Thursday, January 31, 2008

(2) Tennessee 68, Mississippi 44

OXFORD, Miss. -- Shannon Bobbitt scored 14 points and Candace Parker had 13 as Tennessee continued its defensive dominance of the Southeastern Conference in a 68-44 win over Mississippi on Thursday night.

The second-ranked Lady Vols (19-1, 6-0 SEC) won their ninth consecutive game overall and their 16th straight against the Lady Rebels (8-11, 2-4).

Tennessee, bigger and faster at every position, strong-armed Ole Miss on the way to a 28-point first-half lead. But the Lady Vols' 39-13 halftime advantage could have been wider.

They used a quick 15-0 run to jump to a 17-4 lead early in the first half, but stalled out with a flurry of poor passes in transition, missed shots and unforced turnovers.

The Lady Rebels held the Lady Vols without a field goal for the next 6 minutes, but were unable to capitalize, scoring just four points in that span.

Tennessee broke out of the slump with a 21-5 run to clinch the win.

It was the third straight poor start for the Lady Rebels, who were led by Shawn Goff's 20 points, 12 rebounds and four steals. They scored 20 points in the first half of a 57-52 loss at Mississippi State and 12 points in an 83-50 loss at Vanderbilt.

Tennessee limited Ole Miss to 20.7 percent shooting in the first half. The Lady Vols held the Lady Rebels scoreless for 5:12 early in the half, then allowed just two field goals and five points over the final 11:37.

Meanwhile, Tennessee used 12 offensive rebounds for an 18-3 edge in second chance points and scored 12 off turnovers over the first 20 minutes.

Tennessee hasn't allowed more than 63 points in six SEC games and is giving up an average of 50 points per league contest.

The Lady Rebels were more spirited in the second half, but continue to struggle from behind the 3-point line. Eleventh in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in 3-point shooting just two weeks ago, Ole Miss snapped a string of 36 missed long-range shots late in the second half, but finished 2-for-18.

Parker, who had a loud local cheering section of teenage girls among a pro-Tennessee crowd, handled the ball often in the first half and finished with eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. Alex Fuller added 11 for the Lady Vols.

Monday, January 28, 2008

(2) Tennessee 67, (10) Duke 64

DURHAM, N.C. -- Candace Parker's leaner with 22 seconds remaining lifted No. 2 Tennessee past No. 9 Duke 67-64 on Monday night, snapping the Blue Devils' 24-game home winning streak.

Parker led the Lady Vols with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but briefly gave Duke hope with 3.4 seconds left when she missed the first of two free throws that would have iced it.

After she sank her second attempt, Duke inbounded to Chante Black, and she hesitated while looking for sharpshooter Abby Waner. Her 65-foot heave harmlessly hit the rim at the buzzer.

Duke never led in the second half but tied it four times, the final time coming when Waner dribbled off Joy Cheek's screen and knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key that made it 64-all with 45.8 seconds left.

The Lady Vols calmly worked the ball to Parker, whose leaning basket over Black put Tennessee ahead for good.

Angie Bjorklund had 13 points and Shannon Bobbitt added 11 for the Lady Vols (18-1), who won their eighth straight and became the first visitors to win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since North Carolina did it almost exactly two years earlier.

Black and Jasmine Thomas each had 13 points to lead Duke (15-5), which shot 44 percent and forced 23 turnovers but couldn't overcome a 40-29 rebounding disadvantage.

It was a statement victory for the Lady Vols -- no player on Tennessee's roster had ever beaten Duke, and Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt's team was still smarting from last year's 74-70 loss in Knoxville.

That defeat was widely remembered for the Blue Devils jumping out to a 19-0 lead and shrugging off a raucous Thompson-Boling Arena crowd energized by men's coach Bruce Pearl, who painted his chest orange with a white "V" in the spelling of "GO VOLS."

This time, there weren't any sightings of a shirtless Mike Krzyzewski -- just an inspired Duke defense feeding off a sold-out crowd at Cameron in the first half.

Duke twice led by seven points and never trailed by more than one during an occasionally dominating first half in which it shot 50 percent and frustrated Tennessee's two most productive scorers.

The Blue Devils forced Parker to miss her first six shots and held her to six points on 2-for-9 shooting. Alexis Hornbuckle, who entered averaging 11 points, missed all four of her attempts and failed to score in the opening 20 minutes.

