Monday, December 31, 2007

Parker feeling a draft?

There's no shortage of Candace Parker video on YouTube. You can watch footage of Parker dunking a basketball, accepting the John Wooden Award, winning two state championships at Naperville Central and an array of video tributes to Parker and her Tennessee teammates. That alone shows how big Parker has become since her high school days.

So it's no wonder that the third-ranked Lady Vols' game Wednesday against No. 12 DePaul at McGrath Arena is sold out. Parker's homecoming weekend continues Saturday, when the Lady Vols head to South Bend, Ind., for a matchup with No.16 Notre Dame.

''I've been really excited for my first trip home to play DePaul, and I'm excited to play in front of my family and friends,'' Parker said. ''This is the first time both my grandmothers will see me play, and I'm really excited about that.''

All the excitement aside, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt knows Parker will go back to focusing on the task at hand -- beating DePaul. The No. 3 Lady Vols are coming off a West Coast road trip in which they beat UCLA but lost in overtime at No. 2 Stanford.

''It is going to be a special homecoming for Candace, but she understands we have a game to play against a team that puts up a lot of threes,'' Summitt said. ''And I think she'll have that focus. Wherever we go, there's a lot of attention drawn to Candace, especially in Chicago and South Bend.''

Parker, a redshirt junior, will graduate this spring with a degree in sports management. She's engaged to former Duke player and current Atlanta Hawks forward Shelden Williams.

The All-American was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game and the first high school girl to dunk in a game during her sophomore year at a Dundee-Crown tournament game.

In September, Parker led the U.S. women to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas Championship, giving them an automatic berth in the Beijing Olympics this summer.

And Parker wants another NCAA championship this spring after leading the Lady Vols to the 2007 title over Rutgers. It was Tennessee's first national title since 1998.

But there is rampant talk of Parker forgoing her final year of eligibility and declaring for the WNBA draft in April. That question has followed her since last season.

Parker likely would be the No. 1 pick. Representatives of the Los Angeles Sparks, who have the top pick, were visible Dec. 19 when Tennessee played UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Even Sparks center Lisa Leslie sat behind the Lady Vols' bench with her 6-month-old daughter, fueling speculation that Parker will strongly consider turning pro.

The Chicago Sky, which has the second pick, will host the Sparks in a preseason game May 8 and in its home opener May 22.

Parker keeps in touch with her former high school coach, Andy Nussbaum, who will be at the game Wednesday and plans to attend the Notre Dame game, too. But Nussbaum has no more insight than anyone else into whether Parker will declare for the draft.

''There are pluses and minuses, and I don't think she can make a bad decision on this,'' Nussbaum said. ''There is no question she will be more than competitive because she is one of the best players ever to come out of the Chicago area.''

Parker has said she wants to live in the moment and will talk to her family and Summitt about whether to come out early. But during a conference call Friday, she cracked open the door to her future plans.

''It's a difficult situation because of where the draft falls,'' Parker said. ''We want to be in the Final Four [on April 6-8], and the draft is close to that. As we get closer, I'll talk to my family and coach.

''But with getting my degree in May, I'm leaning on not being at Tennessee next year.''

Summitt said she has spoken to Parker briefly about turning pro, but the message she tried to get across to the 6-4 guard/forward was to enjoy the season and her life as a college student.

''I never had the opportunity to play professionally,'' Summitt said. ''These are the best years of your life, and I want her to enjoy the season, try to establish what we want to do this year and leave it at that.''

Even though it seems like Parker has her mind made up not to come back to Tennessee, she has taken all the draft-talk distraction in stride.

It seems that each of Parker's seasons at Tennessee has had a recurring theme.

There were questions about how her knee would hold up during her freshman year after two surgeries in the fall of 2004 forced her to redshirt in the 2004-05 season.

The knee issue dogged Parker again in 2005-06, and then came the WNBA speculation that started last season. It seems like it never ends. But Parker has enjoyed the ride.

''I could never have imagined this,'' she said. ''I ask coach Summitt all the time about back when she was driving the [team] van and washing the [uniforms] herself. All this has been part of the growth [of the sport], and I'm excited to play for her and be at Tennessee.''

What a year
Candace Parker of Naperville, a junior at Tennessee, has led the Lady Vols to a 10-1 record and No. 3 ranking this season entering the game Wednesday at No. 12 DePaul. She leads the team with 22.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Today culminates quite a 2007:

Jan. 28 -- Scored 1,000th career point in 56th game, the fastest to reach that mark in Tennessee history.

March 1 -- Named SEC Player of the Year during conference tournament. (Top-seeded Vols lost to LSU in semifinals).

April 3 -- Scored 17 points to lead Tennessee past Rutgers for the national title. Named the tournament's most outstanding player and Final Four MVP. Other accolades from sophomore season:

* Named first-team All-American by AP, WBCA/Kodak, John Wooden and

* State Farm Wade Trophy Player of the Year

* Wooden Award Player of the Year

* Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year

* Honda Sports Award Winner for Basketball Player of the Year

April 27 -- Named as one of People Magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People for 2007.

May -- Engaged to Shelden Williams of the Atlanta Hawks.

July 11 -- 2007 ESPY Awards: Nominated for best female athlete and best female college athlete (lost both to Arizona softball player Taryne Mowatt).

Sept. 30 -- Scored 12 points in USA victory against Cuba in the FIBA Americas Championship in Chile. The win automatically qualified the team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

December -- Named Woman Athlete of the Year for College Basketball by Sports Illustrated.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hornbuckle rejoins Lady Vols

Alexis Hornbuckle rejoined the No. 3-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team after attending the funeral of her grandmother on Wednesday.

The return of the senior guard put the Lady Vols back to full strength for practice on Friday afternoon. Tennessee (10-1) is preparing for a key two-game road trip to DePaul on Wednesday (9 p.m. ESPNU) and Notre Dame on Jan. 5 (2 p.m. WVLT).

The defending national champion Lady Vols are trying to bounce back from Saturday’s 73-69 overtime loss at Stanford.

“We’re always a work in progress,” UT coach Pat Summitt said on Thursday. “Hopefully our defense and board play will be solid for us as we take the road and play at DePaul and Notre Dame.”

Hornbuckle loses grandmother; senior will rejoin team later

The No. 3-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols returned to practice at Pratt Pavilion shorthanded on Thursday night.

Alexis Hornbuckle still hasn’t rejoined the team after learning of the death of her grandmother late Saturday night. The senior guard didn’t find out about the death in the family until after Tennessee’s 73-69 overtime loss at Stanford.

The funeral was held Wednesday, but burial is out of state and UT coach Pat Summitt wasn’t sure when Hornbuckle would rejoin the team.

Also missing the brief workout were Vicki Baugh and Alberta Auguste. Their post-holiday flights weren’t scheduled to return to Knoxville until late Thursday night.

The Lady Vols (10-1) return to practice at 1 p.m. today and depart for Chicago on Monday.

Tennessee faces its second consecutive tough road trip with a Jan. 2 game at DePaul (9 p.m. on ESPNU) and a Jan. 5 game at Notre Dame (2 p.m. on WVLT).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

UT learns from loss at Stanford

STANFORD, Calif. - The whole point of playing top-10 teams is to find out what you need to work on. On Saturday night at Stanford, Tennessee's women's basketball team found out a whole lot.

"I think without question, you learn a lot more from a loss than a win," Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said after top-ranked Tennessee lost in overtime to No. 5 Stanford, 73-69.

Here are some of the lessons that need to be learned before the Lady Vols' next game, Jan. 2 at DePaul:

- Defending the Hi-Lo game. Stanford exploited one of the basic plays in basketball, passing the ball down low to post Jayne Appel again and again in the second half. Appel, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds (six offensive). Her play in the second half helped key Stanford's comeback from an 11-point first half deficit.

- Easing some of the load on Candace Parker. The 6-4 junior scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds in the loss. But Parker was beat up enough that Summitt refused to bring her into the postgame media conference. Also, Parker had just six free-throw attempts (she converted three). Summitt said she as a coach has to figure out a way to get Parker to the line more often (translation: Summitt didn't agree with the officiating and plans to work the officials more in the future).

- Protect the ball. Tennessee did do a better job of this as the night went on, finishing with 17 turnovers after committing 11 in the first half. But the Lady Vols kept losing the ball in key situations. Tennessee's penultimate possession ended when Shannon Bobbitt tried to drive and lost the ball to Appel in the last 10 seconds of overtime.

- Putting quality teams away. This one hurt the most. Tennessee held a 33-22 lead with just over a minute to play in the first half before Stanford went on a 5-0 mini-run to close the period. That allowed the Cardinal to go into the locker room with a manageable deficit despite being outplayed to that point.

The defending national champions entered their game at Stanford with a 10-0 record and ranked first in the country. All is certainly not lost - the Cardinal are one of the top teams in the land. Losing by four points in a smaller venue packed with partisans isn't exactly a signal to panic.

Further, Appel and Candice Wiggins figured to bust out at some point after quiet first halves.

"I think it definitely was a missed opportunity, but they're a great team," guard Alexis Hornbuckle said. "It's hard to hold them down for an entire half."

Whether the Lady Vols learn their lessons could determine if this is another superb season by Tennessee standards or a subpar affair. The Lady Vols return from holiday break with road games against DePaul and Notre Dame, both in the Top 20. Then, the SECseason begins with a home game against No. 16 Auburn.

For the players, they grudgingly agreed that the loss was a learning experience.

"We just had a lot of breakdowns," Hornbuckle said. "They made the passes they needed to make and hit the shots they needed to hit.

"It's solemn (in the locker room). We don't like losing. We're very competitive."

(5) Stanford 73, (1) Tennessee 69, OT

STANFORD, Calif. -- Finally, it was Candice Wiggins' and Stanford's turn in the long rivalry with Tennessee.

Rosalyn Gold-Onwude scored nine of Stanford's 10 points in overtime, Wiggins sunk one of two free throws with 28.6 left and finished with 22 and the No. 5 Cardinal shocked previously unbeaten and top-ranked Tennessee 73-69 on Saturday night to end an 11-game losing streak in the series.

"I just want to say one thing," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Tonight Candice is spelled with an 'i."'

