Sunday, January 29, 2006

Alabama Crimson Tide/Tennessee Lady Volunteers Recap

(1) Tennessee 89, Alabama 54

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Losing is rare at Tennessee, and poor defense and rebounding even rarer.

After the Lady Vols lost back-to-back games last week for the first time since 1996-97, two former players showed up at practice to voice their concerns.

Top-ranked Tennessee made them proud on Sunday by snapping the streak with an 89-54 win over Alabama that was victory No. 901 for coach Pat Summitt.

Shelley Sexton Collier and Melissa McCray Dukes talked to the players at Friday's practice. Collier played on the 1987 national championship team, and Dukes won rings in 1987 and 1989.

"I think they understand there is a lot of tradition here, and there's a lot of players that are upset. I've had phone calls," Summitt said. "That just speaks volumes to what they've invested in this program. Still, they are like family. When we lose, they lose."

The Lady Vols (19-2, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) were coming off consecutive road losses at No. 2 Duke and Kentucky. Tennessee has not lost three in a row in 20 years.

Summitt reached No. 900 last week at Vanderbilt, but Tennessee's next two opponents exposed the Lady Vols' weaknesses in defense and rebounding.

Alabama (8-12, 2-5) could not, and Tennessee was quickly headed for its 63rd straight SEC home victory.

Tennessee was ahead 8-0 after the Crimson Tide had turnovers on each of the first four possessions. Alabama got two early baskets from Harriet Barnes and Navonda Moore, and the Lady Vols then held the Tide without a field goal for 15 minutes.

Tennessee led 33-7 with 5:33 to go in the first half after Sidney Spencer's jumper. Shanna Zolman scored to push the lead to 30 with 14 minutes left in the second half.

"I think we got the point after two losses," Zolman said. "We won six national championships in this system and obviously it works."

Tennessee was averaging 39 rebounds per game coming in, the worst in Lady Vols history. Tennessee barely held the edge against the Tide, 34-29.

And Alabama improved its offense in the second half when Tennessee got sloppy.

"Obviously it's always good to get a win," Summitt said. "We have to get better. You don't fix it in one game."

Candace Parker scored 15 points and Alexis Hornbuckle added 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Tennessee. Zolman, who failed to score at Duke, finished with 11 points.

Tennessee freshman Lindsey Moss was 3-for-3 from long range before she was hit in the nose and had to be helped off the court. She broke her nose earlier this month. Moss was scheduled to have x-rays Monday.

Moore, who played despite dislocating her right knee cap earlier this week, led Alabama with 26 points. Lauren Hill added 12 points.

The Lady Vols were playing at home for the first time since Jan. 12. During the road trip, Summitt reached a milestone, but the team dropped from the ranks of the undefeated and were embarrassed in a 75-53 loss at Duke. The Lady Vols are certain to fall from No. 1 when The Associated Press poll comes out Monday.

Before the game, Summitt was honored for her 900th win and presented with a basketball and bouquet of orange and white flowers. Alabama coach Stephany Smith also gave her a vase of roses.

"What a great inspiration she is to us all," Smith said.

Summitt improved to 901-174 and 36-2 against Alabama, which has lost 29 straight times to the Lady Vols.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tennessee Lady Volunteers/Kentucky Wildcats Recap

Kentucky 66, (1) Tennessee 63

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Top-ranked Tennessee lost consecutive games for the first time in nine years when Kentucky upset the Lady Vols 66-63 on Thursday night.

Jenny Pfeiffer scored 16 points, including two free throws with 15 seconds left to put the Wildcats ahead by one. Sidney Spencer then missed a 3-pointer for Tennessee and fouled Nastassia Alcius, who hit two foul shots with 3 seconds to go for the final margin.

The Lady Vols (18-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference), who figured to drop from the top spot anyway after their 22-point loss Monday against No. 2 Duke, will almost certainly fall farther now. Tennessee had beaten Kentucky (15-4, 4-2) 24 straight times since January 1986 and entered with a 40-5 advantage in the series.

For Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in college basketball with 900 victories, the setback came at the hands of her former pupil, Kentucky coach Mickie DeMoss, a Tennessee assistant for 18 years under Summitt.

Tennessee led 63-62 when Shanna Zolman tripped, and Kentucky's Carly Ormerod came up with the loose ball. Pfeiffer drew a foul from Spencer and made both free throws.

Tennessee had not dropped consecutive games since February 1997 against LSU and Louisiana Tech. It also was the Lady Vols' first loss to an unranked team since March 2, 2002, against LSU in the SEC tournament.

For the Wildcats, it was their first win over a No. 1 team.

Summitt is 0-2 since earning her 900th career victory last week against Vanderbilt.

Freshman Candace Parker led the Lady Vols with 25 points -- one shy of a career high -- and nine rebounds. But it was her foul that sent Pfeiffer to the line for three free throws with 2:30 left. Pfeiffer made all three to tie the score at 60.

Summitt was unhappy with her team's defensive effort against Duke, but it was offense and defense alike that plagued the Lady Vols early against Kentucky.

They made only four of their first 15 shots and hit just 39 percent for the game.

Kentucky, however, shot 54 percent. The bigger Lady Vols narrowly won the rebounding battle, 33-32.

The Wildcats went on a 6-0 run midway through the first half and led by as many as six. A buzzer-beating layup by Jenn'e Jackson amid a crowd of Lady Vols gave the Wildcats a 35-30 halftime lead.

Guard Alexis Hornbuckle and center Tye'sha Fluker both started for the Lady Vols, despite lingering injuries from the Duke game. Hornbuckle sustained a bruised right kneecap while Fluker had some swelling in her left knee.

The Lady Vols were playing only their ninth road game of the season, and all have been attendance records for the host schools. On Thursday, a record 13,689 fans showed up at Rupp Arena to watch the upset.

Q & A with Pat Summitt :: The legendary Tennessee coach takes your questions

On January 19, Pat Summitt earned her 900th victory as head coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Following that achievement, solicited questions from its readers for Coach Summitt to answer. After an overwhelming response, we selected some of the best that were sent in. Here are those questions, along with Coach Summitt's response.

1) In the past, the coaching staff and you sat amongst the players on the bench during games. Now the coaches all sit together at the head of the bench. Why did you change?

When I first started coaching, we sat at the head and we made the change so that we could have coaches sitting on either side with post people to the left, guards to the right. It was for communication as we didn't have the best team chemistry at the time; we wanted our assistants to be able to communicate. We changed back because I felt that we had a team that was together, on the same page and their chemistry was not a problem. We put our graduate assistants now between the players. I wanted to be closer to the court, at a lot of arenas I felt like I was at the end of the bench when I wasn't sitting at the head of it.

2) First of all, congrats on your 900th win - you rock! If Hollywood came to you and said they wanted to do a movie about your coaching success and the empire you've worked so hard to create at UT, who would you like to see play Pat Summitt and why?

Geena Davis because she plays the roles of leaders that take charge in her movies.

3) Hi Coach: You're a pioneer. Your significant accomplishments as a coach have had a major impact on women's sports, and not just basketball. What motivates you to continue coaching women's college basketball versus coaching a professional team or becoming a motivational speaker?

I love the college game, I think it's the best game going and I really have no desire to coach at the professional level. I do three to five motivational speeches a year for various corporations. That is something I may do more of when I retire from coaching.

4) Congrats on your 900th win, Coach Summitt! I am a high school coach and sometimes I find it difficult to get through to some players. I feel as if I am often rambling and not really getting my point across. Can you offer any suggestions as to how I can keep my discussions and explanations clear and to the point without boring my players? Best of luck to you and the Lady Vols for the remainder of the season!

Keep it short and simple, and use the right terminology. It's all about having your system in place. You have to make it competitive, which is my way of making it fun and challenging. Within your basketball system, develop terminology that they understand. Don't use 30 words when five are sufficient. You coach in practice to prepare to coach in a game. You don't have time for excess words in the timeout of a game.

5) The amount of success you've had in coaching transcends both gender and profession. Many times you've said that if you were not coaching, you would be a teacher. What is the passion you have for teaching? How did it develop? I think it is such a great thing you do with the time and effort you put into developing these kids into people of great character both on and off the court. The level of integrity that you yourself display and instill in these young minds is a rare find in any arena these days, especially sports. Congratulations on all your success.

My parents made education a priority for our family. If the doors were open at school, we were there. I never missed a day in 12 years. I had some great teachers along the way. One of my favorites was my first-grade teacher Ms. Davis. She was always about attention to detail and getting things right. I also had some great coaches. Ultimately, we learn from other people and we develop our own style of teaching and coaching. My goal is to teach young people the valuable life skills that my parents taught me and my avenue for doing that is basketball.

6) Obviously, you have one of the most highly recruited teams in women's college basketball history, and quite possibly in men's basketball as well. Do you see this team as the most talented and athletic one that you've ever coached? And do you feel this team has the focus and chemistry to achieve that "settle for nothing less" mentality that is Tennessee basketball?

This team is certainly one of the most talented that we've had at Tennessee. I think that this team is still growing and with the schedule that we have, I'm optimistic that by postseason they will be a very seasoned basketball team ready to make a run in the NCAAs.

7) How do you manage to balance your coaching job and being a wife and a mom?

It's all about time management and setting priorities. I'm fortunate to have great support from my husband and my son, and I also have a personal assistant that does a lot to allow me to do what I do. When I'm at work, I'm at work and when I'm at home, I try to leave the job behind. If there is a game, men's or women's on television, we do watch it. It helps tremendously that my family is into basketball - my son plays it. But during the off-season, we'll go play golf and do things as a family that don't relate to basketball.

8) If you had to pick one win that was the most important of your career, what was it?

I think the most important win in my career was the 1987 championship game. We had been to seven Final Fours and four title games before we finally won the championship. That win in Austin, Texas, got us over the hump. We knew then that we could win championships.

9) Coach Summitt, I saw the women's basketball program, which aired on CBS on Sunday. I enjoyed seeing the family side of you with your son, Tyler. You said that you wouldn't coach Tyler - has he ever said that he would like you to be his coach? I must say that if you were my mom I would definitely want you to be my coach.

I won't coach Tyler because I don't want to confuse him. I want him to listen to his high school coach. He does ask my opinion and I do work with him in the summer, or I'll go to the gym and rebound for him if he wants me to. He has said that he would like to be a coach and he would like to start his career with the Lady Vols.

