been playing together and we really wanted to take this game as a turning point for us going into the rest of the season."

On playing in a rivalry
"I think that this game is one of the highest emotional points that any of us go through during the season. It's the game that we all see growing up. You want to be a part of it and you always want to play your best in it."

Freshman Charde Houston
What were your impressions on your first Tennessee game? "It was a great game. There were a lot of things that I could have done better but overall it was a great experience. I think I played hard as an individual an I think we did so as a team too. Unfortunately, we didn't come out with the win."

Was there anything that coach or the other players said to prepare you?
"They told me there was going to be a lot of emotion involved with the game. They told me not to be afraid of anything that was thrown at me and to just take everything in and deal with it."

Friday, January 07, 2005

(10) Tennessee (9-3) vs. (15) Connecticut (8-3)

Game Info: 2:00 pm EST Sat Jan 8, 2005

This national championship game rematch does not look like a national championship game preview.
Both teams are struggling more than they have in years as 10th-ranked Tennessee and No. 15 Connecticut renew the biggest rivalry in women's basketball Saturday at the Hartford Civic Center.

In a series that started 10 years ago, the Lady Vols (9-3) and Huskies (8-3) are meeting for the 20th time. Seven games have come in the NCAA tournament, with Connecticut improving to 4-0 in national championship game meetings with last season's 70-61 victory.

Neither team is playing as if it will advance that far in this year's postseason.

The Huskies' three losses are the most they have had this early in a season since 1992-93. The Lady Vols have their lowest ranking since the 1996-97 season. This is the first meeting between the teams when at least one isn't ranked in the top three.

``I'm sure we'll go in Saturday and play hard,'' UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. ``I'm sure we'll be in the game. They're struggling too. They are having some of the similar problems. I think Saturday's going to be an interesting game.''

The Huskies have been unable to replace superstar Diana Taurasi, who led them to the last three national championships. UConn has yet to defeat a quality opponent this season, going 0-3 against teams that have been ranked at some point.

Taurasi had a knack for playing her best in big games, and no team knows that better than Tennessee. She averaged 21.6 points in eight games against the Lady Vols, with the Huskies winning seven of them.

``People talk about her as being one of the greatest ever,'' Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. ``There is no doubt in my mind about that, just in playing against her. You lose a player like that and it is incredibly different.''

While graduation has hurt UConn, it is injuries that have slowed Tennessee.

Freshman Candace Parker, the two-time high school player of the year, has yet to play this season while recovering from a pair of offseason knee surgeries. Point guard Loree Moore is set to return after missing four weeks due to a tonsillectomy she underwent on Dec. 10.

Summitt didn't have her entire team -- voted No. 1 in the preseason poll -- together for a practice until Jan. 3, and even then it was only for about 10 minutes before center Tye'sha Fluker was poked in the eye and had to leave the floor.

``I guess when that happened, I thought, 'this is so typical of our year,''' Summitt said. ``You just have to handle the injuries and the adversity, and long term, from my experiences, it makes you a little bit tougher and probably better.''

While Summitt is having trouble getting players on the floor, Auriemma is still trying to figure out who he wants there. He used his seventh different starting lineup of the season in Tuesday's 83-33 rout of Providence. Starting forward Barbara Turner sat out with a sore foot, but is expected to play Saturday.

UConn has won the last six meetings by an average of 11 points to take a 13-6 lead in the series. Only Louisiana Tech, with 17 victories, has more wins over Tennessee under Summitt.

``We need to make shots and finish shots. I just do not feel like we have competed and been able to make shots (against Connecticut),'' Summitt said. ``They are a great defensive team, and they have no weaknesses.''

NCAA title rings stolen from Auriemma's car

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma is without four stolen national championship rings even though a suspected buyer was arrested Thursday.

Police said two teenagers took the rings Nov. 28 and sold them for $150. Authorities say the rings are worth about $800 each.

Auriemma said he had the rings in his briefcase for a university photo shoot. He left the briefcase in his car, parked in a Manchester commuter lot while he went to dinner, police said.

``I didn't lock my car and someone took my stuff,'' said Auriemma, who has coached UConn to five NCAA titles, including the last three.

The teens, 13 and 15, broke into several cars in the lot that night.