What's in Parker's future?

KNOXVILLE -- A star long before she even arrived at the University of Tennessee, Candace Parker is that rare athlete who not only meets supersized expectations, she exceeds them.

Parker, a junior from Naperville, Ill. and a two-time all-American, is averaging 21.1 points and 8.4 rebounds for the second-ranked Lady Vols (17-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference), who will visit 10th-ranked Duke tonight in a game televised by ESPN.

At the ripe age of 21, Parker has already claimed a national title, helped lead the United States to a gold medal at the Junior World Championships, won the slam dunk contest at the McDonald's High School All-American Game, become the first woman to dunk in an NCAA Tournament game, and listened to herself be referenced in lyrics by the rap group Wu-Tang Clan. Parker, the group opined, can "take flight like Skywalker."

For these reasons, and others, coach Pat Summitt lists her on the team's roster as a guard, forward and center. She does it all.

Parker recently sat down with The Commercial Appeal to talk about her season, her Olympic aspirations and her wedding plans.

Q: So how are things going this season?

CP: Everything's good. I'm really enjoying myself. Coming off the national title is cool.

Q: Having won the national title, does this season feel any different?

CP: I feel like that's what's so special about this team. We won our national title, then we kind of put it aside and said, 'This is a new year.' That's how you keep motivated. Every day is a new day, and you just have to continue to take it day by day. Because when you start looking too far ahead, that's when things go wrong.

Q: When people stop you on the street, what's the first question they ask?

CP: I hear it all, really. I'd say the biggest question is, 'Are you going to stay another year?'

Q: And what do you say?

CP: I just kind of laugh and get moving.

Q: You're graduating in May. What'll your process be in terms of deciding whether to return for one last season or go to the WNBA?

CP: To be honest with you, I haven't even really thought about it yet. It'll be a decision I'll have to make before I graduate, obviously. But I haven't really thought about it.

Q: Is potentially playing on the U.S. Olympic team this summer exciting?

CP: Yeah, it's exciting. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to make the Olympic team and play. It's always been a dream of mine.

Q: What's the tryout process?

CP: To be honest with you, I don't even know. I just kind of show up when they ask me to show up, go where they tell me to go.

Q: When people say you're the player capable of taking the women's game to the next level, is that something you embrace?

CP: It's just somebody's opinion, that's my take. I just have to focus on what my teammates and my coaches and my family, the people that are closest to me, are saying. If you think about it too much, you start putting too much pressure on yourself.

Q: The WNBA hasn't grown in popularity the way a lot of people were hoping, and you're probably going to play overseas in addition to playing here in the U.S. Is it your hope that you wouldn't have to go overseas to supplement your playing career here?

CP: Well, to be honest with you, I envision the WNBA growing. With every sport, there's been some type of growth period where it's been stagnant. A lot of people remember the NBA in the '60s and '70s, they were saying it wasn't going to make it. I think also, going overseas, yeah, some players go because they have to make more money, but if we didn't go overseas it would take away from the sport over there. A lot of people support women's basketball in Russia, so I just think the WNBA season is short enough where you can play a couple of months overseas no matter how much it grows.

Q: What have you learned about your game at Tennessee?

CP: This summer, I definitely worked on my face-up game. Getting in the gym and getting more shots, stuff like that. But I think every year, I've tried to find something new to improve, some area I need to work on, go into the offseason and do that.

Q: How did tearing your ACL before your senior year of high school affect you?

CP: It was definitely a tough situation, but I always try to make a positive out of anything, you know? What can you do? I just got stronger, I got in the gym. I mean, I really sat out two years, because I missed my senior year of high school, then sat out my freshman year here. So I really just tried to focus on what I needed to improve and get mentally tough. Because I think a lot of the game is about your mind. You can't sit around and dwell on it. You have to get past it and get stronger.

Q: You're engaged to Atlanta Hawks forward Shelden Williams. Have you set a date?

CP: No, not yet. But I'm excited!

Q: Any ideas about where you're headed for your honeymoon?

CP: That's not my job! He's supposed to surprise me and tell me where we're going!

Q: How many interviews have you done this season?

CP: Oh, gosh. Um ... It's not every day, but maybe four or five a week.

Q: So do people leave you alone around campus, or are you surrounded everywhere you go?