Tennessee All-American Candace Parker missed the first of two free throws with 30.5 seconds left after scoring the tying basket with 7.4 seconds remaining in regulation to force OT. Tennessee had a chance in the final 30 seconds of overtime but Shannon Bobbitt turned the ball over with 8 seconds left.

The Cardinal rushed the court to celebrate when the buzzer sounded.

Wiggins scored Stanford's final six points of regulation, then missed two free throws with 16.9 seconds to go and Parker answered with the tying score on the other end, sending the game into extra time at 63 all.

"The overtime game, I blame that totally on myself," Wiggins said. "I have to hit those free throws."

Jayne Appel had 19 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three steals and freshman Kayla Pedersen's outstanding defense on Parker was a key factor in the upset, Stanford's first win over Tennessee since an 82-65 victory on Dec. 15, 1996, in Knoxville -- during the Cardinal's last Final Four season. Onwude had 13 points.

Parker finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals and Alexis Hornbuckle had 15 in the first defeat for Tennessee (10-1).

The Cardinal (10-1) won their seventh straight game and earned VanDerveer her 699th career victory, and she will try to become the seventh Division I coach to reach the 700 mark in the Pac-10 opener next Friday against Washington State.

Candace vs. Candice -- or "Ace" vs. "Ice" as some prefer to call the matchup between two of the country's top players -- was a thriller as expected.

"It took four years," Wiggins said. "It's definitely nice to beat the No. 1 team in the country. There's something special about this team. We are so tough. We stayed together through the whole game."

Pat Summitt's defending champion Lady Vols shot 59 percent in the first half and crashed hard to the offensive glass to create second and third chances, but couldn't sustain that level of play for the entire game.

"We had a lot of breakdowns and they came together, made passes and shots they needed to make," Hornbuckle said. "It's disappointing, but Stanford is great. It's hard to hold them down. You saw that tonight."

This was the best atmosphere for a women's game on The Farm since Tennessee last came on campus two years ago -- and fans waited in long lines outside for a chance to see this one. The game attracted about a half dozen WNBA representatives, too.

Stanford's lively fans waved white rally towels at packed Maples Pavilion, where a crowd of 7,172 -- just shy of a sellout -- watched Stanford's final non-conference test before opening Pac-10 play.

"We have had games just like this one that have gone the other way," VanDerveer said. "Playing Tennessee is always good for us."

After struggling to finish her chances in the first half, Appel picked up her game. The 6-foot-4 reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year scored 11 of her points in the final 20 minutes.

"At halftime, they told me to stop playing scared and just go up with it," Appel said. "We had 20 minutes to leave everything on the floor."

Wiggins shot only 5-for-12 and converted only 11 of 16 free throws after earning Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. She scored a season-high 35 points to go with four rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots in a rout of Baylor on Dec. 16 followed by a 21-point outing two days later at New Mexico.

Parker, too, was Player of the Week for the Southeastern Conference after reaching the 1,500-point mark when she scored 34 points to match her career high Dec. 13 against Middle Tennessee.

Summitt thought her star player got beat up and didn't receive enough calls.

"I'm going to take my time and watch every possession," Summitt said. "This happens to her all the time. That comes with being the best player in the game. At some point in time, it doesn't quite seem appropriate."

Both teams pushed the tempo early and forced turnovers. Parker had two blocks and two steals in the first five minutes before getting her first points or rebound, while Appel also had two blocks in the opening minutes.

Pedersen drew the tough defensive assignment of guarding Parker and Jillian Harmon also helped, earning just her fifth start of the season as Stanford went with a bigger lineup to help match Tennessee's size and physical play.

After the Lady Vols went ahead 33-22 on Parker's basket with 2:26 to go in the first half, Stanford scored the final five points to pull within 33-27 at the break.

Stanford's Michelle Harrison sat in a wheelchair at the end of the bench one day after undergoing surgery on her left knee to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament after getting hurt last month. Fellow sophomore Melanie Murphy is scheduled to have surgery Jan. 4 on her left knee, also for an ACL tear.

Cardinal football coach Jim Harbaugh was in attendance.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Parker's farewell tour comes to Stanford

Candace Parker is changing the nature of conversations about women's basketball.

Before she came along, women's basketball players didn't dunk with regularity. They didn't leave college early to go pro. They certainly didn't play all five positions on the floor "with efficiency," as Tennessee coach Pat Summitt put it Monday.

Parker comes to Maples Pavilion tonight with top-ranked Tennessee to take on No. 5 Stanford. It is not a stretch to consider the Lady Vols' road games this season her farewell tour.

With one year of eligibility remaining, Parker likely will become the first women's player to end her college career early and begin what is sure to be a well-hyped and lucrative professional career.

For the record, Parker isn't saying for sure. She and Summitt have avoided saying that Parker, who led Tennessee out of an eight-year national championship drought last March and won national player of the year honors in the process, won't return to Knoxville for the 2008-09 season.

But it's widely assumed that she won't. Parker will graduate in May with a degree in sports management. The WNBA rule is that a player who has completed her graduation requirements is eligible to be drafted.

"I think the feeling is that this is her last year - and if she can arrive at that decision, she's got a lot of things going on," Summitt was quoted as saying last month. "With the WNBA, and with USA Basketball, wanting to make that Olympic team next summer. The main thing I want her to do is what's best for her."

Fueling the speculation about Parker's imminent departure is the fact that the Los Angeles Sparks have the No. 1 pick in April's WNBA draft. The Sparks have big-market endorsement opportunities to offer. They can also put Parker in position as the heir apparent, playing alongside stalwart Lisa Leslie in the final year or two of Leslie's decorated career.

Parker and the top-ranked Lady Volunteers traveled to Los Angeles to face UCLA on Wednesday night, and it had markings of a sneak preview.

Leslie watched from behind the Tennessee bench. Sparks coach Michael Cooper and general manager Penny Toler sat at midcourt. More than 4,000 fans came to Pauley Pavilion, more than the combined total of fans who have attended UCLA home games to date this season.

They all came with hopes that seeing Parker play in person isn't going to be such a rare occasion.

"She's one of those people who lives up to the hype," said Stanford senior guard Candice Wiggins, a friend of Parker's through their times on USA Basketball rosters. "She's the face right now and it's great for women's basketball. At her size, no one can do what Candace can do."

Parker, who sat out her freshman season with a knee injury and thus is considered a redshirt junior, said Monday in a phone interview that she is "not thinking" about what her basketball future holds. The best part about having nearly all of her coursework done is the ability to focus more on her game.

"It's cool to sit back and enjoy my senior year," Parker said. "I had pretty hard course loads in my freshman and sophomore years."

The 6-foot-4 Naperville, Ill., native is fifth in the nation in scoring (22.3 points a game), averages 9.2 rebounds, and has 19 blocked shots and 21 steals in nine games.

Like Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings before her, Parker has earned the gushing respect of her head coach, who has said that Parker will go down as the best player in the history of the women's game.

Summitt expanded on those sentiments Monday, talking about Parker's game-changing ability on both ends of the floor. That's the thing, the coach believes, that puts Parker on a different plane.

"She has understood her role as an offensive player, a rebounder and a defender on our team," Summitt said in a conference call. "She is playing harder than she ever has in her career at Tennessee, with her running the floor and being much more assertive on both ends. This is her best basketball to date, but I think there is still a great upside to her game."

The coach said she has seen Parker become a more dedicated worker, with extra individual workouts and time in the film room, where she meticulously analyzes and breaks down her game. Over the summer, Parker said she worked on her face-up game and her jump shot.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who has watched Parker put up 46 points and 21 rebounds in the last two games against the Cardinal, said you can do everything right and not stop Parker.

"I just want to make sure we are in the right place at the right time anyway," VanDerveer said. "The kids are looking forward to it. They want to play the best."

Summitt remains demanding of her star.

"There have been several times that I've shaken my head watching Candace play," Summitt said. "But sometimes it is when she isn't playing hard. When she plays hard, she separates herself."

The series

Tennessee owns a 19-4 advantage and has won 11 in a row dating back to December 1996.

Of note: Last year's 77-60 loss by Stanford was the first double-digit margin in nine games. ... Stanford's 9-1 start is the program's best since 2004-05. ...Tennessee's Pat Summitt and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer have won a combined 1,655 games. Summitt is at 957 (the all-time leader) and VanDerveer sits at 698.

Quotable: "I'm excited to play. I'm tired of talking about it." - Stanford's Candice Wiggins

Probable starters Stanford

Candice Wiggins, G, 17.9 ppg

Jayne Appel, C, 15.8

Kayla Pederson, F, 13.0

Jillian Harmon, F, 8.5

Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, G, 5.2


Candace Parker, F, 22.3 ppg

Alexis Hornbuckle, G, 11.8

Nicky Anosike, C, 9.0

Angie Bjorklund, G, 10.9

Shannon Bobbitt, G, 8.9

Lady Vols are in California, minus a fixture

KNOXVILLE -- Before this week, Tennessee associate women's head coach Holly Warlick had never missed a game as a Lady Vols player or coach.

But Warlick, who broke her ankle while working out Dec. 7, announced after Sunday's win over Gonzaga that she had developed a blood clot in the calf of that leg. After that discovery at a checkup Friday afternoon, her doctors advised her to sit out the California trip that begins tonight at UCLA.

So ends a streak that would make Lou Gehrig feel not so lucky.

From 1976 to '80, Warlick played in 141 straight games as a player. Since joining the Tennessee coaching staff, she has been present for 782 consecutive contests, a stretch that spans 23 years.

Warlick, whose duties include scouting upcoming opponents, wasn't about to let the injury prevent her from putting in her two cents' worth about UCLA and Stanford.

"I'm still going to be the scout," Warlick said Sunday. "I'll just have to a fan and yell at the TV."

Warlick's absence will come at a critical juncture for the Lady Vols (9-0), who face their first two official road games of the season when they take on the Bruins (4-5) tonight and Stanford on Saturday.

Head coach Pat Summitt said at her weekly teleconference that she looks forward to see how her freshmen adjust to the hostile environments.

"Our young players haven't played as well on the road this year," Summitt said. "That is just part of the process. What we're going to have now is an opportunity for back-to-back road games, which should be telling."