``They were stealing change and CDs, maybe some credit cards, when they stumbled onto these things,'' Manchester Sgt. Christopher Davis said. ``I imagine it opened their eyes up a little bit.''

Police arrested the teens last month after people reported seeing the boys wearing the rings.

Investigators didn't announce the theft until Thursday, when they arrested Javier Lugo of East Hartford on charges of larceny and risk of injury to the juveniles. Lugo was arraigned Thursday and was being held on $20,000 bail. He is due back in court Feb. 9.

Lugo's criminal history includes an arrest in New York for burglary and possession of stolen property, police said.

``I believe he still knows where they are and may still have access to them somehow,'' Davis said. ``They're going to be so hot now I can't imagine anybody wanting them.''

Auriemma, a five-time national coach of the year, said he didn't wear the rings and that the theft can't undo what his teams have accomplished.

``Just because somebody steals something and wears it around doesn't make them good at anything,'' Auriemma said after learning of the arrest. ``Whoever has them out there, God bless them. Have fun with them and enjoy them.''

A fifth ring was not in the briefcase because it had been sent back to the manufacturer for an alteration, the UConn sport information director's office said.

Holdsclaw takes game overseas

Chamique Holdsclaw is playing overseas in part to see if she still has a love for the game - she says she is passing her self-imposed test.

But while she is enjoying playing basketball again, she stopped short of saying she will return to the WNBA when the 2005 season tips off on May 21.

The five-time All-Star missed 10 of the Washington Mystics last 11 games battling depression. She and Mystics teammate Murriel Page are playing with Ros Casares Valencia and Holdsclaw said Thursday via e-mail from Spain she is having a blast.

"Things are going great for me as far as the team and the city," said Holdsclaw, who has averaged 18.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in her WNBA career. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm just trying to stay progressive in my thoughts and everything else. I can really embrace my free-spirit nature here, because the people and culture are so laid back. I don't feel like it's a rat race here."

The No. 1 pick in 1999, she said life on the court is good, too.

"As far as basketball is concerned I can honestly say that I'm enjoying myself here," said Holdsclaw, 27. "I have the opportunity to play with my partner in crime Murriel Page. She knows she is a big reason why I came here. She gives me a sense of security. I know she has my back and that means a lot to me. ...

"I'm doing well in balancing everything on my plate," Holdsclaw added. "I can't say that it's not like this summer didn't happen, but I'm living with it and taking things one day at a time. I'm just appreciating life and all the blessings that I have. That means focusing on the moment. The past is the past and the future will work itself out as it always does."

The Mystics have been following Holdsclaw's overseas performance and Pat Summitt, the team's director of player personnel, says everyone is excited about her progress.

"I spoke with Chamique (Thursday) and she is having a great experience," said Summitt, who coached Holdslaw at Tennessee and together they won three consecutive NCAA titles. "She is playing well and she is glad that Muriel is playing with her and I'm really happy for her."

Holdsclaw was named the Euroleague player of the week recently after averaging 24 points and 13 rebounds, including a double-double against Dynamo Moscow that featured a front line of 6-4 Kamila Vodichkova (Seattle Storm), 6-5 Elena Baranova (New York Liberty) and 6-3 Elena Shakirova (former member of the Houston Comets and Charlotte Sting). "The best thing about playing overseas this winter is playing on the road in EuroLeague," Holdsclaw said. "The crowds are so hostile it's like you and your team against the whole arena. It makes you focus a lot more because the refs seem like they're against you too."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Weekly Teleconference

The all-time winningest women's basketball coach answers questions about UConn and the rest of the season

Jan. 5, 2005

On the Lady Vols' last few games:

"I thought our Rutgers game was really very telling for our team and theirs. They brought great pressure to our guards and I did not think we handled that very well. I was really impressed with their overall team speed and quickness. In the first half, we folded early. I was pleased, however, that we stepped up and competed with a different intensity in the second half. It was valuable for us because it identified some areas of weakness, and we came back and had some good practices and preparation before going to Old Dominion, a team that is traditionally very physical and athletic. I was pleased in that particular game that our seniors stepped up and showed great leadership. I thought Shyra (Ely) and Brittany (Jackson) made big plays when Old Dominion made a run at us, so that was very encouraging. We have had some good practices this week, so I think we are getting better. With Loree (Moore) back, just in practice alone, it is going to be very valuable."