CP: Well, it's something that you just have to deal with. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's better than playing somewhere where nobody cares, where it might be like, 'Oh, she's tall, she must play basketball.' People actually know who we are -- not just me. I think that's just a testament to just how far this program has taken women's basketball.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Summitt has warning for 'Crazies'

Lady Vols would cancel series with Duke if fans taunt Hornbuckle

Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt hopes that Duke’s “Cameron Crazies” waving plastic shopping bags and chanting “Wal-Mart” at Lady Vols guard Alexis Hornbuckle are things of the past.

If not, then the series between the two schools might be.

Second-ranked Tennessee (17-1) and No. 10 Duke (15-4) play at 7 p.m. Monday (TV: ESPN2) at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

“I wouldn’t be in favor of continuing the series if we’re going to go in a gym and they’re going to take personal shots at one of our players,’’ Summitt said.

On UT’s last visit, the Crazies, Duke’s famous student section, used the shopping-bag props to torment Hornbuckle for being arrested as a high school senior on a misdemeanor shoplifting charge at a Wal-Mart in West Virginia.

Hornbuckle, who is expected to play Monday after missing Thursday’s 98-55 victory over Arkansas because of a diagnostic test, said that she isn’t worried about the situation. This visit couldn’t be any worse than the first, when she committed six turnovers and shot 0-for-4 from the foul line, when the “Wal-Mart” chants rang the loudest in her ears.

“It’s nothing,’’ the senior said this week. “It’s something I laugh at now. I mean think about it. It’s something I did when I was 18 years old. I’m 22. That was back in the day.”

Summitt has a different attitude and already has discussed her stance with the Lady Vols athletic administration.

“Even if she’s not going to be there,’’ said Summitt, anticipating future games after Hornbuckle’s departure, “why would you subject a student-athlete to that type of harassment?’’

The contract between the two schools is thought to include a visit by Duke to Knoxville next season before expiring.

Duke announced Friday that Monday’s game is sold out. Tennessee’s two previous visits drew sellouts as well.

“This series has been a great series,’’ Summitt said, “but I was very disappointed the last time I was there with the behavior, in particular of the students toward Alexis. They stepped way over the line on that one.

“Hopefully we’ve moved on.”

Recruiting Rankings: Tennessee had four signees and Connecticut three among Rise magazine’s top 20 high school girls basketball recruits.

UConn signee Elena Delle Donne was ranked No. 1 with UT signee Glory Johnson of Webb School ranked No. 2.

The Lady Vols and Huskies each had two more signees ranked in the top 10. Future Lady Vols Shekinna Stricklen and Amber Gray were ranked sixth and eighth, respectively. Huskies signees Caroline Doty and Tiffany Hayes were ninth and 10th.

The other UT signee recognized was Alyssia Brewer at No. 18.

Three LSU signees — Ayana Dunning, Destini Hughes and LaShondra Barrett — were ranked 12th, 15th and 16th, respectively.

WBCA Awards: Tennessee had a strong presence in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s 2008 superlative awards for Divisions I and II.

Tennessee was recognized for best tradition, best community support and as the best host school. Summitt was named most competitive coach. She and associate head coach Holly Warlick were named best coaching combo.

UT’s pep band also snared a top honor.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

(2) Tennessee 98, Arkansas 55

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Candace Parker knew the Lady Vols wanted to get off to a quick start against Arkansas. Mission accomplished.

No. 2 Tennessee jumped out to an 18-0 lead in a 98-55 rout of Arkansas on Thursday night, tying the team record of 13 3-pointers along the way.

"That was our goal -- to get out to a great start," said Parker, who scored 24 points. "The shots were falling, we were playing good defense and making steals. We held them scoreless through the first timeout."

The margin of victory was the largest of the season for the Lady Vols (17-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference), who shot 50 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from behind the arc.

Angie Bjorklund scored a career-high 29 points and tied the Lady Vols 3-point record for the third time this season, hitting 7-of-16. The freshman had four open shots in the last 3 minutes to break the record but missed all of them.

"The team was trying to get me the ball tonight," she said. "We've got a lot of games left. We'll see if the record comes."

Ayana Brereton finally found the basket for Arkansas (16-4, 1-4) with 15:17 left in the first half, earning applause from the Lady Vols fans.