Summitt was encouraged by forward Angie Bjorklund's performance Sunday against Gonzaga. The rookie faced her older sister, a guard for Gonzaga, and the siblings were often guarding each other. Despite the unique circumstances, Bjorklund seemed well at ease, tying a Tennessee single-game record by nailing seven 3-pointers.

Still, that happened at home in Thompson-Boling Arena. On Nov. 15, she shot 1-for-6 from the field against Oklahoma in Tampa, Fla. Six days later, Bjorklund improved against West Virginia at Charleston, W.Va., scoring nine points but going only 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.

So whether Tennessee goes deep in its bench remains to be seen, Summitt said.

"It depends on how they step out on the floor and perform," Summitt said. "Will I be less patient? Possibly. These are two fine teams and two big road games for us. Ultimately we want to come home with two wins."

Of course, Summitt knows there's always a contingency plan in place to pick up the slack: All-America forward Candace Parker.

"There have been several times that I've shaken my head watching Candace play," Summitt said. "Sometimes it is when she isn't playing hard, but when she plays hard, she separates herself (from others on the floor). She has great influence and impact on our team in her play."

Parker and senior guard Shannon Bobbitt practically carried the team against Oklahoma, with 28 and 27 points

Summitt is hoping those same two won't have to share that same burden this week.

"It has been a while since we've been on the road," she said. "We'll play in a tough environment against two quality opponents. It will be a good way to evaluate and get some road game experience."

Lady Vols have spell on Stanford

UT's 'streak of luck' against Cardinal at 11

It goes beyond any rational explanation for Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt.

For Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, she just wishes she could forget about it.

In the world of big-time women's basketball, the Tennessee Lady Vols' 11-game winning streak against Stanford defies logic.

"I didn't even realize it had been that many in a row," Summitt said as the Lady Vols prepare to take on the Cardinal in Palo Alto, Calif., tonight. "When it was brought to my attention, I just said that's unbelievable.

"Their program has been so good. We've had a lot of close games with them - overtime or down to the wire. Fortunately, we've just been able to find a way to win."

And win, and win.

The top-ranked Lady Vols (10-0) haven't lost to the No. 5-ranked Cardinal (9-1) since Dec. 15, 1996. They're 19-4 all-time against Stanford.

Former Lady Vol Shanna Zolman cemented her legend in the series when she banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Cardinal in 2004.

"When Shanna made that shot, Tara was just shaking her head, just unbelievable," Summitt said. "They did just about everything they could to win that game.

"We just had a streak of luck on the last shot. I was almost in disbelief myself."

If possible, Summitt would like to avoid any ulcer-producing, last-second dramatics this time.

The Lady Vols were sluggish in the first half of an 82-70 victory at UCLA on Wednesday. After taking Thursday off, Summitt implored her team to avoid a similar start against Stanford.

UT veteran Candace Parker (21.8 points per game) will try to outshine star guard Candice Wiggins (17.9 ppg).

"She's one of the best guards in the country," Summitt said of Wiggins.

Another focus for the Lady Vols is the continuing maturation of freshmen Angie Bjorklund and Vicki Baugh - both West Coast products.

For the 6-foot-4 Baugh, the trip to Stanford is almost like a homecoming for the Sacramento native.

She had 11 points and five rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench before taking a hard shot to the face against UCLA.

It was feared she might have a broken nose, but Summitt said there was no break and Baugh's ready to go against the Cardinal.

"Vicki really stepped up and had the best game of her young career at UCLA," Summitt said. "She had some family members there, and I think she's going to have about 29 coming to the Stanford game."

Bjorklund had a slow first half against the Bruins, but responded to a scathing halftime challenge from Summitt and finished with 12 points.

"I just asked her, 'What's the deal? You can't score on the road?' " Summitt said. "I just told her eventually you better learn to shoot it on the road to be successful.

"She went right back out and did a great job for us. I liked the way she responded."

Legends: The Stanford/UT matchup features two of the winningest coaches of all time.

Summitt has led the Lady Vols to seven national championships and has a career record of 957-180 in 34 seasons at UT.

VanDerveer is 698-185 overall and has brought two national titles to Stanford in her 22 seasons.

Star struck: This time, it was the movie stars who were star struck.

While the Lady Vols were busy beating UCLA on Wednesday, people like Michael Clarke Duncan (big guy in the movie "The Green Mile") and Harrison Ford and his wife, Calista Flockhart , were trying to get close to Summitt.

Duncan even approached Summitt on the bench and asked her to autograph his ticket.

"I guess that's typical L.A.," Summitt said. "It even amazes me at times how many fans we've attracted from all over the country through the years."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

(1) Tennessee 82, UCLA 70

LOS ANGELES -- Coach Pat Summitt knows her Tennessee Lady Volunteers are going to get the opposition's best shot in every game they play.

She wouldn't have it any other way.

All-American Candace Parker and her Tennessee teammates came alive after a sluggish first half, and the top-ranked Lady Vols overcame a season-high 23 turnovers to beat UCLA 82-70 on Wednesday night.

"I'm going to need a shower when I get back to my room," Summitt said with a chuckle. "It was hot in here."

The game was played before an announced crowd of 4,003 at Pauley Pavilion. The UCLA women drew a combined total of 2,909 fans in their previous three home games.

"This is the first time we've been in this kind of environment," Summitt said. "It was good preparation."

Next stop for the Lady Vols is No. 5 Stanford on Saturday night.

UCLA trailed by only one point early in the second half before nine points by Parker and eight by Angie Bjorklund triggered a 27-7 run that gave the defending national champion Lady Vols a 62-43 lead with 10:20 to play.

The Bruins scored seven straight points to cut Tennessee's lead to 75-66 with 3:08 remaining, but that's as close as they would get.

"We didn't have the energy early," Summitt said. "We regrouped at halftime. Probably one of the biggest adjustments was to go inside, get paint points."

Tennessee has won seven national championships, and Summitt, now in her 34th season as its coach, has a 957-180 career record. Her 957 wins are the most in Division I by any coach.

Parker scored 13 of her 17 points after halftime and also had five rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and two steals.

Shannon Bobbitt added 16 points; Alexis Hornbuckle had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists; Bjorklund scored 12 points, and freshman Vicki Baugh matched her career high with 11 for the Lady Volunteers (10-0).

Baugh didn't play after colliding with UCLA's Regina Rogers with 14:15 to play.

"She took a pretty hard blow to her nose," Summitt said. "Hopefully she'll be OK. She did a lot of good things for us."

Lindsey Pluimer, the only senior on the UCLA roster, led the Bruins (4-6) with 16 points. Darxia Morris added 12 points and Moniquee Alexander scored a career-high 11.

"They're rated No. 1 in the country for a reason," UCLA coach Kathy Olivier said. "I thought we did a great job for about 30 minutes of the game.

"Overall, I thought we did a great job defensively. We forced the No. 1 team to commit 23 turnovers."

Four of those were committed by Parker, who acknowledged she wasn't at her best.

"We came out with a win, that was the point of it," she said. "In the first half, I got frustrated. In the second half, I just played. I think that was the best thing."

Tennessee was the first No. 1 team to play the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion since Virginia beat the Bruins 77-55 on Dec. 28, 1991.

The Lady Vols needed to score the last five points of the first half for a 32-31 lead. They outrebounded the Bruins 20-11, but shot just 41.2 percent to 60 percent for UCLA. Parker had only four points and one rebound in the half.

Tennessee finished with a 38-27 rebounding advantage and shot 50 percent for the game to UCLA's 47.5 percent.

"We're too up-and-down," Olivier said. "I think it's a young thing."

The Bruins have six freshmen on their roster including Morris and Nina Earl, who scored nine points.

The Lady Vols were the second highly ranked team to meet UCLA this season -- the Bruins blew a 16-point second-half lead before losing 79-75 to No. 4 Maryland on Nov. 25 at Pauley Pavilion.

The Lady Vols, who have already beaten five ranked teams including No. 3 North Carolina and No. 9 Oklahoma, play their next four games against Top 25 schools starting with Stanford.

Tennessee follows that up with games at No. 15 DePaul (9-0) on Jan. 2 and at No. 17 Notre Dame (9-1) three days later before returning home to face No. 16 Auburn (10-1) on Jan. 10 to begin its Southeastern Conference schedule.

The Lady Vols play six more ranked teams after that including No. 6 Rutgers, No. 8 LSU and No. 7 Georgia.

The Lady Vols lead their series with UCLA 16-1, with the Bruins' only win a 65-62 triumph on Jan. 3, 1981 in Knoxville.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 junior averaging 21.8 points and 8.7 rebounds, is expected to be the first overall selection in the WNBA draft next spring by the Los Angeles Sparks, who won the rights to the top pick in a lottery Oct. 23.

If Parker makes herself available, as expected, she would be the first woman ever to leave college early for the draft and would team with Lisa Leslie to give the Sparks a potent 1-2 punch.

Parker said she hasn't made a decision on her future.

"Nothing's promised. I live day-to-day," Parker said. "If I'm blessed enough to go to the WNBA, so be it. I think winning another championship would solidify my legacy, our team's legacy."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A conversation with Pat Summitt

Tennessee’s legendary women’s basketball coach, the subject of today’s column, spent a few minutes discussing her career and her coaching philosophy after practice Tuesday at Pauley Pavilion.

(Do you think back much on what this program was like when you got here?)

“The Tennessee program? I think, as the years come and go, you think more about the beginning. At least I do, because of where we are now and the success that we’ve had, primarily because of all the players that have made it possible.

“And the university. I’m always grateful for their commitment to women’s basketball, and we jump-started the program because of the commitment. Not only women’s basketball, but the University of Tennessee has made a tremendous commitment to women’s athletics. And it’s been incredible to watch the development and growth over the years.

“Look at our softball team, our soccer team. our volleyball team, going to the Final Four. It’s just pretty amazing. The success we’ve had in track and field, winning national championships.

“I’m just always very mindful of that. I don’t want to ever take it for granted, but I’m also very grateful.”

(What were those early days like?)

“It was a lot like intramurals. I’d call it extramurals.”

(One step above playday.)