10) What is the magic of the Orange? We are amazed at the loyalty it brings forth from fans all over the globe.

It's the history, aura and mystique that have been developed over time. Tennessee Orange is unique to college sports.

11) After playing both UConn and Duke with very different results, do you believe that Duke is that much better than UConn, or was this partly a great night for Duke and a poor night for Tennessee?

I think both UConn and Duke have great teams. Duke played a great game against us and their defense had a lot to do with how we played. A UConn vs. Duke game would be a terrific match-up.

12) As a Tennessee fan, but one who went to school at Duke, I was at the game Monday night. I would like to say the degree of professionalism you showed was tremendous. I was taken back by the negative cheering that the Duke students exhibited. The incident with the Wal-Mart bags was in poor taste. I know you can only be so prepared. How do you mentally prepare your team for crowd reactions such as those? The Duke crowd took the Tennessee fans out of the game very early. Why not bring your band and cheerleaders for added support?

The Duke students and fans provide a great home-court advantage for their men's and women's teams. We thought we had covered with our players the type of environment that they would go into, but we were not prepared for some of what we saw and heard.

13) How do you think Shanna Zolman will take this non-scoring game against a team like Duke?

I think Shanna will learn and grow from the Duke game. So will our team.

14) Are you happy with the way your team has improved on defense and rebounding?

No, I'm not happy with our defense and our rebounding. This has been a point of emphasis over the last five games in particular. The loss to Duke should help our focus and commitment to defense and boards.

15) What was the last year that Tennessee had their names on their jerseys?

The 2003-04 season was the last time. Prior to that, 1978 was the last time we didn't have our names on our jerseys.

16) Who is the best women's player you have ever seen? Coached?

I coached Chamique Holdsclaw and Bridgette Gordon. I was fortunate enough to coach Cheryl Miller in the 1984 Olympic team. I think those three ladies are some of the best to ever play the game.

17) What do you remember about your early years as coach at Tennessee when the players and you were about the same age?

At age 22, with my seniors that were 21 years of age, it was extremely important for me not to be a buddy but for them to see me as a professional and as a disciplinarian.

18) When did you start to realize that Tennessee basketball was Tennessee basketball, an institution in the women's game, and how did you deal with the additional pressure that brought?

The 1996 Olympics and the success of that women's basketball team and the success of women's sports in general brought a different level of recognition and awareness to all women's sports and, in particular, basketball. When we won the 1996 championship, I think that I started to realize what Tennessee had accomplished. I did not look at it as additional pressure, but as a very positive step for all of us in the game.

19) I'm dying for your Jalapeno Cornbread recipe. Pretty please with butter on it!

4 cans of shoepeg corn

1 stick of margarine or butter, your choice

1 stick of Philadelphia cream cheese

1 jar of jalapeno peppers

Directions: Put the four cans of corn in a casserole dish, melt the margarine and cream cheese in the microwave. Stir and pour over the corn. Depending on how hot you want the dish, add peppers and juice accordingly. I usually put a couple teaspoons of peppers and pour a few tablespoons of the juice. Stir and then put it in the oven on 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lady Vols deal with injuries, weaknesses after Duke loss

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Pat Summitt railed about the Lady Vols' weaknesses on defense before their embarrassing defeat at second-ranked Duke earlier this week.

While they work on those problems, they have two players trying to heal enough to play Thursday at Kentucky.

Starting point guard Alexis Hornbuckle suffered a bruised right knee cap during Tennessee's 75-53 loss at Duke on Monday. Center Tye'sha Fluker has had some swelling in her left knee. Both were listed as questionable on Wednesday.

Summitt said she was optimistic Fluker would play and that there was a "possibility" Hornbuckle would play. Hornbuckle was already playing more since guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood left the team last month for personal reasons. Hornbuckle is averaging 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.

The starting lineup for Kentucky had not been determined, but Summitt said: "I can tell you there will be a change."

The Lady Vols (18-1), nearing the end of a four-game stretch on the road, will likely fall from the No. 1 ranking next week after losing at Duke. The defeat was the eighth-worst in program history.

The Blue Devils handed Tennessee its first loss of the season and seemingly scored with ease most of the game. Duke shot 64 percent from the field in the second half and expanded a seven-point halftime lead to a margin Tennessee could not overcome.

"They know as a team they have to get better. We've been talking about this now for four games going into the Duke game as a staff and just basically trying to send out a warning signal to this team," Summitt said.

Summitt earned win No. 900 a week ago at Vanderbilt but only after the Lady Vols had to rebound from a 14-point deficit.

The Blue Devils made Tennessee look discombobulated in all phases. The Lady Vols had 22 turnovers, 15 off steals by Duke and some from uncharacteristic sloppy passes and bad ball handling. Tennessee was 2-of-10 from the foul line.

Candace Parker had 17 points but a team-high seven turnovers. Shanna Zolman was held to zero points.

Hornbuckle had 10 points and six turnovers while being heckled relentlessly by the Cameron Crazies about how she was arrested for shoplifting at Wal-Mart when she was a senior in high school.

Duke also held the rebounding edge 33-26, and Summitt said the Lady Vols should be much better in rebounding considering their post players are usually bigger than opponents.

"I think they took ownership of what did or did not happen. Obviously there was a glaring lack of leadership during the game, which was I thought a real factor in how we responded and our lack of being able to pull together during some adversity," Summitt said. "I think we'll learn volumes from this loss. Now we understand how much better we have to be at that level."

Summitt will try to get to 901 against the Wildcats, who are coached by her former longtime assistant Mickie DeMoss. The Lady Vols play again at home on Sunday against Alabama.

Tennessee travels to Kentucky Thursday night, hosts Alabama Sunday


Opening comments:

"I think that it is (playing on two day's rest) a quick turnaround for us, and it will be interesting to see. I don't know how we will respond after a tough loss at Duke. We had a good workout last night. You have to get refocused and think about the bigger picture, which is the conference. Kentucky is having its best year since Mickie DeMoss took over the reigns as head coach. I've watched a little bit of their team on tape. They are athletic. They bring intensity on the defense. Sarah Elliot inside gives them an anchor offensively. It is going to be a challenge for us. I am excited that they moved the game into Rupp. It should bring more interest and fans. It should be a great environment and a big challenge for us. It will be a quick turnaround to be ready to play Alabama on Sunday."

On the attitude and morale of the team following the loss at Duke:

"They took ownership of what did or did not happen. There was a glaring lack of leadership during the game, which I thought was a real factor in how we responded with our lack of being able to pull it together when facing adversity. Take nothing away from Duke. That is the best I've seen them play all year. We tend to due that; bring out the best of other teams. (Our players) understand their shortcomings in how they could have been better, in particular our huddles and communication. It caused us to play more as individuals than as a team. We'll learn a lot from it. We will learn volumes from this loss. We understand how much better we have to be to compete at that level."

On what type of practices have been held to improve on the defensive side of the ball:

"We did a lot of work on the defensive end last night in just going back to the basics. Our one on one defending the ball and then built it up to two on two, three on three, four on four and five on five. We started back at the beginning of building a defense. I thought they responded in a very aggressive, determined way. It is not like they are pointing fingers or blaming anyone. They know that, as a team, they have to work at getting better. That is exactly what they did last night. They worked hard, real hard. We've been talking about this as a staff for four games coming into the Duke game, trying to send out a warning signal to this team. You cannot win against great opponents playing the kind of defense that we've been playing. To have the size that we have on the inside, this is one of our weaker rebounding teams. That is something that definitely has to change."

On the status of Tye'sha Fluker:

"Just talking with Jenny Moshak this morning, she feels that Tye'sha will be good to go. She is going to do some rehab with her this morning after she gets out of class. She was optimistic. At practice, she did a bike workout and seemed to be feeling much better at the end of practice."

On if she is still questionable for the Kentucky game:

Until Jenny gives me the green light, I would stay at this point she is still questionable. However, I am very optimistic.

On her relationship with Stephany Smith:

"Stephany did a great job at MTSU. I think getting into the NCAA tournament was an opportunity for people across the country to see what she had done and the impact that she had on the program there. People are respecting her for that. Certainly she is no stranger around the Southeastern Conference because a lot of teams competed against Stephany's teams at MTSU. She did a great job."

On Mickie DeMoss' success at Kentucky so far:

"I think Mickie has done a great job. I am not surprised. I think her strength is her great people skills and her ability to use those in recruiting. Also, she uses them in building great team chemistry in getting players to work together. She has brought in a staff that she is very comfortable with and believes in what Mickie is doing. She has a lot of people working together with common goals What Mickey has done there has been a little faster than people may have anticipated, but I am not surprised. She has the people skills and sales skills to be able to really get it done. Just her communication and commitment to getting out in the community there has generated a tremendous amount of excitement at the University of Kentucky. She has been impressed as to how the community has embraced the women's team there, and I think she is very excited about that."

On if she sees a difference from Mickie DeMoss' style of coaching at Tennessee and at Kentucky:

"Yes, I see a big difference. At Tennessee a lot of times, she had to be the go between for myself and the players. She did a great job of being a listener and remaining calm in those situations. I see her intensity has risen up a whole different level. She is in a different role I have been really pleased with the discipline and demands she has placed and the goals that she has set. She is bringing out the best in those student athletes. A lot of times, she would always tell me that I was too tough. I tease her now, saying 'I think you are tougher than I am.' As a head coach you do have to take charge and make sure that everyone understands the boundaries."

On Alabama and its primary offense, the Triangle:

"In order to run it successfully, you have to have a post player to anchor it. It really helps to have three-point shooters there so you can stretch the defense out. We've had success with it. We've been better when we've felt that we can put someone at that "five" position. Candace (Parker) has done a good job for us there. If you have a good four and five, like back when we had (Chamique) Holdsclaw and (Tamika) Catchings, I think that's when we ran it with a higher level of success. Your offense is only as good as the personnel allows it to be. It can challenge the defense because of the spacing.

On whether Summitt wished she would have played Alex Fuller more against Duke:

"To be honest with you, Alex has had a little bit of a physical setback. She is ok, and I thought that practice last night was one of her best. I just didn't go there. I did not want to push that. We made sure that everything was fine with her, and it is. She just has been having some soreness in her knees. It was probably just the pounding, but she is fine now. Last night was one of her better practices. I think Jenny feels a lot better having our medical people take a look at her. She is good to go."