Brereton finished with 13 points. Sarah Pfeifer led the Lady Razorbacks with 16 points and Brittney Vaughn had 11.

"The game was over at the beginning," Pfeifer said.

The Lady Razorbacks missed Lauren Ervin perhaps more than ever. The senior, who leads the team with 16.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, is out for the season after tearing a knee ligament against LSU in the conference opener on Jan. 10.

Tennessee was missing one of its own best shooters in Alexis Hornbuckle, who is second on the team with 11.1 points per game. Hornbuckle missed the game because she was undergoing scheduled medical testing but was expected to return Monday against No. 10 Duke.

Bjorklund got hot in the first half, sinking 6-of-8 from the field and 5-of-7 from 3-point range. Fellow freshman Sydney Smallbone also added three 3s in the first half.

"In recruiting we identified them as two of the best shooters in their class," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "We expected to add to our back court and 3-point game. I am pleased where we are with both of them."

Smallbone and Nicky Anosike both finished with 12 points and Anosike grabbed 11 rebounds.

The Lady Razorbacks cut the margin to 28-15 with 10:23 in the first half with an 8-0 run on the shooting of Vaughn and Pfeifer.

But Parker helped the Lady Vols build their lead up to 56-28 at halftime, stealing the ball from Brittney Richardson, dribbling behind her back and breaking away for a one-handed layup with 42 seconds left.

Tennessee slowly built its lead after the half, but Arkansas' 37.5 percent 3-point shooting kept the margin from growing larger.

The Lady Vols dominated the Lady Razorbacks in every category, leading rebounding 48-31, bench points 25-10, second-chance points 18-2, points off turnovers 30-18 and points in the paint 40-14.

Tennessee had not hit 13 treys since 2005, against Mississippi.

"I didn't take the Arkansas job to get humbled by Tennessee every time I come into this arena," Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. "I think we can get there, but we are in the beginning phases."

Auguste to start for Hornbuckle tonight against Arkansas

Alberta Auguste recalls what Tennessee women's basketball once looked like without Alexis Hornbuckle.

On her recruiting visit two years ago, she had a fourth-row aisle seat to watch the Lady Vols commit 28 turnovers and suffer 20 steals at the greedy hands of Florida in a 95-93 overtime loss. Hornbuckle, then a sophomore, was missing because of a fractured right wrist.

Auguste, who was a standout player at Central Florida Community College, verbally committed to UT before leaving campus. Sympathy played a part in her decision.

"They needed some help from a guard standpoint,'' she said of that day.

No. 2 Tennessee (16-1, 4-0 SEC) faces a similar predicament against SEC rival Arkansas (16-3, 1-3) at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: MyVLT2). Hornbuckle will miss the game because of a diagnostic test for an undisclosed health issue.

Auguste will start in Hornbuckle's place. Her assignment is to be a big help.

"To me it's not a big deal,'' Auguste said. "It might be a big deal to everyone else. I'm humble about the situation."

First and foremost, UT coach Pat Summitt wants the 5-foot-11 senior, who's averaging 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game as a reserve, to be mindful of the proper mindset.

"Bring intensity on every possession,'' Summitt said, "whether it's on offense or defense."

The coach's checklist of responsibilities includes helping set the tone on defense and rebounding. On offense, Auguste is to look for her shot and otherwise keep the ball moving.

Auguste will not be asked to work a shift at point guard. Hornbuckle has been an extra point guard since last season. She manned the position as a sophomore after Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood transferred.

In this case, Summitt said freshmen Sydney Smallbone and Angie Bjorklund will relieve starter Shannon Bobbitt. If necessary, Candace Parker could help.

"She's not a point guard,'' Summitt said of Auguste. "She doesn't need to be a point guard. I don't know why the head coach would put her in that position but I did.

"Let her play to her strengths. When she's at the point position, she's not thinking score. She's just thinking get someone else the ball. She's not rebounding as well. Her decision-making is a lot better from the wing that it is from the point."

Hornbuckle thinks Auguste will do OK as her stand-in.

"When it's all said and done, you know she's going to give you defense, she's going to hustle,'' Hornbuckle said. "She's knocking down shots now. I think she'll be fine."

Auguste is experienced enough to view her role in the context of team play. She mentioned how the team covered for Parker, who was suspended for the first half of a Jan. 2 game at DePaul because of a curfew violation. Without their leading scorer, the Lady Vols still had 53 points by halftime of their 102-68 victory.