“One step above playday is right. We didn’t charge admission. We drove in vans. Typically, I drove the van with all the equipment and my assistant drove the van with all the players.”

(What, they didn’t trust you to drive the players?)

“The players didn’t want to ride with me. (She laughs) I was kinda tough in those days. I mean, that’s no joke. They’d always go, ‘Oh, we’re not riding with coach, she’s not in a good mood today.’

“But it was low-budget, but we had a budget. I washed uniforms. They bought their own sneakers. We finally raised money to be able to buy their shoes for them. We’d sleep four to a room. Typically a big meal for us was a cafeteria, so we could get more for the buck.

“And now I look at it: We’re on charter flights, two to a room. We can afford to at least make them feel special, and make them be aware of the commitment, or allow them to be aware of the commitment we have made at the University of Tennessee.”

(Was there one point that really got it kick-started, or was it just a gradual growth?)

“It was gradual. I think (what was) big for us was how we scheduled early on. We scheduled to play, Georgia, Texas, Southern Cal, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion. Those were the teams that were strong, particularly when you look at Southern Cal and Louisiana Tech. Those were two of the very best.”

(Those were the Cheryl Miller years.)


“I made the decision to do that because I thought, first of all, it’s going to be the blueprint for where we have to be. Not where we are, but where we have to be. And it’s going to then give us a chance, if we play this nationally competitive schedule, we hopefully can eventually recruit players who play at that level. We’ll know what it looks like.

“And then obviously when we went under the umbrella of the NCAA (in the early ‘80s), we had scholarships so we could then recruit out of state. Obviously we’ve recruited from California and all over the country. To me, that’s made a big difference for us.”

(Have you changed over the years?)

“Oh, absolutely, or I wouldn’t be here.

“It’s much more about what they need from me. And if I know that right off, what do they need from me, and then I know what I expect from them … it’s more about working and managing and having the open communication. If the dialogue is there on a daily basis, and they understand you’re challenging them and pushing them because you see more in them than they see in themselves … that’s my job. That’s my job.

“And a lot of times rather than call players out, I’ll go over and speak to them one on one. That doesn’t mean … I’ll have my moments, and they know it. And when I ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And they know that, too.

“But for the most part, I don’t have to coach another day in my life, I don’t have to win another basketball game to prove anything. I love teaching, and I love this team. I love working with them.

“Just like last year. All I wanted was to help them win a national championship. And that’s why late in the North Carolina game, in that huddle, I screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘We’re not leaving here without a national championship. Do you hear me?’

“But it’s all because I just felt like, ‘I gotta help them win.’ But I don’t know that I helped them. They took over.

“And it does become their game. It’s not your game, it’s their game. And just teaching them that ownership and leadership is critical for their own success, and their ability to take control of a situation on the court.

(That way they can take something out of it that lasts.)

“For a lifetime. It’s life skills. You’re teaching life skills on a daily basis.”

(I’ve heard coaches talk about how you’re not playing for the program, you’re not playing for the teams that came before you, you’re playing for yourselves and your moment. Do you subscribe to that?)

“I agree with that, just like the day we hung their banner. I said, ‘As we go out today and they raise the 2007 banner, you will have your place. This team will have your place in history, in this program. No one can ever take that away from you. It’s yours for a lifetime.’ ”

(Does it ever get old?)

“Not yet. Not yet. They said I was 56 today. I'm only 55. I was kidding Coach (Billie) Moore. I said, I come to California and they put a year on me.

(At this point, you quibble about those years. I know I do.)

“No, I thought it was funny. I just thought, where did they come up with that?”

(Your relationship with Coach Moore, the former Cal State Fullerton and UCLA coach, is interesting.)

“I played for Coach Moore (at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal), and I learned a lot from her. She’s one of the best and most detailed teachers in the game.

“I’d say Coach (John) Wooden, Coach Moore. I put ‘em both right there. They can break down, they can simplify and teach in a way that I feel like I’ve learned the game. It’s a whole-part-whole, their teaching. They can present the whole defense. They can bring it and break it down into the parts, simplify, and then take it back to the whole.

“It’s a special talent.”

(How well do you feel you do it?)

“I’m pretty good. I’m not as good as the two of them, but I think that’s where I’ve gotten better.

“I think when players leave here, they know the game. When our student athletes graduate and move on, if they decide they want to go to pro, a lot of pro coaches will tell me, ‘Your players understand the game.’ And that makes me proud for them, and thinking that we did the right thing.

So I think that’s important. And I guess I’ll have over 54 former players or graduate assistants that are in the game as coaches.”

(That’s a legacy in itself.)

“Well, I’m proud that they had the confidence when they left to feel like they could do that with a real strong conviction, and also (that) success has followed them.

“I like hearing success stories.”

* * *

An additional note: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was at Tuesday's practice. I kidded him about coming out to scout Candace Parker for the Sparks, but he said he just liked to watch good basketball. (There's a one-liner there, folks, but it's less applicable now that his team is doing well.)

Anyway, I asked him if he knew Summitt, and he said he'd met her a couple of times but hadn't really had much opportunity to chat. A few minutes later, during a break in the practice, Summitt spotted Kupchak, came over to where he was sitting, apologized for interrupting and said, "Remember me? Montreal in 1976?"

They had both been on the Olympic teams that year. But that wasn't the point. The point was somebody who has achieved so much and become such an icon, acting absolutely unaffected. "Remember me?" Indeed.

The truly great ones never feel the need to remind you of it.

Summitt may be best college basketball coach ever

LOS ANGELES - To understand why Tennessee's Pat Summitt just may be the best college basketball coach ever, regardless of gender, you need to go beyond her record.

Past the seven national championships, more than anyone not named John Wooden. Past the 957 career victories, which happen to be 71 more than men's record-holder Bob Knight. Past her seven national Coach of the Year awards, or even her place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

To truly understand, it's necessary to go back to the beginning.

It was 1974, and Patricia Head, 22 and an All-American player at Tennessee-Martin, was hired to coach a Tennessee women's team that, to be fair, was one step up from intramurals.

"I'd call it extramurals," Summitt recalled Tuesday at Pauley Pavilion, where the Lady Vols practiced for tonight's game against UCLA.

"We didn't charge admission. We drove in vans. Typically, I drove the van with all the equipment, and my assistant drove the van with all the players. The players didn't want to ride with me."

She laughed.

"I was kind of tough in those days," she said.

Of such humble origins are legends forged. From washing jerseys, assigning four players to a hotel room and scouting cafeterias for road trip meals, Summitt now oversees a program that draws 14,000 fans a game, flies charter on many of its road trips and is high-powered enough that even elite recruits can be tongue-tied.

"At the beginning, I couldn't even talk to her on the phone when she was recruiting me, I was so in awe of her," junior forward Candace Parker said.

Summitt's reputation is similar to that of most great coaches: demanding, detail-oriented, intense.

"When she asks for something, you gotta get it done right then ," said Vicki Baugh, a freshman forward from Sacramento. "There's no slacking in this program. Every day, every second, you have to work hard."

But Summitt has tweaked her approach, subtly, to reflect changes in the women's game and the athletes who play it.

"She's grown with the game," Parker said.

"A lot of coaches wanted to be stuck in their ways and stay (with) their same principles. She's realizing players are getting bigger and stronger and able to do more things."

Parker is the classic representation of that growth in the women's game, a sublime blend of grace and force who comes as close as any woman to having an above-the-rim game. She almost certainly will be the No. 1 pick of the WNBA draft by the Sparks if she decides to turn pro after this season.

But the changes Summitt has made aren't just about adjusting to the differences in the game.

"It's much more about what they need from me," Summitt said. "It's more about working and managing and having open communication. If the dialogue is there on a daily basis, and they understand you're challenging and pushing them because you see more in them than they see in themselves ... that's my job. That's my job.

"And a lot of times, rather than call players out, I'll go over and speak to them one-on-one. (But) I'll have my moments, and they know it. And when I ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, and they know that, too."

"But for the most part, I don't have to coach another day in my life and I don't have to win another basketball game to prove anything," she continued. "I love teaching, and I love this team. I love working with them."

It hasn't gotten old, and Summitt, 55, doesn't expect it to for a while. There will be more players matriculating to the pros or becoming coaches, using the principles they've learned in Knoxville to build their own programs.

In the meantime, her Vols (9-0 going into tonight's UCLA game) will remain in their sport's top tier. And that career victory total figures to reach four digits in the next couple of years.

"She's definitely one of the pioneers of the game," Parker said.

"When you play for Tennessee you play for the program, because it has so much history behind it. The players of the past still come back and still support the program, and that's what Pat Summitt has built."

It is a long way from those van rides in the Tennessee night.

California dreaming: Lady Vols head west

The Tennessee women’s basketball team hasn’t been this far from home all season.

The Lady Vols don’t have to count the miles from here to the West Coast for affirmation. The nature of the competition ought to suffice.

The road starts in earnest for UT with a game against UCLA. Tipoff is 10 tonight at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. The trip concludes at No. 5 Stanford on Saturday night.

To date, top-ranked Tennessee (9-0) has played only two games away from home. The first, against Oklahoma on Nov. 15, was at a neutral site in Tampa, Fla. The second, versus West Virginia on Nov. 21, was senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle’s homecoming game in Charleston, W.Va, and drew many UT supporters.

There will be no such mitigating circumstances surrounding tonight’s game. It will be played on the Bruins’ home court against a team that, despite its 4-5 record, gave then-No. 3 Maryland a tussle at this venue before losing 79-75 Nov. 25.

On the one hand, the Lady Vols have plenty of battle-tested veterans who know their way around real road games. Their experience informs them about the importance of defense and rebounding and warns them about an opponent possibly playing above and beyond its usual means.

Senior center Nicky Anosike’s senses have been honed to the point where she apparently can detect a different tone to the referee’s whistle.

“I think when you go on the road you have to be more prepared not to get calls,’’ she said.

On the other hand, the Lady Vols have freshman Angie Bjorklund starting. Fellow rookies Vicki Baugh and Sydney Smallbone are called upon off the bench. Therefore, one-third of UT’s lineup still needs guidance.