On helping Shanna Zolman over Duke game:

"Shanna will learn volumes from last game. If you are not shooting the ball well, you have to focus on getting other people open, playing good defense, being a leader, and that's one game that I thought Shanna did not respond as well in those aspects of her game. Even a senior has moments that might be, through adversity, not be an easy situation to handle. She will be better after this. She learned a lot."

On whether this season is tougher for Shanna:

"I do, but sometimes you can create an environment that makes it tough for you. As a great long-range shooter, she has drawn the best defender, usually the most athletic, sometimes players with a lot of size. The schemes have been in man to man and in zone. People chase her out of zones. In essence, with her ability to shoot the ball the way she can, she has become a target for every team we play. Some games, she's handled it well. In the Duke game, she struggled. She will understand that she is not just a shooter. The player we count on to lead, she is one of our best screeners. She understands that she needs to do a better job at the defensive end. Sometimes you have a game where you feel like the wheels come off. She had one of those games, and I think she will learn and be better because of it.

On the rumor you and Mickie DeMoss did the dishes at the Zolman household during the recruiting trip:

"Her mom cooked for us. We were getting ready to do our presentation, and we started taking dishes off the table. We said just let us do the dishes, and she said 'Oh no, you can't do that,' and we said, 'Yes we can. You did the cooking.' So Mickey and I got in the kitchen and did the dishes."

On Alexis' injury and optimism for her playing against Kentucky:

"That's a little more in question. If Jenny Moshak was not our trainer, I'd probably be a little more concerned. Jenny worked a lot with Alexis in practice last night, and Alexis said she felt a lot better. There is a possibility she can play."

On who would step up and play against Kentucky:

"To me, Sybil Dosty has earned the right to get some quality playing time. She has done more in less time. The one thing that she does bring to the court is consistent rebounding. That might be a reason I give her an early look and might even put her in the line-up."

On whether Summitt knows who will start against Kentucky:

"Not yet, but I can tell you that there will be a change."

In A Flash: The Pressure of Being Tennessee

You could see it on the Lady Vols' faces as Duke began to run away with the game in Durham on Sunday. Down 25 points with less than five minutes remaining, Tennessee looked shell-shocked, almost in disbelief with every glance at the scoreboard. Everything in its play, on its bench, in its posture echoed the same sentiment:

We don't lose like this. We're TENNESSEE!

For any other team in the nation, a number one ranking would be credential enough to reasonably expect a victory in every matchup. For Tennessee, it's about far more than a No. 1 ranking. There's a certain expectation of Big Orange, a reputation and history of success that makes Tennessee the team to beat and the team to be.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is arguably responsible for this prominence on the women's basketball scene, and she doesn't shy away from the pressure of being Tennessee. She has passed that mentality on to her players. Beyond the average athlete's responsibility to win for her school, her team, her coach, or herself, Tennessee players inherit a legacy to be defended, and their ability to handle the extra pressure often determines whether they sink or swim.

Both Duke and Tennessee knew their game was about more than the final score. Duke coach Gail Goestenkors talked about Tennessee's tradition and admitted readily that the Blue Devils are still in the process of creating a tradition of Duke women's basketball. The Tennessee players, meanwhile, expressed their frustration at letting not only their fans, but their reputation down.

"Tennessee is about heart and we didn't show it," Lady Vol redshirt freshman Candace Parker said. "Coach has been harping on us about defense and how we have been living on the edge. We know that when we go back to Knoxville, that is going to be our main focus. We have so many weapons both on the offensive end and the defensive end. We just didn't bring it tonight."

Agreement came from teammate Sidney Spencer.

"[Duke] came out and beat us in everything," Spencer said. "They executed well, won all the hustle plays, outrebounded us, they did everything that usually Tennessee is about."

Only Tennessee and perhaps UConn can get away with referencing fundamentally sound basketball as some feature of their programs and their programs alone. And it only works in women's basketball - the sport is so young and the recruiting base still in development that the concentration of power remains with a handful of teams at the top of the sport. Each season another team nudges its way into the Final Four or, in the case of Baylor, all the way to a national title, and becomes another milepost on the road to the sort of parity found in the men's game.

To regain the Tennessee "swagger" that guard Alexis Hornbuckle said Duke usurped in their big Monday matchup, the Vols have returned to Knoxville to patch the holes in their team that the Blue Devils so harshly exposed. Even with a Tennessee-sized target on their backs, the Lady Vols had avoided a loss all season, but it took a team like Duke that was having comparable success to ignore the orange jerseys and dare to blow them out.

It's unlikely the Vols will face the same sort of onslaught on Thursday at Kentucky. Sure, the Wildcats will get an inspirational boost from Tennessee's first loss, but the Vols will have the same source of inspiration. Great teams are always most dangerous after a tough loss.

In 2005-2006, Tennessee is still the greatest women's program of all-time. An unmatched six National Championships and a head coach with 900 career wins has that title locked up for some time. Even with the loss to Duke, they'll stay somewhere in the top five programs in the nation, and they are still likely Final Four favorites.

The Lady Vols could conceivably run the table - No. 4 LSU is their biggest roadblock, and they get to host the Lady Tigers in Knoxville - especially after Duke highlighted their own weaknesses for them. Don't expect Tennessee to get burned in the same place twice - Summitt and the players she is raising will be sure of that. After all, they're Tennessee.

Summitt Directs Intense Practice

KNOXVILLE, TN -- No time to cry over spilled milk. A disappointed Pat Summitt had her Lady Vols right back on the practice floor Tuesday night following Monday's 22 point loss at Duke.

The coach was none too pleased by her team's effort, especially on defense:

"Neither one of you are willing to give up the ball line and bust your butt every possession," Summitt said to a pair of players inside Thompson-Boling arena Tuesday night. "And do you know why? It's because after they catch it, it doesn't bother you if you get beat."

"It's going to be a revolving door(around here) because your butt's coming out if you get beat."

One day after the Lady Vols' first loss of the season, Coach Summitt had a lot to say about her team's lack of defense against the Blue Devils.

"Everyone has to know what the mission is, not individually but collectively," Summitt said. "Understanding how important it is to play great defense, every possession."

"We took a lot of possessions off (against Duke) and some of our upper-classmen really disappointed me with the lack of leadership. It's unacceptable."

Summitt did not hold back trying to get her point across during a practice that consisted mostly of defensive drills.

"I'm telling you right now," Summitt's voice bellowed throughout the 24,000 seat arena. "The only way you're going to get inspired is if you have to sit."

Summitt said she was looking forward to how this team would react to a loss.

"You always want the team to respond when you face a little adversity, and obviously, we faced a little adversity."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Kara Lawson to Expand Role with ESPN as NCAA Women's Tournament Studio Analyst

Former Tennessee Star Will Join Dales-Schuman And New Host Wingo

Kara Lawson, three-time Final Four participant and member of the 2005 WNBA Champion Sacramento Monarchs, will expand her growing role at ESPN as a studio analyst for the 2006 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship. Lawson, a three-year WNBA guard, debuted as a studio analyst for ESPN2's coverage of women's basketball last month and will next appear on Thursday, Feb. 9 when her alma mater Tennessee hosts LSU at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. She will join first-year women's college basketball host Trey Wingo and returning analyst Stacey Dales-Schuman in studio on ESPN and ESPN2 for complete-game coverage of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, including the Final Four.

"Kara is an outstanding addition to our team who will provide more expert knowledge and contemporary analysis to our telecasts," said Tina Thornton, ESPN coordinating producer, remote production. "Stacey continues to blossom as a multi-talented commentator and we are thrilled to have Trey as our new studio host."

Lawson joined ESPN in 2004 as a game analyst for coverage of the NCAA Women's National Championship. She has also covered the 2004 and 2005 WNBA Drafts, and served as a courtside reporter for various women's college basketball telecasts. In addition, she has been a member of the Sacramento Kings' broadcasting team for the past two seasons, working as an analyst for the Kings House Party warm-up show, as well as the Kings' half-time and wrap-up shows.

Dales-Schuman joined ESPN in 2003 as a studio analyst and has since expanded her responsibilities as a reporter for various men's basketball and college football games. A college basketball standout and All-American at the University of Oklahoma, she led her team to the National Championship game in 2002. Dales-Schuman will also return to the WNBA in 2006 as a member of the Chicago Sky, the League's new expansion team.

Besides his new women's college basketball duties, Wingo also serves as host of ESPN's NFL Live and is heavily involved with ESPN's NFL Draft coverage and contributes as a anchor for SportsCenter, ESPN's flagship sports-news program. Wingo joined ESPN in November 1997 as an ESPNEWS anchor and has also hosted ESPN's Baseball Tonight and ESPN2's NBA 2Night.

This season, the ESPN networks will feature 130 women's basketball games (up from 100), including 49 regular-season contests, 15 conference tournament matchups, the NCAA Division II Semifinals and Championship and all 63 NCAA Division I Championship contests. The advent of ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network, further increased the commitment of women's basketball, featuring an extensive 27-game schedule. This will also mark the fourth straight year ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN FULL COURT will combine to present all 63 games from the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship. In addition, ESPN will now showcase the exclusive live announcement of the 64-team NCAA tournament field as part of the new NCAA Selection Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m. ET.

NOTE: ESPN, ESPN2 & ESPNU's NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament schedule will be announced on a later date.

Tennessee Lady Volunteers/Duke Blue Devils Recap

(2) Duke 75, (1) Tennessee 53

DURHAM, N.C. -- Pat Summitt was in unfamiliar territory. Rarely has she seen Tennessee so thoroughly outplayed, so thoroughly beaten.

"Losing's one thing," the Hall of Fame coach said. "Losing the way we lost is something quite different. It's unacceptable in this program. So we will learn from it."

Lindsey Harding had 15 points, four assists and eight steals, and four teammates joined her in scoring in double figures as No. 2 Duke routed the top-ranked Lady Vols 75-53 Monday night to deny Summitt her 901st victory.

Monique Currie had 13 points and Mistie Williams, Abby Waner and Chante Black all scored 10 for Duke (19-0), which took the lead for good midway through the first half and then pulled away.