"We didn't let it affect us,'' Auguste said. "We're not going to let this affect us as well. We know everything is going to be all right. We count on each other. We believe in each other."

Auguste isn't the only Lady Vol on the spot. Summitt said Bjorklund needs to be more assertive. The starting forward has scored five points and attempted nine shots in the last two games. After Bjorklund scored zero points and attempted three shots against Vanderbilt on Sunday, Summitt threatened replacing Bjorklund with Auguste if the trend continued.

With Auguste temporarily occupied, it's up to Bjorklund to pull the trigger.

"A player like Angie, who shoots the ball as well as she does, she really has to hunt her shots,'' Summitt said. "We screen for her, but she still has to find open shots."

UT's situation pales in comparison to the plight of Arkansas, which is trying to cover for the loss of Lauren Ervin. The 6-3 center suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 10, depriving the Lady Razorbacks of their top scorer (16 points per game) and rebounder (11.0).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hornbuckle Out for One Game

Playing without Alexis Hornbuckle will be like missing several women's basketball players for Tennessee.

The senior guard won't be available for Thursday's SEC game against Arkansas because of a diagnostic test for an undisclosed health issue. UT coach Pat Summitt itemized Monday what the Lady Vols will be doing without and the list was lengthy.

"She (Hornbuckle) sets the tempo for us on the defensive end, and she's one of the best rebounding guards to ever play in this program,'' Summitt said. "She's passionate about playing defense but now she's added to her offensive package and been more efficient there."

A good measure of Hornbuckle's varied abilities is the fact that she and former Mississippi State star Tan White are the only SEC players to have at least 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, 400 assists, 300 steals and 50 blocks during their careers.

Summitt described Hornbuckle's impending one-game absence as a matter of timing.

"This was the best time to do this and take care of the situation,'' Summitt said. "And I didn't want to prolong it. I just thought let's get it over with and move on."

Hornbuckle downplayed how her absence will impact the Lady Vols.

"They'll be OK,'' she said. "They're a strong team. They're coming together well."

Senior Alberta Auguste will start in place of Hornbuckle. This will be the second time in three games that UT will have just eight players available. Forward Alex Fuller sat out last Thursday's game at Kentucky to rest her knees.

Player Of The Week: Forward Candace Parker, who missed Monday's practice because of illness, was named SEC player of the week for the third time this season.

She averaged 21 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in victories over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. She shot 19-for-26 from the floor (73 percent) in the two games.

Counting her five freshman-of-the-week awards, Parker has received 13 weekly honors from the SEC, the most in league history.

After Parker scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Vanderbilt on Sunday, Commodores coach Melanie Balcomb said Parker's teammates make her harder to guard.

"Their starting lineup, it's very difficult to leave any one of those players,'' Balcomb said. "You can't double and triple (team) her like you could in the past."

High-Low Blues: The Lady Vols were burned again Sunday by high-low plays with passes coming from the high post to set up scoring plays under the basket.

"It's one of the hardest things to defend,'' Summitt said. "We've gotten better. We're going to get a lot better. We're going to make it a priority every day in practice."

The Lady would like to benefit from the play as well. But it will require more high-post shots from players like center Nicky Anosike and freshman forward/center Vicki Baugh.

"The problem we have is so much of the time Candace is attracting a player and a half,'' Summitt said. "A lot of times we have that high-post look."

Regarding Baugh, who had nine points and four assists Sunday, Summitt said, "She has the green light. She has to think shot first, pass second."

Awesome Baby: The V Foundation for cancer research has announced that Summitt and Texas Tech men's coach Bob Knight will be the honored guests at the Dick Vitale Gala for cancer research May 16 in Sarasota, Fla.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

(2) Tennessee 79, Vanderbilt 63

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Candace Parker scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help No. 2 Tennessee beat in-state rival Vanderbilt 79-63 on Sunday.

Shannon Bobbitt added 14 points for the Lady Vols while Alexis Hornbuckle and Alex Fuller both had 10.

Vanderbilt failed to score in the first 3:15 of the game as Tennessee jumped out to an 8-0 lead. The Lady Vols (16-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) entered halftime with a 37-24 lead.