“Our young players have typically played better at home, and that’s not uncommon by any means,’’ UT coach Pat Summitt said. “I do feel like we’ve been able to get them some experience on the road. Our young players haven’t played as well on the road this year. That is just part of the process.”

The majority of that road experience was confined to Bjorklund’s 29 playing minutes against West Virginia. Baugh and Smallbone played a combined 12 minutes in that game. Baugh was limited to five minutes after suffering a strained left knee in the first half and being held out as a precaution.

Against Oklahoma, the trio combined for 32 minutes — a manageable workload for one player, let alone three. Again, Bjorklund was the busiest, playing 19 minutes.

After shortening its bench for a hard-fought 83-79 victory over North Carolina on Dec. 2, Tennessee has spread the playing minutes more evenly across its last three games. The only deterrent was Baugh’s foul trouble limiting her to nine minutes versus Old Dominion.

Summitt has seen enough to say: “I have more of an awareness of where we are with our bench. We are making progress.

She also knows where Tennessee is for the next two games.

“Would I go four deep on this road trip? Yes, I’d like to,’’ Summitt said. “Minutes played? It depends on how they step out on the floor and perform. Will I be patient? Possibly. These are two fine teams and two big road games for us. Ultimately we want to come home with two wins.”

Viewing Option: UCLA All-Access will have tonight’s game live on the internet at Video and audio are free. Those interested merely need to register.

Getting the Gold: Summitt and former players Holly Warlick, Jill Rankin and Cindy Noble were members of the 1980 U.S. women’s team and are among the Olympians this week officially recognized with Congressional Gold Medals.

Notebook: Former Los Angeles Lakers’ great Jerry West and Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak attended practice Tuesday ... Lady Vols forward Candace Parker went to the Toronto Raptors game against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night. Parker’s brother, Anthony, is a guard for the Raptors.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another legend graces Pauley Pavilion

When Pat Summitt walks into Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night, some mouths will slack agape, some eyes will widen and some knees will tremble from sharing the same zip code with a legend.

This awestruck state won't be limited to the intimidation the UCLA women's basketball players might feel dribbling by the winningest coach in college basketball.

It also will be felt by Summitt who, while continuing her 34th season as coach of the seven-time national champion Tennessee women's basketball team, still knows to take a knee in the most hallowed of basketball churches.

“I get chills when I walk in there,” Summitt said about going in John Wooden's arena for the 7 p.m. Wednesday game between her top-ranked, defending champion Volunteers (9-0) and the UCLA Bruins (4-5). “I marvel at all the history.”

The history stretches from the hardwood to the high ceiling, in crack and crevices. Wooden's presence echoes on the sidelines and inside the locker rooms.

None of this is lost on Summitt, who has done for her corner of the sport what the Wizard of Westwood did for his.

Even after 34 seasons of dynasty building, after 956 career victories and just 180 defeats, after admission into the Basketball Hall of Fame and 26 Southeastern Conference tournament and regular-season titles, seven national titles, seven NCAA Coach of the Year awards and a Naismith Coach of the Century honor, Summitt is humbled to be in the same place where Wooden coached.

She is honored to have had her name in the same sentence as his.

“He's the greatest of all time,” said Summitt, 55, who so often has been described the same way.

Summitt knows what it's like to coach basketball with a winning reputation as a sixth man and to be measured by only national titles and a countdown to a milestone 1,000 career victories.

She is accustomed to playing beneath rafters hung with championship banners because she has decorated her home Thompson-Boling Arena back in Knoxville, Tenn., in that same fashion.

Her career began by accident. Knee rehabilitation and a desire for a master's degree led the former University of Tennessee at Martin basketball player to Knoxville to be a graduate teaching assistant in the school's physical education department.

The late Helen Watson, the physical education department head, pitched Summitt about coaching the women's team in an April 1974 letter that described “an excellent potential team, and I believe that they would be happy to have you as their coach.”

Summitt accepted the position as assistant coach. Two weeks later, she became the head coach when Margaret Huston decided to take a sabbatical.

“I was absolutely overwhelmed and scared to death,” Summitt has said about taking over the program without ever having run a practice, set up drills or planned a schedule.

A lot of her influence came from Billie Moore, the longtime UCLA coach for whom Summitt played as a member of the 1976 Olympic team. The rest Summitt eventually figured out.

Now Summitt remains the most prominent coach in women's basketball history, a Hall of Famer who stands 5 feet, 11 inches tall — not counting high heels — and measures much grander when you consider that she stands on Rocky Top.

Summitt's seven national titles are second only to Wooden's 10. Her 956 career victories are the most in college basketball — women's and men's. Her program has produced 12 Olympians, 19 Kodak All-Americans and 69 All-SEC performers.

And there will likely be more victories, titles and player greats.

Summitt has her own Web site (, demand as a motivational speaker, a long-term contract that has made her the first female coach to earn more than $1 million a season, a series of instructional DVDs, camps and two books.

Her attention to the game and her newest team of national-title defenders remain as stiletto sharp as her steely eyes. Talk basketball and you hear the same quickened cadence in her voice, a competitive intensity and the basketball genius that Summitt has brought to all her seasons.

“I'm obviously looking forward to our road trip,” she said about the Volunteers' upcoming four-game excursion, which includes Wednesday's game and a Saturday meeting against Pac-10 power Stanford. “It will be a test for us.”

And a time at Pauley Pavilion for one legend to walk on the sideline of another.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

(1) Tennessee 96, Gonzaga 73

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Angie Bjorklund scored 23 points and Candace Parker 18 to help the top-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers defeat Gonzaga 96-73.

Nicky Anosike added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Tennessee (9-0), which played the last of five straight home games and won't return to Thompson-Boling Arena until Jan. 10. Jami Bjorklund scored 19 points for the Bulldogs (6-4), who fell to 1-4 on the road.

Tennessee picked up where it left off in the second half of Thursday's win over Middle Tennessee, which featured a decisive 18-0 run by the Lady Vols. Their 15-0 first-half spurt against Gonzaga gave them a 24-9 advantage after 8 minutes, which then grew to 20 points at the break and as many as 33 during the second half.

The game featured a match-up of siblings as the Lady Vols' Angie Bjorklund went against older sister Jami, who starts for Gonzaga, for the first time in their playing careers. The sisters guarded each other for part of the game and found themselves in a heap on the floor fighting for a loose ball in the second half.

The younger Bjorklund was named Southeastern Conference freshman of the week for Dec. 3-9, the first Tennessee women's player to earn the award since Parker won it five times during the 2005-06 season.

Shannon Bobbitt returned to the Tennessee lineup and contributed six points and a game-high 13 assists after missing most of the second half of Thursday's game against Middle Tennessee. Bobbitt suffered a forehead laceration after taking an elbow midway through the period and didn't return after having seven stitches to close the cut.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Summitt tired of Parker 'beating"

Pat Summitt was in a foul mood about foul play Friday.

The day after the Tennessee women’s basketball coach watched Lady Vols All-American Candace Parker draw 15 fouls against Middle Tennessee State and march to the free-throw line for a school single-game record 21 attempts, Summitt said enough is enough.

She made of point of not singling out Thursday night’s game, indicating that it was an example of what she sees as a season-long trend.

“I’m sick and tired of everyone coming in here and beating up Parker,’’ Summitt said. “You forearm her. You shove her.

“The only thing you can do is understand that’s not basketball. That’s football.”

Summitt also can send game video to the SEC office and make her displeasure known to league officials. She’s had that thought. It likely will turn into action.

“I need to make sure our conference sees this,’’ she said.

Through eight games, Parker has attempted 84 free throws. The next busiest Lady Vol free-throw shooter is center Nicky Anosike with 27 attempts.

Parker tied her career single-game scoring high with 34 points against MTSU. Half of that total came at the foul line. Afterward, she spoke of playing through the contact.

“You know you definitely have to go up strong and you have to protect yourself,’’ Parker said. “You have to stay low and play aggressive.”

Bobbitt Back: Senior point guard Shannon Bobbitt participated in a team workout Friday, the day after receiving seven stitches in her forehead to close a gash suffered in Thursday’s game. Bobbitt was wearing a large bandage for the workout as the Lady Vols prepared for Sunday’s game against Gonzaga.

“I’m proud of Shannon,’’ said Summitt, who had given Bobbitt the option of sitting out practice. “You get your head busted open. Blood is flying everywhere. And she’s out there leading the team.”

Sophomore guard Cait McMahan, who is sitting out the season after undergoing offseason knee surgery, also participated in Friday’s workout, playing on the scout team.

Stat Watch: Much has been made this month about not enough rebounds or too many turnovers. Another Tennessee statistic deserves attention: senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle’s 54.4 field goal shooting (37 for 68). Her accuracy leads the team and includes 43.8 percent accuracy on 3-pointers (7 for 16).

Hornbuckle came into the season as a 43.5 percent career shooter — 31.5 percent on treys.

“There’s a correlation,’’ Summitt said, “between shot selection and shots made.”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

(1) Tennessee 84, Middle Tennessee 61

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- When the top-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers needed her, Candace Parker took over.

Parker scored a season-high 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to help Tennessee beat Middle Tennssee 84-61 on Thursday night. She set a school record with 21 free-throw attempts and tied a Lady Vols mark by making 17 as three Blue Raiders fouled out trying to contain her.

"We knew that we had a size advantage coming into this game," Parker said. "They're a feisty team and like to press. We wanted to get paint points tonight and I thought we did a good job."

Tennessee's lead was down to five points with less than 7 minutes to play after Middle Tennessee (3-5) made two free throws. Parker scored eight of the next 11 points to stretch the Lady Vols' advantage to 72-55 with about 5 minutes left. MTSU got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

Amber Holt, MTSU's leading scorer at 21.9 points, had 20 in the second half to keep Middle Tennessee in the game until Parker and the Lady Vols took over. Holt finished with a team-high 28 points and five assists.

"She's a competitor," said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt of Holt. "She's tough to guard. She was very efficient, going 8-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line. She only had one turnover and that says something about her game."

Holt got no help as the Blue Raiders shot just 36 percent from the field.

"I thought we had some good looks early and didn't knock those shots down and then we did knock shots down and got back into the game," Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell said. "That's when Parker took over. She's a great player and got the job done."