"We knew it was going to be a battle," Blue Devils coach Gail Goestenkors said. "It was a great team effort. Five players in double figures, and everybody who came off the bench contributed something to win the game."

Candace Parker, Tennessee's dynamite freshman, had 17 points, five assists and three blocks, but she got little help. Leading scorer Shanna Zolman was held without a point, only the third time this season she has failed to reach double figures.

"Shanna's a non-factor, and the disappointing thing is that when she wasn't scoring, she wasn't doing other things," Summitt said. "That was a big disappointment, and obviously hurt us."

Six players scored for the Lady Vols (18-1), and their 53 points were a season low. They were coming off an emotional victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt that gave Summitt win No. 900, but they never had a chance in this one.

At least Summitt avoided the worst loss in her 32 years at the school -- she and Tennessee lost to Texas 91-60 in 1984.

"We knew win or lose, it was just one game," Goestenkors said. "It doesn't change anything. It was an opportunity to find out how good we were. Today, we were pretty good."

It was the second time this season Duke won a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup -- the top-ranked men's team beat Texas 97-66 in early December.

Harding and her teammates got a little revenge for losing to Tennessee two seasons ago in the most recent game between the top two teams in The Associated Press' women's poll. The Lady Vols were the lower-ranked team then when they won in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but their next trip to the historic arena didn't go so well.

"We've been in this environment several times," Goestenkors said. "Now we use it to our advantage. We fed off the crowd, and the crowd fed off us."

With all the tickets sold well in advance -- there were a surprising number of Tennessee fans scattered throughout the crowd of 9,314 -- the environment was raucous even before the opening tip. A small, yet enthusiastic group of Cameron Crazies chanted "Our house! Our house!" as the players left their benches, and they continued the harassment.

Of course, the best distraction came from Duke's defense. The Lady Vols shot 45 percent, missed all but two of their 10 free throws and had 22 turnovers.

"I think they had the swagger we usually carry," Tennessee guard Alexis Hornbuckle said. "It seemed like we got frustrated, and we let down instead of getting fired up and trying to get it back."

Harding keyed a 14-4 run soon after halftime with two free throws and a jumper from the baseline, and Waner swished a 3-pointer to make it 46-31. During Tennessee's drought, Parker looked like a first-year player, driving through a host of defenders to pick up a charge.

"Sometimes, I think that we forced it a little bit," Parker said. "I had some turnovers in transition and things like that."

Sidney Spencer made two 3s to momentarily halt the Blue Devils' momentum, but Waner responded with a 3 to restore control.

"I expected them to make a comeback," Harding said. "They're Tennessee. But we had so much depth, we were able to keep going and going and going. It seemed like we never got tired."

Spencer had 11 points for the Lady Vols, and Hornbuckle added 10.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Lady Vols Can't Afford Letdown Vs. Duke

DURHAM, N.C. -- Top-ranked Tennessee can't afford a letdown against No. 2 Duke.

The Lady Vols are coming off an emotional effort Thursday against Vanderbilt that gave coach Pat Summitt her 900th career victory. Last season, the Blue Devils handed Tennessee a rare home loss.

Both teams are 18-0, but the Lady Vols will have to deal with the raucous environment at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday. North Carolina is the only other undefeated team (18-0) in the Top 25.

"We know it's going to be a pretty hostile environment, but our team has been exposed to that," Summitt said. "All the players that have played here understand that we go on the road."

Summitt and the Lady Vols lead the all-time series 4-3, including a road victory in 2004 that was the 38th and most recent No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. The Blue Devils began the season at the top of the poll before dropping a spot in early December.

The move came despite an impressive start by coach Gail Goestenkors' team, capped by an easy victory at then-No. 17 Texas. Perhaps that will give Duke a little extra motivation.

"We are looking to get into the No. 1 spot because that would mean we won the game," Duke leading scorer Monique Currie said. "Neither one of us wants to lose that position. It will be a fight out there, and whoever survives will win the game."

The one advantage the Blue Devils might have is depth, since they routinely go nine-deep. Currie and point guard Lindsey Harding are the only two players averaging at least 25 minutes, with everyone else getting at least 15.

There isn't much drop off when Coach G goes to the bench, either. Senior Jessica Foley and Wanisha Smith combined for 67 starts a year ago, yet have spent most of this season as reserves. Four players are scoring in double figures, with two more at nine points a game.

"I think their bench is probably a little more productive at this point in time than ours has been," Summitt said. "We've been very inconsistent there. That's where we have to be better in terms of matching their depth in being able to put up numbers off the bench."

Of course, Summitt has her own stars to depend on, and the biggest is 6-foot-3 freshman Candace Parker. She sat out last season while recovering from two knee surgeries, and so far, it appears she made the right choice.

She is Tennessee's second-leading scorer at 14.9 points per game and pulls down a team-best 8.4 rebounds. Parker shoots 55 percent from the field and can dunk.

She hasn't shown off her dunking skills in an official game yet. If she does, she would be only the fourth woman to dunk in a game.

"She's just a great all-around player," said Goestenkors, who recruited Parker. "If you try to double-team her, she's an exceptional passer out of the double-team, so she's going to find the open player and make her teammates better."

In short, that's exactly what Currie does for Duke.

"Monique is playing with a great deal of confidence," Summitt said. "She's shooting the ball extremely well, getting to the free throw line, playing aggressive and rebounding the ball. I don't see a weakness in her game."

Pat Summitt's milestone wins

No. 1: Jan. 10, 1975 _ 69-32 over Middle Tennessee State in Knoxville, Summitt's second game as head coach.

No. 100: Jan. 13, 1979 _ 79-66 over North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C.

No. 200: Dec. 3, 1982 _ 69-56 over St. John's in Detroit.

No. 300: Jan. 4, 1987 _ 87-68 over North Carolina in Knoxville.

No. 319: March 29, 1987 _ 67-44 over Louisiana Tech in Austin, Texas, Summitt's first national championship.

No. 385: April 2, 1989 _ 76-60 over Auburn in Tacoma, Wash., Summitt's second national championship.

No. 400: Jan. 25, 1990 _ 70-69 over South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.

No. 442: March 31, 1991 _ 70-67 over Virginia in New Orleans, Summitt's third national championship.

No. 500: Nov. 21, 1993 _ 80-45 over Ohio State in the inaugural State Farm Classic in Jackson, Tenn.

No. 596: March 31, 1996 _ 83-65 over Georgia in Charlotte, N.C., Summitt's fourth national championship.

No. 600: Nov. 23, 1996 _ 83-68 over Marquette in Burlington, Vt.

No. 625: March 30, 1997 _ 68-59 over Old Dominion in Cincinnati, Summitt's fifth national championship.

No. 664: March 29, 1998 _ 93-75 over Louisiana Tech in Kansas City, Mo., Summitt's sixth national championship, capping a 39-0 season.

No. 700: Dec. 5, 1999 _ 85-62 over Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.

No. 800: Jan. 14, 2002 _ 76-57 over DePaul in Knoxville.

No. 876: March 4, 2005 _ 64-54 over Auburn in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament, tying Adolph Rupp in second place on all-time win list.

No. 877: March 5, 2005 _ 76-73 over Vanderbilt in the semifinals of the SEC tournament.

No. 878: March 6, 2005 _ 67-65 over LSU in the SEC tournament championship game.

No. 900: Jan. 19, 2006 _ 80-68 over Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.

Vols, Devils stage one big talent show

Maybe Cornelius Vanderbilt managed to accidentally break an entire hall of mirrors before his death in 1877. And thus, the women's basketball program at the university he founded in 1873 was doomed to the bad luck of losing a million games against Tennessee. Actually, it's only 46 ... it just seems like a million if you wear the black and gold.

Perhaps if you tuned into the Tennessee-Vandy matchup Thursday night and saw the Commodores get out to a double-digit lead, you wondered if the upset would mean the bloom might be slightly off the rose for Monday's Tennessee-Duke showdown on ESPN2 (7:30 p.m. ET).

Yeah, sure. You wondered that if you just started watching women's basketball this month. Otherwise, you knew Tennessee could be down 57 points at halftime to Vandy, but somehow, some way ...

Of course Tennessee rallied and coach Pat Summitt won her 900th game. And while it might seem to the long-suffering Vandy fans that she has won at least 900 alone at their Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, in fact Summitt's crew has victimized everybody nationwide.

Vandy just has the misfortune of having played the powerful Orange Crush more than anybody else -- 52 times by Tennessee's records. Vandy, however, doesn't count the 96-27 loss in 1976 because the Commodores didn't officially have a varsity program until 1977-78.

Anyway, Summitt keeps hitting these crazy milestones -- "It is astounding to me, especially with the level of competition she plays. It's phenomenal," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said of 900 wins -- and reporters ask Summitt if any victories in particular stand out.

Friday in a teleconference, Summitt said that, yes, there were some wins that are particularly memorable for her.

"They're all meaningful ... [but] the regional-championship wins stand out in my mind, because that's one of the hardest games to play," Summitt said. "Because that means the Final Four."

And, in particular, Summitt mentioned the 1998 regional final victory in Nashville ("OH, STOP IT!!!" the Vandy fans groan) when her undefeated, anointed-as-greatest-team-ever-by-many squad was down against North Carolina but came back to save the 39-0 season.

And if asked about her most memorable losses -- or, more accurately, most haunting -- Summitt would talk about regional finals as well. To Virginia in 1991 and to Duke in 1999.

The latter was Chamique Holdsclaw's last college game, the end of the fourpeat quest -- and Tennessee hasn't won an NCAA title since. It was also Duke's official introduction to the big time.

All that history does play a part in what's about to happen Monday, when Cameron Indoor Stadium will be packed, tremendously loud and a showcase for the women's game. No. 1 vs. No. 2, both 18-0, both greatly skilled teams with future WNBA and almost certainly Olympic stars.

Whenever any program has risen up to be a national contender, Tennessee has put that team on its schedule. As much as the 1,000-plus victories Summitt will surely end up with, spreading the joyous contagion for women's hoops nationwide is the coach's legacy.

"It's been something that's been a process -- years of taking our team on the road and our willingness to play anywhere, anyone, anytime," Summitt said. "That has allowed us to increase our fan base across the country. For example, when we were at Temple, I was amazed at how many people were there in orange. As we go on the road and have more and more fans show up, we're very proud of it and very appreciative of our support around the country."