On having most of the team healthy for the beginning of practice on Monday:

"Well, I do not even know if it was for 10 minutes. We were playing a little three-on-three and Alexis Hornbuckle went for a ball and poked Tye'sha Fluker's eye, and she has been out. I guess when that happened, I thought, 'this is so typical of our year.' You just have to handle the injuries and the adversity, and long term, from my experiences, it makes you a little bit tougher and probably better."

On the importance of this season's Connecticut game:

"The team that wins will obviously feel better about themselves. I think that is true in any game when you walk off the court, but in particular because of who it is and the rivalry. Certainly, for us, we have been on the losing end for six in a row. It is an important game for us to feel good about how we compete on Saturday. Whichever team wins will have to come away feeling better."

On whether people will still be interested in the Connecticut game with both teams ranked lower than usual:

"I think it is what it is - it is Tennessee and Connecticut. It has been the most-watched regular-season game in recent years. It has been the one game in the regular season that people wanted to see. Obviously, the rankings have been different, and so maybe from that standpoint people would think they need to watch this game. I know the UConn fans will be there. The media will be there. CBS will be there, and there will be a lot of people watching throughout the country. I do not think it will effect the game that much. Certainly, it is not going to affect the teams."

On if Connecticut is down this year or if other teams have improved:

"Throughout the country we are just seeing parity at its best in the women's game. I do not think we have seen anything quite like it this early. When you lose your backcourt, you go through some difficult times or adjustments, but I certainly think this Connecticut team will be in the hunt at the end. I hope we can say the same about Tennessee. We lost the inside presence of an Ashley Robinson and the leadership of a Tasha Butts and the experience of a LaToya Davis. You just do not replace that overnight. With us, it has been such a struggle from a leadership standpoint at times, but I think both teams will come together."

On Tennessee and Connecticut dealing with similar struggles this year and how she has handled it in the past:

"We took away the locker room in '91. I think that was the only time that I kicked them out of the locker room, but it did get results because they wanted it. And I say they never want it as much as coaches, but I think there are a lot of players that when they are struggling, they try to find out why. I think they respond when you challenge them. When you are not getting the best results and you feel like you are not competing as hard and you do not have the leadership or the continuity, you are just searching for how to get their attention. And you can get their attention doing some of the things that I have done."

On whether the parity thus far this season will have an effect in March:

"I've only seen some of these top teams on tape, but I will tell you just from seeing these teams, in particular, Texas, Rutgers, Duke, Stanford; I think Stanford has got a very fine team. Obviously, LSU has proven themselves game-in and game-out. There are just so many teams, especially the teams in the top 12 to 15, it seems deeper with talent and just better overall play. You have got to believe that if teams stay healthy that you are going to see a different March and April."

On the importance of the senior class from last year:

"I thought that Tasha (Butts) and Ashley's (Robinson) leadership was some of the best in my career, and that is three decades of coaching. Without question, I was so appreciative and taken aback because I just did not know that they had that much in them. As much as our staff and I appreciated them then, we appreciate it even more today."

On who can step up and become a leader on this year's team:

"As a point guard, Loree (Moore) has been the one player that has consistently tried to be a leader more than anyone else on our basketball team. Shyra (Ely) is working hard to become a better leader for our team. I have asked our three seniors to really pick it up and make it more of a priority. In the Old Dominion game, Shyra and Brittany (Jackson) demonstrated quality leadership, particularly in the second half down the stretch. You could see that they made it a priority and did the best job of the year."

On why there is parity in women's basketball:

"High school players are better, coaching is better, recruiting is more competitive. Across the board, a lot of the programs have made a different level of commitment to be competitive, whether it is paying their staff better or putting the budget in place to recruit nationally. It is more competitive and it is about time. People were sitting on their hands, not making a commitment to women's basketball over the years, and now they are making that commitment."

On what Loree Moore's return means to the team:

"I think two things: her defensive intensity and her presence and play at point guard. Those are our two priorities. We have not had anyone step up and say, 'here's how we are going to play on the defensive end.' With the leadership and experience that Loree has, she can command a certain performance as both ends are effected by here presence. She doesn't seem to be holding back, and physically she appears comfortable and ready to go for extended minutes."