Still, Parker wasn't alone in leading the Lady Vols to their ninth straight win over Middle Tennessee. Alexis Hornbuckle chipped in 17 points and Alex Fuller had 16 points and seven rebounds. Nicky Anosike contributed nine points and eight boards for Tennessee, which out-rebounded MTSU 47-26.

The Lady Vols (8-0) dressed only nine players after freshman center Kelley Cain underwent season-ending knee surgery on Tuesday. They then lost starting point guard Shannon Bobbitt, who suffered a forehead laceration with 9:06 to play and didn't return. Tennessee was already missing guard Cait McMahan, who's rehabilitating her right knee after surgery in June and is expected to sit out the season.

"She had more than a couple (stitches)," Summitt said of Bobbitt. "She'll be fine. She's a little dizzy. She has a gash and I'm sure she'll have a headache."

The Lady Vols will face Gonzaga at home Sunday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sister, Sister At Tennessee, Gonzaga

Bjorklunds to go at each other when Lady Vols play Gonzaga

SPOKANE, Wash. - Pat Summitt might have to double up as a family therapist.

The coach of No. 1 Tennessee is worried freshman starter Angie Bjorklund is not in the right frame of mind for Sunday's game. That's because Bjorklund's big sister, Jami, is a starter for Gonzaga.

"Angie is excited to see her sister," Summitt said. "Angie hasn't even thought of what happens if she has to guard her. We have to get her attention on that before the game."

The Bjorklund sisters starred at the same high school in the Spokane area. Jami, recruited by numerous West Coast schools, stayed close to home. The 5-foot-11 junior guard is averaging 8 points and 6 rebounds for Gonzaga (6-3).

Angie, one of the nation's top high school players last season, committed to Tennessee (7-0) as a junior. The 6-0 guard is in the rare spot of starting as a freshman for the national champions and is averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds.

Sunday's game poses a wardrobe problem for parents Jim and Kris Bjorklund, which they solved with some ingenuity.

"They made Tenn-zaga T-shirts," Jami said Wednesday. "They cut two T-shirts down the middle and sewed them together."

The parents were flying to Tennessee on Wednesday and not immediately available to model their shirts.

Jami said this is the first time the sisters have squared off in an official game. Since they play the same position, she expects they will end up guarding each other.

But she's more interested in spending quality time off the court with her sister, whom she hasn't seen since August. Jami figures the best time to visit will be between practices Saturday.

"I'm excited to go down there and see her and see Tennessee and where she lives," Jami said. "We like to eat together."

The sisters spoke Tuesday night, trying to set up the best time for a reunion. There was no smack talk.

"We were really talking about how Angie has played," Jami said.

Angie was taking finals this week and not available to speak with the media, Tennessee officials said.

Summitt said the game was scheduled after Angie committed to the Lady Vols. Tennessee will return the favor by traveling to Gonzaga next season.

"A lot of people are anxious to see the two of them on the court together," Summitt said.

As youngsters, the girls would often have their father drive them to gyms at 5:30 a.m. to practice shooting. Their enthusiasm was not surprising considering the family tree.

Uncle Steve Ranniger played basketball at Oregon; grandfather Duane Ranniger played basketball at Washington State; and grandfather Leon Bjorklund ran track at Washington.

Jami, who turns 21 Thursday, became a starter during her freshman year at Gonzaga. Last season, she averaged 9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as the Zags went to their first NCAA tournament.

Angie, 18, became Tennessee's first recruit from Washington, saying she had been a Lady Vols fan for years.

The Zags fly to Tennessee on Saturday, making the first use of a charter plane provided to the basketball program by boosters. They leave after Sunday's game.

"We'll only be there 26 hours," Jami said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tennessee freshman center Kelley Cain has successful knee surgery, will miss season

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Kelley Cain, a freshman center for No. 1 Tennessee, had successful knee surgery Tuesday at St. Mary's Hospital.

The 6-foot-6 center from Atlanta will be lost for the season.

Cain twisted her right knee when she stepped on another player's foot during a practice in early November.

The Lady Vols roster is down to just nine players. Sophomore point guard Cait McMahan is still rehabilitating her right knee from surgery June 6 and is projected to redshirt this season.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Warlick breaks ankle

Tennessee Lady Vols assistant basketball coach Holly Warlick suffered a broken right ankle while working out Friday morning. She will be on crutches for the next six weeks.

Warlick was getting around the team’s late afternoon practice with her new mode of transportation. She also had access to a stool used by head coach Pat Summitt.

“I hate it for her with the games and the travel,’’ Summitt said. “But you can’t get Holly down.”

Warlick’s time on crutches will cover a West Coast trip for games at UCLA (Dec. 19) and Stanford (Dec. 22) as well as UT’s post-Christmas trip to play at DePaul (Jan. 2) and Notre Dame (Jan. 5).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Lady Vols need instincts of old

When you have a basketball program with as many national championships as the Tennessee Lady Vols', comparisons are irresistible.

Let them beat a few nationally ranked teams and blow out a few others, and I immediately wonder how they would stack up against the best of UT's national champions, the 39-0 team of 1997-98.

This team makes the comparison easier than most. It has four starters returning from a national championship team, and it's off to an impressive start.

The Lady Vols improved their record to 7-0 with an 83-51 victory over 24th-ranked Old Dominion on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. That gives them four victories over nationally ranked teams, and five victories by 18 or more points.

So what do you think, Coach? Can they go undefeated?

UT longtime assistant coach Holly Warlick doesn't dodge the question.

"I think this team is good enough to go undefeated," she said. "They have to control the boards and get a little more consistent on the defensive end.

"They've got a shot."

This team has a couple of obvious advantages over UT's unbeaten team. First, it has more good shooters; second, it has more quality depth.

But as soon as you start comparing any team to the 1997-98 Lady Vols, you invariably end up marveling at how good that team was 10 years ago.

In Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings, it had two of the best players ever to play the women's game. Semeka Randall was an All-SEC selection, and point guard Kellie Jolly was the quintessential coach on the floor.

As talented as that team was, its attitude was even better. And that's where this team would come up short in comparison. So would any other UT team.

"That team had a killer instinct," Warlick said. "They went out every night, not just to win. … They wanted to put people away early and keep pouring it on.

"They wanted to punish people. It wasn't a hatred thing. That was just in their nature."

The attitude was reflected in the scores. Only three teams, including Alabama twice, came within single digits of the 1997-98 team.

The Lady Vols won six NCAA tournament games by an average of 21.3 points in 1998. And they had a Mike Tyson-like record for quick knockouts.

This team occasionally has flashed dominance but has shown little proclivity for first-round knockouts.

"I think this team is good enough to go undefeated," Warlick repeated. "But we can't do what we did the other night and hope that somebody misses some free throws (as in Sunday's 83-79 victory over North Carolina)."

Against an Old Dominion team playing without its leading scorer, UT sputtered to a 37-24 first-half lead. The 1997-98 team might have been up by 30 at halftime against such an opponent, mainly because of transition baskets fostered by relentless defensive pressure.

"This team isn't as consistently aggressive on the defensive end," Warlick said. "But when their backs are against the wall, they can hunker down and play some defense."

That was evident during the last NCAA tournament when the Lady Vols raised their play to a championship level. The 1997-98 team didn't need an NCAA tournament for motivation.

"The 1997-98 team played that way all the time," Warlick said. "That's the difference in the two teams."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Parker: First-rate game and a first-rate life

This photo of Candace Parker graced the cover of Knoxville CityView magazine in November.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The best women's college hoops player in the country -- and, who knows, maybe of all time -- isn't going to like it, but she needs to address some serious personal issues.

First of all, who names their dog Fendi? That's so Reese Witherspoon and "Legally Blonde." Except that Candace Parker's Fendi is a St. Bernard mix, not some accessory pooch that fits in your makeup kit.

"She's high maintenance, so she's a designer purse," says Parker, the All-America forward for No. 1-ranked Tennessee. "She's, like, my heart. She sleeps with me every night."

OMG. Her other dog, a pug, is named Nino. "From 'New Jack City,'" Parker says.

Could have been worse. Could have been New Jack's Pookie.

Then there's what we'll call, "The Michael Jordan Situation." Parker grew up in a Chicago suburb and adored MJ and the Bulls. And yet one of her most-prized possessions on her bedroom wall was a framed, poster-size photo of her and … Ron Harper?

"I respect Jordan -- he is the king -- but I would walk past Jordan to get Ron Harper's picture," Parker says of Harper, who played with MJ and is now an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons. "I don't know why I was the biggest Ron Harper fan. I just was."

You see? Problems. Lots of them.

Parker is also an All-America procrastinator. Her motto: Why do just one load of dirty laundry when you can wait another week and do three?

And Parker is a closet Disneyophile. Her older brother Marcus will die for this, but he says Parker knows all the words to the songs in, "The Little Mermaid." So sing along to her favorite lyrics from "Part of Your World," in which Ariel belts out, "Wouldn't you think I'm the girl … The girl who has everything?"

That's Parker -- the girl who has everything. Drop step. Midrange J. The trey. Face-up game. Dribble drive. D. Dunks. Can play point guard or center (and has). Attitude. Intensity. Smile powered by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Potential for greatness.

"I definitely think Candace could go down as the best player in the history of the game," says UT's Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. By the way, Summitt says this without hesitation.

Can you be Now and Next at the same time? If so, Parker qualifies. Yes, there is her disturbing infatuation with bad dog names and Harper. And there's no getting around her jones for watching "Full House" or "The Cosby Show." Ask her to list her favorite basketball movies -- with a warning not to take the easy way out and say, "Love and Basketball" -- and she swats it right back in your face.

"OK, it's a tie," Parker says. "It's, 'He Got Game' and 'Love and Basketball.' Those are my two favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite movies of all time."

(New item on list of Parker personality flaws: excessive use of the word "favorite.")

It's hard not to like Parker. She is smart (second-team Academic All-America), borderline goofball and, so, well, 21. When she met Ray Allen for the first time at this summer's ESPYS, she called him "Jesus" -- as in Jesus Shuttlesworth, Allen's character in "He Got Game." And in her Knoxville apartment is a photo of Parker and her fiancé, Atlanta Hawks forward Shelden Williams. According to friend and UT media relations intern Courtney Tysinger, the photo is a knockoff of the "Love and Basketball" promo poster.