The Commodores (13-6, 2-2) cut the Lady Vols lead to 21-18 with 5:47 left on a Christina Wirth layup, but Tennessee broke out with a 16-6 run ending as Hornbuckle hit a layup underneath the basket with 22 seconds before the half.

The Lady Vols held their double-digit lead throughout the second half with the help of free throw shooting. Tennessee, a 73.1 percent free throw shooting team, made 18 of 23 attempts while Vanderbilt only sank three of nine attempts.

Wirth kept Vanderbilt from suffering a worse deficit with her 3-point shooting, going 6-for-10 from behind the arc. She finished with 24 points, and freshman Hannah Tuomi had 10 points and 11 rebounds for her first career double-double.

Tennessee capitalized on Vanderbilt's mistakes, scoring 29 points off 24 turnovers.

The Lady Vols also used their size to control the Commodores, scoring 38 points in the paint and grabbing 39 rebounds to Vanderbilt's 33. At one point, the 6-foot-4 Parker simply took the ball out of 5-foot-11 Jence Rhoads' hands as she held it above her head.

Vanderbilt, which ranks as the SEC's best field goal shooting team and averages 48.4 percent, only shot 34.5 percent from the field in the first half.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Post it note for Baugh's new role

Freshman sees bright side of change

Women's basketball has given new meaning to the word "huge" for Vicki Baugh.

No dictionary entry does justice to what the Tennessee freshman has experienced so far this collegiate season.

"I always thought I was huge,'' the 6-foot-4 forward/center said, "until I got here."

Until she came up against the likes of Oklahoma's Courtney Paris, Stanford's Jayne Appel or even teammate Nicky Anosike - to name a few long shadows.

"There's huge as in round," Baugh said, "or huge as in strong like Nick."

And huge as in the challenge faced by a freshman learning how to play on the low block against these giants with virtually no prior experience.

It's almost like playing a new game for Baugh, whose on-the-job training continues when No. 2 Tennessee (15-1, 3-0 SEC) faces instate rival Vanderbilt (13-5, 2-1) at 3 today at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: FSN).

While Baugh played some down low on defense during her high school career in Sacramento, Calif., she was an all-court player on offense, where she scored 1,870 points and built the bulk of her prep All-American profile.

She came to Tennessee with no post moves, no footwork and no real sense for playing with her back to the basket.

"It gets frustrating but I always look at the positive side of things,'' Baugh said. "I know it's making me better and I'm learning something new that can only add to my game. I haven't lost what I had in high school."

To her benefit, Baugh has been able to learn without shouldering a heavy load.

She's averaging 4.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 13.2 minutes per game. Even with teammate Alex Fuller resting her achy knees - she will play today - and Tennessee down to eight players for Thursday's game at Kentucky, Baugh played her usual role. She came off the bench to score seven points and grab five rebounds in 16 minutes.

Baugh looked more comfortable on the court, probably because she scored both of her baskets while squarely facing the hoop.

Baugh isn't scrutinized like classmate Angie Bjorklund, who starts and is expected to be anything but a freshman.

Nor does Baugh have the same responsibilities as some of the opposing freshmen.

Two rookies - Jence Rhoads and Hannah Tuomi - start for Vanderbilt. The 5-10 Rhoads will be the fourth consecutive freshman to start at point guard against Tennessee.

She previews as the best. In three SEC games, Rhoads is second in the league in assists per game at 6.33.

She's fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio with 19 assists and nine turnovers.

By comparison, Baugh's role is secondary in nature. However, UT coach Pat Summitt is beginning to push for an upgrade.

"We have to have Vicki Baugh at a different level come postseason to make a run at a championship,'' she said. "I feel strongly about what she can bring to our team. If you look at her athleticism, speed and quickness and her ability to defend and board, there is such a great upside to her game.

"What I'm looking for now is some consistency on the offensive end in terms of being able to make good decisions and not rush."

Summitt revisited her timetable after Thursday's game, adding some urgency in saying, "We've got to get her ready. I keep saying postseason."

Summitt sounded like she was thumbing through a calendar, counting the days until March. Baugh's points and her relative composure against Kentucky were a source of assurance.

On the other hand, her traveling violation on a post-up move, a call everyone in the gym made along with official Dennis Demayo, was not.

"Her best basketball is so much out in front of her,'' said Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood, who works with Baugh. "It's hard to project how quickly a developmental process is going to take place."