On the perception that women are better shooters then men:

"A lot of people discuss that (topic) over the years and they say that women in general are not physically as strong as men and have a softer touch. I do not know if I agree with that. Free throw shooting is an extension of practice and going to the line and putting yourself in that situation. It is a physical repetitive situation as well as a mental. Take Shanna Zolman, she has a great, great shooting touch. While she has not shot as well from the field, she shoots the ball exceptionally well from the free throw line. That is mental. Playing at Duke last year, she hit eight free throws downs the stretch in a hostile environment. That right there was her focus and mental concentration, but also her confidence because she practiced so much and believed in herself."

On coaching freshmen:

"I was just thinking the other day, that they seem younger now. I really enjoy it, it is a trying time, but I enjoy the freshmen, they bring energy. Our freshmen are the ones that keep things really light, they are always giggling and making fun of each other. Even in stressful situations, they are looking around, trying to find out why everyone is so serious. I have enjoyed this group. They are a tremendous group, a lot of great kids. When you do not have freshmen on the roster, you may not go through as many growing pains, but you miss out on the youthful energy and the innocence that they bring."

On Connecticut's struggles:

"I think it is not having a player like Diana Taurasi. People talk about her as being one of the greatest ever. There is no doubt in my mind about that, just in playing against her. You lose a player like that and it is incredibly different. I can tell you that just by the leadership we lost in Tasha Butts out on the perimeter. You know it is going to be different and a change, but not that drastic. Just watching them on tape, their front line players are experienced and are doing a great job. It is only a matter of time before these guards play the type of role they have to play. It is just more repetition and more game situations, and I firmly believe they will be there in the end."

On who will start at point guard:

"We have not determined that yet. I would say if Moore is where she needs to be, I will start her for her defensive intensity. If Loree starts, Hornbuckle will come off the bench and play some one and some two. I can see her playing both. I love the fact that she can play both. I think she can help our running game with her at the two and Moore on the floor."

On Alexis Hornbuckle:

"I think it is too early to say she is definitely a better point guard or a better two, because I haven't seen her much as a two. I liked her coming out of high school as a two, but I respect the way she ran the point guard. She can help us at both positions. I expected Alexis to come in and help us right away. I have been pleased with how she has been able to communicate with her team and the coaching staff and not be afraid to rise to the challenge when facing some very tough schools."

On scrimmaging men at practice:

"I don't know that scrimmaging men's teams would necessarily have a huge impact on parity, but certainly some. We have been doing this since my first year here at Tennessee, so we have been doing it for 31 years. I grew up with three older brothers that helped me as a competitor and a player. That is all I knew, to get better, you play better competition. That has helped me as a coach in two areas, practicing guys and scheduling better competition. If you play everyone in the country that has a chance to beat you, it brings out the best in you. Practicing guys has helped, I would not say that I am the pioneer, I am sure another program out there has been doing it just as long."

On the rivalry with Connecticut:

"I am not surprised the rivalry is where it is now. I say that just because of the way the first game played out and the position where these two schools have been over the last 10 years. That first game, I remember a great atmosphere for college basketball and I remember being extremely impressed with the intensity and the offensive execution of that team. Obviously, it was the beginning of a great rivalry; I think with the East Coast media being involved it gave great exposure. It was huge, the matchup brought both institutions a lot of exposure, but more importantly, it brought women's basketball a lot of exposure as well."

On Candace Parker's status:

"Parker practiced a couple of days ago and had some swelling. At practice yesterday we had a couple of workouts and we did not have her practice. Hopefully, today she will be ready to go. She only knows one speed, so we have to monitor her practice methods. We are still hopeful that she will be ready to go (in a game), but we wanted to wait a couple of weeks into practice to make that assessment."

On what it will take to defeat Connecticut:

"We need to make shots and finish shots. I just do not feel like we have competed and been able to make shots (against Connecticut). They are a great defensive team, and they have no weaknesses. In our championship game last year we didn't make the shots, our backcourt did not knock them down. Their post defense is great, and our front line players have struggled to put points on the board."