Parker has a soft spot for Cold Stone, her family, her coaches and teammates, her vintage TV shows, her hoops, her pooches, her Shelden and her cooking (specialties: fried chicken … salmon … rice, sugar and butter).

"I like the fact that no matter how much people know her or how much she gets recognized, she's still the sweet, well-rounded person I knew when she got here," Tysinger says. "She stops and signs every single piece of paper fans give her. She can be in the library studying, having dinner with her family … she'll sign them."

Parker earns her diploma in sports management in May and hopes to earn a second consecutive national championship in March. Nobody will come right out and say it, but the redshirt junior -- last season's consensus player of the year -- will most certainly leave UT and be chosen No. 1 by the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks or No. 2 by the Chicago Sky. And did I mention the endorsement deals?

But first comes her final season and the continuing work on her basketball legacy. Summitt remembers the first time she saw Parker on the court. It was at an AAU game.

"When I saw her I just knew that I didn't want to have to play against her," Summitt said.

Nobody did. One time during a 3-on-3 pickup game at the park near the Parkers' old house, Candace, who was still in high school, Marcus and a friend were matched up against some twentysomethings. The friend had to leave, so Candace's oldest brother, Anthony, who now plays for the Toronto Raptors and at the time had returned home as the EuroLeague MVP, subbed in.

"And they tried to isolate against Anthony," says Marcus, laughing.

That's how bad Candace was beating the guy trying to guard her.

About a year or so ago, Parker and Marcus played in some pickup games at the Cooley Athletic Center, which is near Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Marcus, 29, is completing his residency as a radiologist at the hospital.

"She was getting guarded by a 5-11 guy," Marcus says. "She didn't even take him on the post. She played very well. There was almost a buzz around the gym."

But don't get wrapped up in the guy thing. The 6-foot-4, 172-pound Parker couldn't play in the NBA, the NBDL or the elite European leagues.

"I don't think that's important," says Anthony, 32. "But I think she's good enough that anyone she played, they'd have to take her seriously. If you don't do that now, you'll get embarrassed."

Parker's talent is in the same paragraph -- or, at least, on the same page -- as the greats in the women's game: Diana Taurasi, Lisa Leslie, Tamika Catchings, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson ("My role model," Parker says. "She's been where I want to go."), Cheryl Miller (Parker has watched tape of the former USC star), Carol Blazejowski, Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Anne Donovan, Lusia Harris Stewart, Nancy Lieberman, Lauren Jackson, Lynette Woodard, Chamique Holdsclaw, Seimone Augustus and Rebecca Lobo, among others. One day she might have the page to herself.

"There's been a lot of great players," Summitt says. "What will separate Candace out from the pack I think is her ability to dominate the game on both ends."

She's getting there, not that that's much of a surprise. Parker has a history of separating herself from everyone else. She plays with a cadaver donor Achilles and a cadaver donor plug in her surgically repaired left knee. The first day home from ACL surgery she bent her knee 90 degrees -- you know, just to show the knee who it was messing with.

Her nickname of choice is "CP," but it ought to be, "Five More Shots." Beginning in eighth grade, when she fell in love with the game, that's what she used to say to her dad and mom when it was time to leave the gym. "I just want to shoot a little longer," she'd say. "Five more shots."

She went to the high school prom on a Friday night. On Saturday she was supposed to go to Six Flags Great America with her date, but instead decided to play in a hoops tournament. "We can go to Great America some other time," she told the guy.

"We didn't raise her to be a meek, mild, sit-back young lady," says Parker's mom, Sara.

She isn't. Parker is Daddy's little girl, but Summitt's basketball terror. She spent the offseason refining her midrange game and working on her defense. She played on and against the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team. And a few days ago in the win against No. 4 North Carolina, Parker filled out her linescore with 21 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks.

"I do think about my potential," Parker says. "But it's just that, potential. Obviously I want to be the best. I want to be the best. It's been instilled in me since I was young. And I'm willing to work hard for it."

She got game. Even those hoops fans non-fluent in women's basketball would realize it if they watched. She's kind of Chris Bosh-ish, she says. Smooth. Can play off the block, but also face up. Her dad, Larry, says she's more Kevin Garnett-ish.

"He's 6-11, 7-foot," he says. "She's like that at 6-4 in the women's game. Candace has just scratched the surface."

It will be fun to watch her scratch away the rest of it. In the meantime, enjoy her for what she is, and what she might become. Most of all, say a prayer for her next dog.


Bjorklund gets her fill

Freshman's 19 points part of her variety show

Angie Bjorklund rearranged her priorities, much to the benefit of her stat line and Tennessee on Wednesday night.

"I went in focused on defensive rebounding,'' the Lady Vols freshman said. "The offense just came."

Everything came to Bjorklund in an 83-51 women's basketball victory over Old Dominion. She set season highs with 19 points, eight rebounds and four steals. She tied her previous best for assists with three.

Her 35.7 percent field-goal percentage also received a major makeover, courtesy of 6-for-7 accuracy before an announced crowd of 12,323 at Thompson-Boling Arena. She was 3-for-4 on 3 pointers.

Bjorklund was one of four double-figure scorers for No. 1 Tennessee (7-0), which next plays against Middle Tennessee State on Dec 13. Candace Parker scored 14, Nicky Anosike had 13 and Shannon Bobbitt 10.

Tiffany Green scored a team-high 14 for No. 24 Old Dominion (6-3). Jazzmin Walters and Shadasia Green each had 10.

The Lady Monarch, who shot 32.3 percent from the floor (20-for-62) and 42.1 percent from the foul line (8 for 19), missed leading scorer T.J. Jordan. The senior guard, who averages 16.9 points per game, was held out of the game with a stress reaction in her left foot.

"When you're on the road and you lose a player who you depend upon on both ends of the court, it handicaps you," UT coach Pat Summitt said. "I told (Old Dominion coach) Wendy (Larry) after the game that it was a shame. They didn't have time to adjust."

As far as adjustments, Bjorklund was more fortunate. She credited a video session with Summitt as being instrumental in her all-around play. The 6-foot forward's first priority was to scrutinize her shooting form. Summitt used the session, though, to emphasize rebounding and open Bjorklund's eyes to gaps on the floor where she could go to gather the basketball.

"She needs to play the way she played tonight when games are close,'' Summitt said. "Tonight she showed us what she can do and showed that she can help us. Her stat line was impressive."

Whether it was an individual session or a group meeting, all the Lady Vols got the message about rebounding. Every Lady Vol contributed at least one rebound to a 45-35 advantage. They managed to snag 13 offensive boards, which was no easy feat considering they shot better than 50 percent from the floor for most of the game before finishing at 49.2 percent (29 for 59).

"After the last game, we had a statement to make: We can rebound,'' said freshman Vicki Baugh, referring to the 57-39 deficit against North Carolina Sunday night. "We have to start now. We're going to need it later."

Baugh did her part with six rebounds. On the other hand, she highlighted other areas in need of improvement. One was personal in nature as the 6-foot-4 forward fouled out in just nine minutes.

At least she and Summitt were able to share a laugh about Baugh's plight after she left the game.

"She called me a hacker, I believe,'' Baugh said. "I had no choice but to laugh.

"I've never had more than three fouls in a game before. I have to learn to be smart. I shouldn't have reached. There is no excuse for the fouls."

Baugh also committed five of Tennessee's 23 turnovers, which amounted to a single-game season high for the Lady Vols. Fifteen came in the first half, when every player contributed at least one to the total.

"We didn't start out with a good rhythm on offense,'' Summitt said. "We weren't playing well together. The ball got stuck in people's hands. We tried to force some high-low (plays).

"Once we started reversing the ball, we opened up more options."

To the Lady Vols' credit, they limited their mistakes in the second half and still managed to get every player but Baugh at least 16 minutes of action. No one played more than Bjorklund's 33 minutes.

It was all too much for Old Dominion, especially without Jordan.

"I'd like to think there's enough fortitude on the team that we could pick up some of the pieces,'' Larry said. "Unfortunately that wasn't the case."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

(1) Tennessee 83, (24) Old Dominion 51

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Angie Bjorklund scored 19 points and Candace Parker added 14 as top-ranked Tennessee beat No. 24 Old Dominion 83-51 Wednesday night.

Nicky Anosike added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Vols (7-0), who defeated the Lady Monarchs for the 27th time in their last 28 meetings. Tennessee now leads the series 32-9. Tiffany Green scored 14 points to lead Old Dominion (6-3), which played without leading scorer T.J. Jordan.

Tennessee treated Old Dominion like an unranked opponent, jumping out to a 10-2 lead and expanding its advantage to 33 points in the second half. The Lady Vols, who never trailed, limited the Lady Monarchs to 32 percent shooting from the floor and forced them into 20 turnovers that led to 27 points.

Still, Tennessee looked out of rhythm early in the game, the residual effect of Sunday's hard-fought 83-79 win over No. 4 North Carolina.

The Lady Vols were unusually careless with the ball and lacked much of their characteristic on-court swagger. They had 15 turnovers and just six assists on 15 made baskets in the first half. Tennessee finished the game with a season-high 23 giveaways.

Tennessee turned up its defensive tempo in the second half, forcing Old Dominion into turnovers while making a 7-0 run to start the period. A second 7-0 spurt put them ahead 63-35 with 10:30 remaining. The Lady Monarchs got no closer than 27 points the rest of the way.

Shannon Bobbitt was the fourth Tennessee player in double figures with 10 points, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

Jazzmin Walters and Shadasia Green were the only other Old Dominion players in double figures with 10 points each.

Jordan, who averages almost 17 points per game for the Lady Monarchs, missed the contest with a foot injury. Megan Pym and Jessica Canady, who averaged 10.5 points each for Old Dominion entering the game, were held to seven and six points respectively.

Tennessee, which gave up a school-record 57 rebounds against North Carolina, was more successful against Old Dominion, outrebounding the Lady Monarchs 45-35. However, they were beaten 16-13 on the offensive end.