And, of course, by being so good for so long, Tennessee also is a drawing card as the "villain," too. Something Connecticut, of course, also has excelled at. And that's fun -- and necessary to have -- in women's college hoops. Beating Tennessee will always be a big, big deal to anyone who does it.

Summitt and Goestenkors have about as good a relationship as two highly competitive people who want the same thing could have. They speak in friendly and admiring terms about each other. Goestenkors knows how hard and long Summitt has worked to stay on top. Summitt appreciates what a worthy rival Goestenkors has turned Duke into.

Sure, they both went after Candace Parker like prospectors trying to stake claim to the mother lode. Summitt won. Goestenkors was as devastated as you could be over a recruiting loss. And there will be plenty of those battles in the future.

While most observers approach this game thinking these are the two current titans of this season going head-to-head, neither coach was willing to say that Friday. They pointed to the likes of North Carolina, Connecticut, LSU and others as very dangerous teams, too.

They also said they haven't had a chance to "worry" too much about each other, because they've been so busy worrying about their previous opponents. But women's hoops fans have had this game circled on the calendar for months.

It's great talent vs. great talent. Parker has been everything advertised. Alexis Hornbuckle has, Summitt said, taken a lot of responsibility for maintaining the relentless, aggressive, all-out-all-the-time, smart play that has been Tennessee's hallmark. Shanna Zolman can at any time pop the 3-pointer that has the big dagger. Nicky Anosike and Sidney Spencer are big-impact players as well.

On the Duke side, Monique Currie -- whom Goestenkors really thought would leave for the WNBA after last season -- returned as a fifth-year senior and has so much big-game experience. And she's working on her master's degree.

The Duke post game -- led by Mistie Williams, Chante Black and Alison Bales -- can be very formidable. The engine for the Blue Devils, though, is point guard Lindsey Harding. Suspended for undisclosed reasons last season, Harding has returned to make Duke the high-octane offensive team that it is. And defensively, she does exactly what Goestenkors needs, too.

Because there are so many good players on both sides, there could be one not mentioned here who ends up being the key factor.

But whatever happens, we know this much: At tipoff, on national television, one of the coolest hoops venues in America will be pandemonium. Another memorable game for Summitt -- and everybody else who loves sports at its best.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Florida, Last of the Unbeatens, Loses

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Florida took the court against Tennessee as the last undefeated team in the country, knowing two others had gone down earlier in the day.

The Gators made it 0-3 for the unbeatens Saturday.

Tennessee put an end to the surprising Gators' best start in school history with an 80-76 victory, behind Chris Lofton's 29 points.

Florida (17-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) No. 1 Duke and No. 9 Pittsburgh all began the day with perfect records and road games to play. But Duke lost to Georgetown and Pitt fell to St. John's, making the Gators the lone unbeaten by tipoff Saturday night.

"We had won 17 games, but going into tonight we were 0-0," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I knew Duke had lost, but these are different guys. They are more wrapped up in trying to become a good team, to become better individually and really sacrifice for one another."

The Gators would have been in prime position to take over the No. 1 spot from Duke. They've been No. 1 twice before, but this year's climb has been the most impressive.

Florida wasn't ranked in the preseason poll and wasn't even considered among the best teams in the SEC after losing Matt Walsh, Anthony Roberson and David Lee from a team that went 24-8 last season.

But the Volunteers (12-3, 3-1) are also having a surprisingly good year under new coach Bruce Pearl, despite losing two straight coming into Saturday.

They had won at then-No. 6 Texas last month, giving Tennessee fans hope that Pearl was bringing new life to the program that had been mediocre the past four years under Buzz Peterson.

"That is a shot that is going to be heard around the world," Pearl said. "I couldn't be happier."

The Vols seemed more inspired by the possibility of keeping Florida away from No. 1 as the Gators were to be the top-ranked team in the country.

"If you asked me, I would have thought that would have been a motivator for Florida to wake up tomorrow as the No. 1 team in the country," Pearl said.

The final 9 1/2 minutes were tight and got tighter as the clock wound down.

Corey Brewer had tied it at 76 for Florida with 45 seconds remaining on two foul shots.

Lofton missed a 3 at the other end for Tennessee, and Brewer got the outlet pass and was racing for the basket when Lofton stole it.

Dane Bradshaw caught a long pass from Lofton and scored a layup that put the Vols ahead 78-76 with 20 seconds left.

Florida's Lee Humphrey then missed a 3 with 6 seconds left, and Lofton was fouled. He sank both foul shots to seal it. Taurean Green fired a long 3 in desperation at the end, but Tennessee got the rebound. As the buzzer sounded, Tennessee students stormed the court, hugging the players.

Lofton was 10-for-19 from the floor and Andre Patterson had 12 points and 10 rebounds. JaJuan Smith added 10 points.

Brewer scored 20 points despite hurting his right ankle in the first half. Green had 17 points and Joakim Noah and Al Horford each scored 11 points.

"We played great tonight, we really did," Donovan said. "They gave me everything I could possibly want. I am really proud of the way our team responded here. This was the toughest road environment we faced all season."

The excitement swirling around the matchup drew over 24,000 fans to the normally cavernous Thompson-Boling Arena, including Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt and football coach Phillip Fulmer.

Pearl was wearing a tie with orange, blue and black stripes given to him by Summitt, who got victory No. 900 this week at Vanderbilt.

"She didn't tell me when to wear it, but she just gave it to me today so I wore it on the first day. I wasn't sure it had any many wins left in it after all the wins she's had," Pearl said.

The young Gators — four sophomores start — had put together the longest winning streak in school history and Florida's last regular-season loss was 21 games ago to LSU on Feb. 19, 2005.

The Vols have been the spoiler before. They won in Gainesville last year to give Florida its first SEC loss.

But wins over top-5 teams in Knoxville have been few and far between. The Vols last win over a No. 2 team was against Kentucky on Feb. 24, 1993.

Florida led most of the first half and were ahead by eight early in the second half after a 3 by Humphrey, the long-range shooter from nearby Maryville, about 20 minutes from the campus.

The Vols kept it close afterward while both teams maintained a frantic pace. Fouls started to be an issue late, and Tennessee's leading scorer and point guard C.J. Watson fouled out with 2:53 left.

Jordan Howell filled in for Watson, and the sophomore sank his first career free throw with 1:30 remaining that put the Vols up 76-74. He missed the second.

In the end, defense saved Tennessee, which came into the game leading the league in steals at 11 per game. The Vols finished with nine steals, and Florida had 19 turnovers.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Summitt's true focus on 7th title

For Pat Summitt, 900 is just another number. She lets the rest of us keep score.

So while the media and Lady Vols fans got all caught up in the hype of victory No. 900 last night, I suspect Summitt is looking to scale another summit.

The number on her mind is seven — as in national championships.

She's stuck on six. That sticks in her craw like bad defense or poor rebounding position.

The Lady Vols have not won a national title since 1998. That's one thing if you're Phillip Fulmer, but something else if you're Pat Summitt. Considering that she won three in a row in 1996-98, this is quite a drought.

It's like Harrison Ford and his movies. Hey, some of the early stuff was classic, but what have you done for us lately?

For all of her steely-eyed resolve and focus on the moment at hand, Summitt is painfully aware of the time that has passed since her last national title. She got used to those springtime visits to the White House. She'd like to stop and smell the flowers in the Rose Garden again.

Last night was a step in the right direction. The Lady Vols' second-half performance in an 80-68 victory over Vanderbilt is the kind of building block needed to get a team ready for postseason success.

In terms of current events, this evening was all about victory No. 900, even if Summitt has bigger objectives down the line. Eventually, the milestone was going to be achieved. Why not close to home for the favorite daughter of Henrietta, Tenn.?

"That was special. … It was like a home game," she said.

Nor was the moment lost on her players, none of whom can fully appreciate what women's college basketball was like when a 22-year-old kid named Pat Head began this remarkable coaching run in 1975.

"We're the only team ever to be part of a coach winning 900 games," said redshirt freshman Candace Parker, whose overall game is a model for where women's hoops is headed.

Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb is now a footnote in history. But all things considered, she didn't seem to mind the company she was keeping on this historic night.

"People like her are why you grow up wanting to be a coach," Balcomb said. "I can't imagine coaching 900 games, let alone winning 900."

Vanderbilt put up far more than token resistance. The Commodores hit 7-of-11 3-pointers in the first half, led 37-32 at intermission and were swapping baskets with the Lady Vols midway through the second half.

But the Lady Vols always seem on the verge of making a run. And when the inevitable barrage came, it was all over but the celebrating for Lady Vols fans.

Trailing 50-49, UT outscored the Commodores 19-2 over a 5½-minute stretch to seize control with smooth offensive execution and defensive intensity.

Yes, the beat — and the beatings — go on. At her current pace, Summitt would win No. 1,000 in January '09. Her last 100 victories have come in just three years and one week.

So here she sits — and stands and yells — with 900 victories. She's been around longer than Title IX. There are other numbers of note that speak to her success and longevity. She has outlasted:

2: Home courts.

2: Vols football coaches.

2: UT athletics directors.

5: University presidents.

6: Men's basketball coaches.

Now, if she can just take care of that little matter of National Championship No. 7.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tennessee Lady Volunteers/Vanderbilt Commodores Recap

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt acknowledges the fans' cheers as she leaves the court following the Lady Vols' 80-68 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006 in Nashville, Tenn. It was the 900th career college basketball win for Summitt as a coach.

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt waves to the fans as she leaves the court following the Lady Vols' 80-68 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006 in Nashville, Tenn. It was the 900th career college basketball win for Summitt as a coach.

(1) Tennessee 80, (19) Vanderbilt 68

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt didn't have to wait long to get her 900th career victory.

Shanna Zolman led five Lady Vols in double figures with 16 points, and top-ranked Tennessee rallied from its biggest deficit this season in beating No. 19 Vanderbilt 80-68 Thursday night, giving Summitt her 900th win in her first shot at the milestone.

Tennessee (18-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) had never gone through a first half without leading at least once until this game, and the Lady Vols trailed by 14 late in the half.

But the crowd of 13,127 with lots of Tennessee orange got to serenade Summitt by chanting "9-0-0" in the final minute as the Lady Vols won for the 10th straight time in the series.

Vanderbilt (13-5, 2-2) looked ready to end that skid and get its first victory against the Lady Vols since Feb. 2, 2002. As well as the Commodores shot, they couldn't stop Tennessee from turning their turnovers into 25 points.

Alexis Hornbuckle had 15 points for Tennessee with Candace Parker adding 14. Sidney Spencer and Nicky Anosike each had 10. The Lady Vols outshot Vandy 54 percent (31-of-56) to 46 percent (27-of-58).

Caroline Williams led Vanderbilt with 21 points, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Dee Davis added 20 points.

The Lady Vols, who trailed 33-19 in the first half, didn't take their first lead until 45-44 with 14:53 left on a pair of fast-break layups by Hornbuckle coming off a Parker block, then an Anosike steal.

Vanderbilt last led 50-49 on a 3-pointer by Cherish Stringfield. Then Tennessee scored 19 of the next 21 points in taking its biggest lead at 68-52 with 5:47 to go on a pair of Anosike free throws.

The Commodores came into the game as the nation's fourth-best shooting team, and they shot 54 percent in the first half. They finished 10-of-22 from 3-point range.

They hit four 3s in a 14-0 spurt capped by Davis' 3 from the top of the key for a 33-19 lead with 5:13 left in the first half.

Tennessee struggled with Zolman missing her first five shots, and Hornbuckle played only seven minutes after picking up her third foul in the first half.

But they finished the half with a 13-2 spurt that included a steal and a layup by Parker and capped by Zolman's first bucket, a 3-pointer, with 26.1 seconds left. Still, they trailed 37-32 at halftime for only the second time this season.

Vanderbilt tried to muster some mojo before tipoff by showing highlights from the football team's 28-24 victory last November over Tennessee -- the school's first in the rivalry since 1982.

It didn't help, and Summitt got to walk off the court with a wave and a thumb's up to the fans gathered behind her bench.

Lady Vols-Vanderbilt Will Be Anything But Ordinary

If Pat Summitt had her way, the focus of Thursday’s Tennessee-Vanderbilt game in Nashville would be on the teams as they prepare to clash in a key Southeastern Conference showdown.

But this is no ordinary game.

Granted, the 8 p.m. (ET) meeting at Memorial Gym between the intrastate rivals is never a run-of-the-mill event especially considering that unbeaten Tennessee is the number one team in the nation and Vanderbilt is ranked nineteenth.

The Lady Vols (17-0, 3-0 SEC) will be attempting to win their eighteenth game of the season and tenth consecutive over the Lady Commodores (13-4, 2-1).

Oh and by the way, the legendary Coach Summitt will be seeking her 900th career victory.

Summitt, who is a native of Ashland City, which is located near Nashville, became the all-time winningest coach last season with a second-round victory over Purdue in the NCAA tournament. Her 880th win surpassed former North Carolina coach Dean Smith’s record of 879.

Fifty-three spectators attended the Middle Tennessee State-Tennessee game on Jan. 10, 1975 at UT’s Alumni Gym when 22-year-old Pat Head won her first game as the Lady Vols’ coach.

A capacity crowd of 14,316 is expected to converge upon Memorial Gym to see if Summitt can capture victory number 900.

During a SEC teleconference call earlier this week, Summitt said while her first priority is the Lady Vols winning another SEC game, she is also proud of her players’ accomplishments over her tenure.

“When you’re in the middle of a season, you just think about getting a SEC win.” Summitt, who has won six NCAA championships, advanced to 16 Final Fours, captured 11 SEC tournament titles coupled by 13 regular season laurels commented.

“Certainly anytime you reach a milestone, you do reflect as a coach and I do on my career” she said. “I do think about all of the great players that have played here and one thing that I am really proud of is that we are able to play one of the toughest schedules in the country every year. We are able to go on the road and have a pretty successful time as well at home. Vanderbilt is going to be a big test for that.”

Summitt said that despite Tennessee’s recent string of success against Vanderbilt, the last meeting resulting in a 76-73 win on Mar. 5th at the SEC Tournament semi-finals in Greenville, the Lady Vols will not underestimate the Lady Commodores.

“We’re looking forward to it.” She said. “They are a team that has played us so tough so many times. Melanie (Vandy head coach Balcomb) has done a great job. They have a strong inside-outside game, and they are capable of shooting the three ball.”

Summitt was very complimentary of Liz Sherwood, the 6’4” sophomore center who is Vandy’s leading scorer averaging 14.4 points per game who posted her career high of 28 in a Jan. 3rd win over Western Kentucky.

“I think that she brings an anchor to their post game in particular their low-post game.” Summitt remarked. “She just has the size and skills and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. It’s a tough match-up. Hopefully we can focus and try to do a really good job on our interior defense because at times we’ve been good and at times we’ve been soft. We can’t be soft on Thursday.”

Summitt was clearly unhappy with her team’s defensive play over Georgia, but the Lady Vols rebounded in Sunday’s 79-56 win over Mississippi State forcing the Lady Bulldogs to commit 21 turnovers while the Lady Vols made 13 steals to MSU’s four.

Tennessee’s Candace Parker who scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against MSU became the first this season to win both the SEC Player and Freshman of the Week Awards simultaneously on Monday.

The redshirt rookie, who has had five double-doubles this season, will be attempting to post a double-double for the third consecutive game against Vandy.

Parker who is among the top 10 players in six SEC categories including being second in blocks and third in defensive rebounding, is averaging 15 points per game and 8.6 rebounds.

Cleveland High graduate Holly Rogers is one of three freshmen on the Vandy squad. The 5-9 guard has started in two games and is averaging 3.4 points and three rebounds. Her career high of nine points came in Vandy’s win against William and Mary.

Summitt who has coached 18 All-Americans including four-time honorees Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings along with longtime Lady Vol assistant Holly Warlick , has been named NCAA Coach of the Year seven times and was declared Naismith Coach of the Century in 2000, isn’t ready for retirement at the age of 53.

“It makes you feel old” she recalled. “I have been at this a very long time, but I have a lot of basketball games left in me because I enjoy it; I love teaching the game. This number made me stop and think, wow, I have coached a lot of tough basketball games against a lot of top competitors.”

Victory number 1000? At this rate, it will happen sometime in 2009.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lady Vols' Summitt Takes First Shot at 900

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Pat Summitt is reaching a milestone that makes her stop and say, "Wow!"

Summitt, who became the NCAA's winningest coach last March, takes her first shot at her 900th career victory Thursday night when top-ranked Tennessee visits No. 19 Vanderbilt.

Big numbers are nothing new Summitt, with a record of 899-172 in her 32nd season. She has six national championships, 11 Southeastern Conference tournament titles, 13 regular-season titles and 16 berths in the Final Four.

Still, thinking about 900 victories makes her feel old at 53.

"This number made me stop and think, 'Wow, I have coached a lot of tough basketball games against a lot of tough competitors,'" Summitt said.

She passed Dean Smith's record of 879 victories March 22 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Only Harry Statham of NAIA McKendree College has won more games, with 906.

The coach who gets the first chance to deny Summitt No. 900 is Melanie Balcomb, who became a head coach when Summitt already had three national titles. Balcomb has coached in 382 games, so the concept of winning 900 games in a career is hard to believe.

"She's coached at a very young age at a very high level with a lot of pressure from Day 1. It's a tremendous, tremendous place to be in and to be able to dominate a sport that long and be able to do something like that, it's amazing to me," Balcomb said.

Balcomb has one victory over Summitt, in 2001 when her Xavier team upset the Lady Vols in the NCAA Mideast Regional semifinal. Tennessee has won nine straight over Vanderbilt since Balcomb took over in 2002.

"I'd rather be remembered as the team that held her back maybe a game or two," Balcomb said.

That could prove easier said than done because Summitt, who started coaching at Tennessee in 1974, is winning games quickly.

She needed three years, 38 days between her 700th and 800th victories, which came in January 2003. She could clinch the 900th win within three years, five days.

Summitt promises she's focusing more on staying atop the SEC (17-0, 3-0) in the second of a four-game road trip, which includes a visit to No. 2 Duke on Monday.

"Certainly, any time you reach a milestone, you do reflect as a coach, and I do on my career," Summitt said. "I do think about all of the great players that have played here, and one thing that I am really proud of is that we are able to play one of the toughest schedules in the country every year."

Of her first 899 victories, 505 came against ranked opponents, and Vanderbilt offers a chance to push that number to 506.

Playing the Commodores in Nashville won't provide the hostile environment of some SEC opponents. The Lady Vols usually enjoy at least a 50-50 split in support, but Summitt isn't likely to be feted with the cake, balloons and fireworks that accompanied her 800th victory in Knoxville.

Tennessee leads this series with its would-be rival 45-6, including 18-4 away from Knoxville. These teams met three times last season, the last a 76-73 victory in the SEC tournament semifinals.

Vanderbilt (13-4, 2-1) has bulked up a bit this season with 6-foot-4 Liz Sherwood, a center who transferred from Connecticut. Balcomb hopes Sherwood and 6-3 forward Carla Thomas give them more help on the boards against a Tennessee team with three players under 6-1.

With the Lady Vols averaging 80.1 points per game, Balcomb is more worried about not being able to keep up. She said this is the most explosive team Summitt's had in years.

"We play Tennessee, it's never really about us," Balcomb said. "It's always about Tennessee, and now it's about Pat and Tennessee."

Terrapin transplant

Disgruntled transfer Wiley-Gatewood will help Terps

Is Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood a good fit for coach Brenda Frese's Maryland team?

I don't know all the reasons Wiley-Gatewood decided, at midseason, to leave the number No. 1 team in the country, a team for which she was arguably the most important cog. Coach Pat Summitt said Wiley-Gatewood felt she couldn't play "her game" at Tennessee, and the player's stepfather, Jerry Gatewood, said, "she doesn't want to be a role player." Given options, Wiley-Gatewood probably wasn't going to sign with another program that had anything like Tennessee's structure. My guess is that Brenda Frese will give her free reign on the court, which will suit Wiley-Gatewood perfectly. Her talent is such that she will be a huge boost to an already vastly talented Maryland squad. As to what her arrival might do to team chemistry, who knows? From everything I know, Wiley-Gatewood is an engaging, likeable person, but she certainly isn't coming off as much of a team player.