Tennessee lost its unanimous No. 1 ranking this week as two of 50 voters chose Connecticut for the top slot. The Lady Vols have enjoyed 110 total weeks atop the Associated Press poll.

Meanwhile, Old Dominion entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2002 this week. The Lady Monarchs have made 15 straight NCAA tournament appearances and 24 overall. Only Tennessee and Louisiana Tech have more. ODU has won three national titles, the last in 1985. They lost to the Lady Vols in the 1997 NCAA title game.

The Lady Monarchs' three 2007 losses have come against teams ranked in the top five. Their previous defeats were against No. 2 UConn and fourth-ranked Stanford.

The Lady Vols, who have faced five ranked teams in their seven wins, will take a three-game break from such competition. Tennessee doesn't face another currently ranked opponent until taking on sixth-ranked Stanford Dec. 22. Old Dominion will take a two-week break before it faces Delaware State Dec. 20.

Lady Vols gear up for traditional rival ODU

Sometimes it seems like every nonconference opponent for the Tennessee Lady Volunteers is a traditional rival.

UT coach Pat Summitt’s longevity is a major part of this perception. Another part of it is that teams that once played larger roles in the game of women’s basketball remain on the schedule for history’s sake. Louisiana Tech, no longer a contender on the national scene, is one of those.

Old Dominion, tonight’s opponent in a 7 o’clock tip at Thompson-Boling Arena, is another.

“It is interesting because a lot of people want to play us now,” Summitt said. “I think maybe they want to because they know that we are losing our core group of veterans after this year. We get a lot of phone calls. They started even two years ago.

“I’m pleased that we do have people that are interested in starting a series, but it will be difficult with us adding the two SEC opponents to our schedule and the fact that we have played some of these teams for so long (that) we still want to keep the series going, and ODU is certainly one of those.”

The Lady Monarchs (6-2) have posted two straight wins over ranked teams in their last couple of outings, including a 79-73 victory over Michigan State on Sunday. ODU was ranked this week for the first time since the 2001-02 season, entering at No. 24. It’s the best start since 1999-2000.

Old Dominion is led by T.J. Jordan, who is averaging 16.9 points per game. Jessica Canady is also scoring in double figures, with 10.5 per contest. Megan Pym and Tiffany Green are the top rebounders on the squad.

The No. 1 Lady Vols (6-0) are coming off a taxing victory over No. 4 North Carolina. Tennessee was able to produce double-digit leads at least five times but could never prevent the Tar Heels from coming back.

“We learned a lot about ourselves. We can’t get frazzled. We went up and then we let them come back,” UT junior Candace Parker said.

“All of us need to be put in situations in practice to work on that.”

Because of the closeness of the game and reliance on starters by both sides, Summitt was not able to play freshman guard Sydney Smallbone and freshman forward Vicki Baugh made only a brief appearance. Both saw significant action in the five previous games.

“I didn’t feel comfortable having them in the game,” Summitt said. “But we’ve got to keep getting them playing time in each game so they can improve.”

The Lady Vols will next break for a week to take final exams before resuming action on Dec. 13 by hosting MTSU.

Lady Vols try not to lose their way

Tennessee is 6-0 and ranked No. 1 nationally among women's basketball teams.

Despite a familiar profile, the Lady Vols coaching staff has sensed an identity crisis brewing and reacted accordingly before facing Old Dominion at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Assistant coach Nikki Caldwell described the overarching theme of the past two days as "The Tennessee way."

No way is that getting outrebounded 57-39 or being on the south side of a 60-32 disparity in points in the foul lane, which occurred Sunday night versus North Carolina.

"We hit it; we hammered it," assistant coach Dean Lockwood said.

In delivering their message, the coaches remained mindful that the players took care of the only statistic that really mattered Sunday, winning 83-79.

"We didn't want to come in and make it a negative hammer," Lockwood said, "make them feel like they were being attacked."

Lockwood paraphrased head coach Pat Summitt's message to the players as: "We really believe you want to win a championship. In light of that, we want to help."

Summitt convened a meeting before Tuesday's practice. Her concern is that this team is heading in the same direction as last season's squad, which didn't embrace the team's time-honored principles of rebounding and, to a lesser extent, defense until their postseason drive to the program's seventh national championship.

By her thinking, repeating the feat in the same fashion will be awfully difficult. She's well-informed about the rebounding prowess of such other highly ranked teams as Connecticut (plus-14.5), Maryland (plus-11.1) and North Carolina (14.0).

The plus-3.6 of No. 24 Old Dominion (6-2) isn't as imposing as those differentials. No matter, Summitt said, "Obviously, they're going to be all over the glass. Anyone who's watched us play of late ..."

After Sunday night, the Lady Vols' rebounding had plunged below the break-even point to a minus-one (41.5-42.5).

Lockwood noted how UT's last two opponents - Louisiana Tech and North Carolina - had gathered 53 offensive rebounds.

He referred specifically to Carolina's haul and said, "We're living on the edge when we give up 28 offensive rebounds."

During Tuesday's team meeting, statistics from UT's seven national championship victories were highlighted and handed out to the players. The Lady Vols were outrebounded in just one of those games (1997) and on that occasion they shot 59.2 percent from the floor against Old Dominion, resulting in just seven offensive rebounds.

Given UT's rebounding struggles, 6-foot-4 freshman forward Vicki Baugh likely will be seeing more playing time than her four minutes against North Carolina.

"Getting her some early minutes," Caldwell said. "I think we can utilize that."

Baugh's size and energy would be helpful on defense as well.

In developing some defensive talking points, Lockwood reviewed Carolina's foul-lane scoring, coming up with 58 points rather than 60. He also charted how those points were scored.

Offensive rebounds led to 16 points. Transition drives accounted for 20 more. The final 22 came in a half-court setting. Of that total, 10 came off post-up moves, the usual method for inside scoring. The rest were on dribble drives.

From those numbers, he concluded that the Lady Vols need to be more physical in boxing out, pick up the ball earlier in transition and rotate defenders better in half-court defense.

In other words, Tennessee needs to be more like Tennessee.

"We're going make sure we know what our identity is," Caldwell said, "and what we stand for."

Anosike, Lofton Finalists: Lady Vol Nicky Anosike and Vol Chris Lofton were selected as finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award which honors players who excel on court as well as in the classroom and community.

Tennessee is one of four schools to have multiple finalists. The others are Texas A&M, the U.S. Military Academy and Ball State. The winners will be named at the Final Fours.

Notebook: Freshman center Kelley Cain's knee surgery wasn't Tuesday. Instead it's scheduled for Dec. 11. ... Summitt reacted to North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell saying the foul line was the difference in Sunday's game by saying, "It is disappointing that the last two times that we've played North Carolina and won that the officiating was what was talked about, not giving us credit for closing out in both games."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Summitt, Auriemma in cancer ad

It's not hard for Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma to find common ground - not when it comes to the fight against cancer and women's basketball coaching colleague Kay Yow.

Tennessee's Summitt and Connecticut's Auriemma, known more for their adversary relationship, came together to do a promotional spot in support of the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund. The spot was aired Monday night during the Jimmy V Women's Basketball Classic game between Rutgers and Maryland on ESPN2 and will air again during February Frenzy telecasts on Feb. 10.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research, in collaboration with the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, announced Monday a new initiative to raise money for women's cancer research, named in honor of Yow, who has battled breast cancer since 1987. She is in her 37th season of collegiate coaching and her 33rd season at North Carolina State.

Summitt said the promotional spot was taped at the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., several months ago.

"It was fine,'' said Summitt of her time with Auriemma. "He was very cordial."

This meeting was more about Yow than them.

"I think she's been such a great spokesperson for breast cancer, how she's handled her adversity and her fight for her life," Summitt said. "She has incredible courage and faith. I think she's inspired a lot of people."

Closer To Home: Former Lady Vols All-American Mary Ostrowski is at UT Medical Center battling Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer.

Summitt said that she and former Lady Vol Shelley Collier visited Ostrowski on Saturday.

Ostrowski was mentioned on Sunday night's telecast of the Tennessee-North Carolina game. ESPN2 analyst Carolyn Peck, who grew up in Jefferson City and played at Vanderbilt, said on the telecast that she grew up wanting to have a hook shot like Ostrowski's.

Notebook: Old Dominion, Tennessee's opponent Wednesday night, has cracked the weekly Associated Press top 25 at No. 24. ... With its 57 rebounds, North Carolina broke a 26-year record for most rebounds by a UT opponent. Colorado grabbed 55 during a game on Dec. 8, 1981. Kentucky had 55 in 1978. ... After Wednesday, the Lady Vols will break for exams and not play again until Dec. 13 against Middle Tennessee State.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jimmy V Foundation launches Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer fund

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- It was only fitting that the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research launched an initiative honoring Kay Yow after she spent so many years at North Carolina State with the late Jim Valvano.

The Hall of Fame coach, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, is lending her name to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer fund, announced Monday at a news conference before No. 3 Maryland played fourth-ranked Rutgers in the sixth annual Jimmy V Women's Basketball Classic.

"Kay and Jim shared a passion for winning and that passion will now also be applied to fighting cancer with hopefully the same winning result they had on the court," said Nick Valvano, chief executive of the V Foundation. "It was a no-brainer. They both shared the same courage. About the only difference is my brother had nowhere near the humility that she has."

Valvano led N.C. State to an improbable national championship in 1983. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1992, and died not long after announcing the formation of the V Foundation the following year.

The Women's Basketball Coaches Association will launch its support of the initiative with the 4Kay run/walk as part of Final Four festivities on April 5.

"I'm extremely excited," Yow said. "It's an honor for me to be a part of this great foundation."

Yow learned she had stage-four cancer last November, but despite her illness has remained upbeat and positive.

"It all started with my mother," Yow said. "She died of cancer the same year Jim did. She was a great example who always saw the silver lining."

Last year, Yow missed most of N.C. State's season before returning for the Wolfpack's emotional run to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

The N.C. State coach has more than 700 career wins. She was also one of the only people who could get Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and Tennessee coach Pat Summitt in the same room to do a TV promo for the new initiative that was set to debut Monday night.

"We're all competitive on the court," Yow said, "but rally together for a great cause."