UConn transfer is a good fit for Vanderbilt

There's a big reason why Vanderbilt hasn't suffered terribly from the loss of All-SEC forward Ashley Earley.

Liz Sherwood, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Connecticut, has debuted with a team-leading 14.4 points-per-game scoring average. Her 66.7 field-goal percentage is among the nation's leaders. In Vanderbilt's last home game, last week versus Mississippi State, Sherwood made her first six shots.

She'll be a big problem for Tennessee in Thursday night's SEC women's basketball game at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville. UT coach Pat Summitt plans to rotate three or four players on Sherwood.

"She has the size and skill to put a lot of pressure on the defense,'' Summitt said. "It's a tough matchup.

Sherwood's productivity doesn't cover for Earley and her 18.4 points-per-game average last season. But that wasn't the intention.

"We didn't want to put so much pressure on Liz,'' Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "She can't replace what Ashley did by her senior year."

Instead, the plan has been for Sherwood to do her thing and serve as a magnet for defenders.

"She's a force inside,'' Balcomb said. "She's big enough where more than one player has to guard her.''

Moss Update: An X-ray and a CT scan offered conflicting reports on the injured nose of Lady Vols guard Lindsey Moss.

She will be re-examined on Friday. In the meantime, Moss will wear a splint and play Thursday.

Personnel Dept.: Lady Vol Sybil Dosty scored eight points Sunday against Mississippi State, matching her second-highest scoring output of the season. Yet, afterward, the backup center said, "Now when I go in, scoring is one of the last things on my mind, as funny as it sounds.''

Dosty's five rebounds were just as important, given the renewed emphasis on doing the dirty work.

Fellow backup Alex Fuller shot 1-for-4 from the floor Sunday. Still, the 6-3 redshirt forward showed some ability to defend on the perimeter, locking down 5-10 Miayorka Johnson on one possession to force a turnover.

"It was a good time for us to show Coach we can step up and play and not take anything away from the team,'' Dosty said.

Not Good Enough: UT's Dominique Redding hurt her status with her effort on Sunday. In 13 minutes, her most noticeable accomplishments were three turnovers and three fouls.

"With her play in Starkville, it's clear you can't depend on her,'' Summitt said. "We can't take the risk if she's (not) going to come to play every night.

"... I'm not going to reward people for not showing up ready to practice or play.''

Notebook: The Lady Vols' athletic department said $332,683 was generated by the home game against Connecticut on Jan. 7.

The breakdown was $218,782 for tickets, $72,590 for concessions, $28,781 for souvenirs and $12,530 for parking.

The game drew a crowd of 22,415, with 24,653 tickets sold.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tennessee Lady Volunteers/Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs Recap

(1) Tennessee 79, Mississippi St. 56

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Pat Summitt isn't threatening to pull on a uniform and show top-ranked Tennessee how to play defense anymore.

The Lady Vols remained unbeaten by routing Mississippi State 79-56 on Sunday behind Candace Parker's 16 points and 11 rebounds and a revitalized defense which generated plenty of offense.

Tennessee scored 29 points off 21 turnovers by the Bulldogs and held them to 28 percent shooting in the first half -- a noteworthy improvement, Summitt said, after the Lady Vols showed defensive weaknesses three days earlier during a 94-85 victory over No. 13 Georgia.

Summitt was so frustrated by her team's play that she expressed a desire to suit up and show the Lady Vols how to play defense.

"I really couldn't have been serious about that (but) it is frustrating when you have a team that is as talented as this team, and they're not committed to both ends of the floor," Summitt said.

"For a few games, it's been frustration, because I know there will be days when we don't shoot the basketball as well as we (have) shot it," she said. "I don't want to see them falter because they're not committed to defense, because we built our program on defense and board play."

Sidney Spencer and Shanna Zolman added 14 points each for the Lady Vols (17-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference), who opened a four-game road trip -- which includes games at nationally ranked Vanderbilt and Duke -- by avoiding a letdown and improving to 25-0 all-time against the Bulldogs.

"You have to get up for every team," Parker said. "We have a target on our backs. We're Tennessee. We're No. 1. And that carries a lot of weight."

The Lady Vols never trailed, withstood a Mississippi State rally in the second half and pulled away down the stretch. Tennessee led by as many as 27 in its 11th straight victory in Starkville.

Robin Porter had 15 points, Miayorka Johnson had 11 and Heather Hollis added 10 for Mississippi State (6-11, 1-3), which has lost two straight and three of four.

"Tennessee's a great team, but we just gave them easy shots and beat ourselves," Porter said.

This win came much easier for the Lady Vols than their most recent two games -- nine-point home wins over No. 7 Connecticut and Georgia.

Tennessee increased its lead to 40-20 on a basket by Tye'sha Fluker just more than two minutes into the second half.

After Mississippi State closed to within 10 points on an 11-1 run over the next three minutes, Parker and Fluker took over and put the game out of reach.

"You get it into single digits, maybe you can keep that run going," Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning said.

Parker converted a quick three-point play and Fluker had consecutive baskets to extend Tennessee's lead to 17. The Bulldogs didn't get closer than 13 the rest of the way.

"Parker adds a whole other dimension," Fanning said. "Candace is a player that can play straight up, any position on the floor, and she knows how to direct traffic. ... She's sort of a finesse type that can muscle and bang around the bucket. She's going to be a special player in the (SEC)."

Fluker finished with 12 points for the Lady Vols.

Fanning and Summitt were graduate assistants together 30 years ago at Tennessee.

No. 1 Lady Vols confident, but are they realistic?

A 16-0 record and a No. 1 national ranking don't make a compelling case for improvement.

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt isn't armed with irrefutable evidence. The last two games, which featured 165 points of opposition scoring damage, could be dismissed as circumstantial without something more than a couple of close calls.

"Living on the edge", as she describes UT's play, still looks like living large.

Summitt's mandates, no matter how forceful, amount to an appeal. She is imploring her players to not be blinded by their self-assurance.

"They're a very confident team,'' Summitt said of the Lady Vols. "I think they have to be a realistic team.''

Tennessee, 2-0 in SEC play, faces conference rival Mississippi State (6-10, 1-2) at 3 today at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.

In replotting UT's course, Summitt is trying to tap into a sense of maturity that even she's unsure about. The Lady Vols start two sophomores -- Alexis Hornbuckle and Nicky Anosike. Their second-leading scorer, Candace Parker, is a redshirt freshman.

Given their talents and UT's history, these players aren't likely to be viewed as callow. At the same time, that doesn't make them any more experienced.

When asked whether the Lady Vols grasp the seriousness of their recent defensive struggles, Summitt said: "Maybe not everyone across the board.''

Senior guard Shanna Zolman would agree with the assessment, based on what she heard during Monday's practice.

After trading baskets with Connecticut last Saturday and surviving 89-80, Summitt harshened her tone and raised expectations.

Zolman watched the UConn game film and understood why. Some of her younger teammates didn't. She overheard them saying during the grueling workout, "Dang, what's going on? What's her deal?"

Zolman answered their questions with a question: "Did you watch the same game film as I did?''

"I do think,'' Zolman said, "it takes us upperclassmen to remind them.''

One of those upperclassmen, however, still needs her reminders. Junior Dominique Redding is a larger figure in UT's attempted upgrade. She's been moved to guard to help alleviate Hornbuckle's workload. More playing time is available, provided she fills the job description.

"I saw some good things,'' Summitt said of Redding's play in Thursday's 94-85 victory over Georgia. "In the end she quit competing. They scored on her twice. Once was enough.

"I love her offensive aggressiveness. She makes shots. But when she makes a couple of shots, she stops guarding.''

Summitt is not inclined to cut Redding any slack, not with two-plus seasons on her resume. She's not a freshman anymore, no matter how much she might look and sound like one at times.

"God please help me; God please help me,'' said Redding after a rough day on Monday, "to be focused on the message and not the tone of (Summitt's) voice."

Anosike, on the other hand, sounded like a voice of reason during a recent team meeting when Summitt asked why last season's team was better defensively than this season's squad.

"I put my two cents in,'' Anosike said. "We weren't as good offensively (last season). We couldn't go in relying on our offense. We weren't as pretty.

"I think, in the back of our minds, we know we can rely on our offense (this season). In the back of our minds, we relax on defense. It's going to catch up with us.''

Anosike crunched some numbers on one of those pretty offensive plays and still came up with no better than a 50 percent likelihood of success. She thinks there are better odds on the other side of the basketball.

"It's something you can hold yourself accountable for 100 percent of the time,'' she said. "Defense depends on you and what you're willing to give. ... That is so totally in your control."

Anosike offered those observations on Friday, after the OK Corral-like quality of Thursday night's victory reinforced the prevailing shortcomings. After practice, another film session took place. More warnings were issued.

Upon further review, Summitt characterized the team's defensive effort Thursday as "uninspired" and "lazy."

"You can ask yourself, 'why does she keep harping on it every day? We've beaten quality teams,' '' Anosike said, "She's been here for 32 years. She knows what's ahead for us.''

Summitt can foresee some compelling possibilities.

"Sometimes, the only way kids believe is when they get beat,'' she said. "You have to learn while you're winning.''

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Georgia Bulldogs/Tennessee Lady Volunteers Recap

(1) Tennessee 94, (13) Georgia 85

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Candace Parker scored a career-high 26 points and had 10 rebounds Thursday night and No. 1 Tennessee remained undefeated with a 94-85 victory over No. 13 Georgia.

The Lady Vols (16-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) won their 62nd straight league home game. Georgia (11-4, 2-1) was the last SEC team to win in Thompson-Boling Arena in December 1996, and the Lady Bulldogs looked like they could end the drought.

Georgia trailed by nine points with 8 1/2 minutes left but cut it to 77-76 on two free throws by Sherill Baker with 3:53 to go.

Tennessee answered with a quick 7-0 run. Georgia wasn't finished and got within five after Baker made two free throws with 1:20 remaining. Parker followed with a fade-away jumper, but that didn't put it away. Alexis Kendrick hit a 3 for Georgia to make it 88-84 with 43 seconds left.

That was the Lady Bulldogs' last field goal. Shanna Zolman and Sidney Spencer each made two free throws in the final 39 seconds, and Alexis Hornbuckle got a rebound and drove for a layup with 8 seconds to go.

Spencer and Zolman each scored 17 points, and Hornbuckle added 12 despite getting into foul trouble late in the game.

Parker, who was 10-of-15 from the field, had six assists.

Baker tied her career high with 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting and had six rebounds.

Tasha Humphrey added 23 points and Kendrick had 11 for the Lady Bulldogs, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Georgia came in averaging a league-best 84.2 points per game, and Tennessee was second at 81.1.

Tennessee shot 56.5 percent (35-of-62) from the field, and the Lady Bulldogs shot 44.6 percent (29-of-65). Georgia got 25 points off Tennessee's 12 turnovers.

The Lady Bulldogs used a 10-0 to cut the lead to 58-55 with 13:43 to go. Tennessee pushed it back to five points twice, but Georgia trimmed it to 63-62 with 11:35 remaining after Humphrey scored and Baker had a layup off a turnover.

The Lady Vols responded with a 7-0 run started by Zolman's 3, and they increased the lead to 70-62 with 9:15 left.

Georgia's guards an active lot

Zolman recalls pressure created by Lady Dawgs

Shanna Zolman spit out the number as if her memory was equipped with speed dial.

Seven - turnovers that is.

It's been nearly two years and the Tennessee senior has total recall of her ball-handling meltdown in a women's basketball game against Georgia.

"Their pressure was so great,'' Zolman said. "It was almost overwhelming at times."

The Lady Vols guard will be on guard against a sense of deja vu when the Lady Bulldogs visit for a 7 o'clock tipoff tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The game is the first of two regular-season meetings between the long-time SEC rivals.

Since Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood's departure last month, Zolman has been playing both guard positions for top-ranked Tennessee (15-0), a role similar to two seasons ago. Unlike in 2004, after Loree Moore's season-ending knee injury, UT still has a bona fide point guard in sophomore Alexis Hornbuckle, who played 37 minutes against Connecticut last Saturday.

Hornbuckle said Wednesday that she's comfortable with her workload. UT coach Pat Summitt is not.

"Thirty-seven minutes - she doesn't need to be playing those kind of minutes,'' Summitt said.

When Hornbuckle isn't playing point, Zolman is next in line. Summitt didn't sound ready to give guards-in-training Dominique Redding and Lindsey Moss the keys to the offense against Georgia and its ravenous guards. Therefore, Zolman needs a better handle on the situation.

"I know how quick they are,'' she said of the Lady Bulldogs. "I know what I can do to counteract it. It's a matter of me having to outthink and outsmart their quickness.''

By necessity, No. 13 Georgia (11-3) has placed a greater premium on its guard play. Preseason knee injuries suffered by 6-foot-3 Rebecca Rowsey and 6-5 Angel Robinson, along with 6-6 Reicina Russell's departure, downsized the roster.

"I think our level of focus is as high as since I've been here,'' Georgia sophomore Tasha Humphrey said. "Everyone out there is trying to do the right thing. We have a veteran team. Everyone is a year older, a year wiser.''

Humphrey's statistics are better than ever. The 6-3 forward is averaging a team-leading 20.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. She passes credit to the backcourt.

"I attribute my numbers to the guards' numbers,'' she said. "Our team has been shooting the ball extremely well. We've had games where we've been very hard to guard.''

Georgia starts three guards - Sherill Baker, Alexis Kendrick and Cori Chambers. Fellow guard Janese Hardrick is the top reserve. They've played a part in some noteworthy per-game team averages: 84.2 points, 48.1 percent field-goal shooting and 7.3 3-point baskets.

Baker is the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 18.4 points per game (an increase of seven over last season), and its most ruthless defender.

Before last Sunday's game against Florida, the 5-8 senior was honored as the team's all-time steals leader. She responded with two more in the game's first 25 seconds. For her career, Baker has 352 steals. For the season, she has 75 (5.4 per game) and has had a big hand in the opposition's 19.9 turnovers a game.

"Sherill Baker is one of the toughest defenders you'll face,'' Hornbuckle said. "She gets after the ball.''

Since she's primarily an off-ball defender, Baker will be double trouble for Zolman, either in her face at off guard or preying on her passes from the point.

"They're so aggressive,'' Zolman said. "It's important you not only read your defender but the defender who's playing the player you're trying to pass to.''

At least Zolman has something to worry about other than her shooting. She's coming off a 1-for-10 performance against Connecticut and is 10 for 36 (27.7 percent) in the last four games, during which the opposition has put her on lockdown.

"What's wrong? Is your shot broke?'' said Zolman, recounting the typical reactions "There's nothing wrong. I have a target on my back.''

Tonight, a target also will be on the ball.

Notebook: Zolman, Hornbuckle and Lady Vol Candace Parker are on a re-released list of candidates for the Naismith Trophy, presented annually to the men's and women's players of the year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Summitt says tougher practices ahead for Lady Vols

The Tennessee Lady Vols took the court Monday as if they were trying to atone for a loss.

At 15-0, a game result was not in question for the top-ranked women's basketball team. Lost practice time was the issue and how it's beginning to reflect in UT's play.

"I've said all along the downside of the schedule is we haven't had the practice time,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "It's showed.''

With Saturday's 89-80 victory over No. 7 Connecticut, the Lady Vols finished a stretch of four games in eight days. They began the season with five games in seven days.

The Lady Vols have been leaking momentum the past three games. They beat the Huskies despite suspect defensive play.

"They just missed shots,'' Summitt said of UConn. "It's not that they didn't have them. I thought we'd compete harder in our transition defense.''

The development doesn't bode well for Thursday's visit from No. 13 Georgia, which raced to an 89-70 SEC victory over Florida on Sunday.

"What we are not strong at,'' Summitt said, "they're strong at.''

The scheduling was Summitt's doing. So too has been the demands she's placed on the team.

"I'm not asking enough from this group,'' she said. "I'm going to ask for more.''

UT junior guard Dominique Redding said the coach's message has been received.

"She's been in the position where she's had great teams,'' Redding said. "She's trying to get us to that level.

"What she's doing is right. We have to buy into it.''

The Lady Vols will play their usual two games per week from this point forward. There should more time for tougher practices. Or Summitt will make time.

"We'll find a way,'' she said. "I've got to."

Parker Update: UT redshirt freshman Candace Parker was held out of Monday's workout to work on her ailing left ankle.

She sprained the ankle Dec. 28 versus Temple and suffered a reinjury to it Saturday, missing three minutes in the second half.

"She had more swelling than I'd like,'' Lady Vols athletic trainer Jenny Moshak said of Saturday's aftermath.

Parker will continue to rehab and Moshak lists the 6-foot-4 forward as probable for Thursday.

"If she keeps making progress, we'll be fine,'' Moshak said.

Moats Update: Moshak said the key variable in UT signee Nicci Moats' left knee injury is the extent of the damage to the meniscus cartilage.

That will be determined Friday during the surgical procedure to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament Moats suffered in game on Dec. 29.

"That's the key right now,'' Moshak said of the cartilage damage. "The ACL we know about. It's a matter of whether they can save the meniscus for down the road."

Moats' medial collateral ligament is not torn

Moats, who is from Daleville, Va., and attends Lord Botetourt High, will have her surgery in Roanoke.

Notebook: Parker received the SEC freshman of the week award for the third time. Georgia jumped four spots in this week's Associated Press top 25 poll. The Lady Vols received 35 of 46 first-place votes in the poll. Tennessee's game at Duke on Jan. 23 is sold out. It's the third advance sellout in Duke women's history. UT vs. Duke was a sellout there on Jan. 24, 2004.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Connecticut Huskies/Tennessee Lady Volunteers Recap

(1) Tennessee 89, (7) Connecticut 80

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Sidney Spencer scored a career-high 21 points, including four key free throws in the final 2 minutes Saturday afternoon, and top-ranked Tennessee outlasted No. 7 Connecticut 89-80 to add another classic game in this storied rivalry.

Candace Parker, Tye'sha Fluker, and Shanna Zolman each added 13 points, and Alexis Hornbuckle had 14 rebounds, 10 points and nine assists for the Lady Vols (15-0).

UConn (12-2) lost for the first time in Knoxville since 2001 and dropped back-to-back games to Tennessee for the first time since 1998 and 1999. The Lady Vols ended their six-game losing streak to the Huskies last year.

UConn leads the all-time series 13-8, which includes six matchups in the Final Four.

In a game that featured plenty of stars, it was Spencer who was clutch for the Lady Vols. The junior's previous career high was 14 points, and she had no points last year in Hartford.

Tennessee led most of the second half, but couldn't extend it past six points until late. UConn cut it to 77-75 with 2:44 left on Barbara Turner's pair of free throws. In response, Spencer made four free throws in a row.

Charde Houston had a jumper for the Huskies with 1:18 remaining, but Parker scored and Zolman had two free throws. UConn kept up the pressure, and Ann Strother was fouled shooting a 3 and made two of three free throws to cut it back to six.

But Houston's free throw with 8.7 seconds left was the Huskies' final point.

The Lady Vols had few answers for Strother, who finished with 25 points and was 5-of-15 from beyond the arc. Houston scored 19 points, and Brittany Hunter added 12.

Tennessee had trouble shooting the ball, but Spencer was 6-of-9 from the floor. Zolman didn't make a field goal until late in the second half, and the rest of her points came from going 10-of-10 at the line.

The Huskies had 17 turnovers, nine of which came on steals by the Lady Vols.

Tennessee got a big break early in the second half when Houston picked up her fourth foul with 14:25 to go. The Lady Vols were having trouble keeping her from scoring even though they used two and sometimes three defenders in the paint.

But a minute later, Parker when to the bench after tweaking her left ankle, which she hurt earlier this season but has been playing on with heavy tape. Both players returned to the game and fouled out.

Parker, playing in her first game against UConn, missed a chance for a dunk early in the first half when she got the ball on the break following a turnover. Palming the ball, she went up for a lay-in surrounded by four Huskies and missed as the crowd let out a big groan.

The Huskies led 41-39 at halftime after the lead changed several times.

Tennessee, which shot 38.5 percent from the floor in the opening half, had it first, but UConn used a 10-0 run to go ahead by five with 12:07 left in the first half. The Lady Vols stayed in it while the Huskies had three turnovers in a row and regained the lead with 7 1/2 minutes to go and stretched it to six.

Sparked by four straight points by Houston, UConn had a 7-0 run to take it back.