Anosike has her own timetable for Baugh and it's pointing toward the offseason rather than the postseason.

"It's hard to improve throughout the season, really the offseason is where you really need to do most of your improvement," Anosike said. "I think she has to continue to stay positive this season. I think that's the biggest thing. And then the next biggest thing is to concentrate on the offseason."

Anosike knows what she's talking about.

As a freshman, the 6-4 center was in Baugh's basketball shoes, assuming the same role after playing in the open floor at St. Peter's for Girls School on Staten Island, N.Y.

"In my opinion, it's the hardest transition from high school to college that a player can make,'' Anosike said. "From someone who faces the basket to playing with your back to the basket. It's going to be a hard journey to make to being a true post player for her, just like it was for me.''

Anosike still wrestles with some of the shot attempts, along with the subtleties of space and timing. It's definitely a different workplace down low.

"When you're going toward the basket, speed is like the biggest advantage that you use,'' she said. "When your back is to the basket, you kind of have to slow down and I guess use smarts to see what's open.

"You have such a small space to work with from the block to the basket. When you're facing the basket and going toward the basket you basically have the whole (foul) lane."

Anosike thinks Baugh's athleticism will provide more leeway in her development. Lockwood said Baugh projects not as a pure post player but rather as a versatile, mobile power forward.

Even now the 47.9 percent field goal shooter is being encouraged to attempt face-up shots like she took against Kentucky and to dribble up the floor after pulling down rebounds.

"Her bread is going to be buttered as a midrange player,'' Lockwood said.

Still, she needs post skills to augment her fundamentals. Hence, the learning experience that felt like a starting-over process to Anosike.

"You're used to being such a great player, used to being the best player on the floor,'' she said. "Then you get here and it's like you really don't know anything. That can get frustrating. It's easy to get down on yourself."

Baugh characterizing her situation in terms of good fortune more than anything, talking about getting a free education to play basketball at a top program. If someone yells at her, she takes it as constructive, not personal.

"I understand it's all for help,'' Baugh said. "If they didn't care, they wouldn't say nothing."

Anosike definitely cares and is trying to be the teammate she longed for as a freshman. She watches Baugh for any signs of frustration and responds in golden-rule fashion.

"Every time I see it I make sure I go up to her,'' Anosike said. "That's something I didn't have when I was a freshman. I didn't have anyone come up to me and say, 'Nicky, you're only a freshman, you have time.' I didn't have anyone who gave me any positive feedback when I felt down. And I felt down a lot. I remember that my freshman and sophomore years. I just make sure while I'm here that doesn't happen to her."

That kind of support is, in a word, huge.

Friday, January 18, 2008

(2) Tennessee 65, Kentucky 40

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Even after a lopsided victory, Candace Parker did some self-diagnosis of what she believes is ailing the defending national champions.

Sure, No. 2 Tennessee weathered a sloppy first half and cruised to a 65-40 victory over Kentucky. Parker was still predicting the team would get an earful from coach Pat Summitt this week in practice because the Lady Vols were outrebounded 36-28.

"We're trying to take steps, and I guess admitting you have a problem is the first step," said Parker, who scored 23 points. "We know we need rebounds."

Parker was accepting some of the blame, but in Summitt's mind, the All-American who Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell calls the best female player in the country -- college or professional -- needs to get some help from her teammates.

"Sometimes we stand around and watch Candace Parker play and rebound," Summitt said. "That's something we have to get better effort out of, across the board."

Parker had seven rebounds and made 10 of 14 shots, one below her season-high for baskets in game. Twice, she put up a highlight-reel left-handed hook shot that the Wildcat defenders could only watch sail through the net.

Things didn't start out quite so easy for the Lady Vols (15-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference). They had no assists and scored just a 27 points in the first half -- their lowest total of the season.

"We came into the locker room pretty drained, and we didn't have much energy," Parker said.

But despite Tennessee's early woes, the Lady Vols never trailed, largely because Kentucky's shooters were even worse.

The Wildcats (8-9, 2-1) connected on just 9 of 23 shots in the half, and six of the misses were airballs.

Second half, it was all Tennessee. Kentucky had cut the deficit to 11, but the Lady Vols went on a 17-3 run during a six-minute span late in the game to turn it into a blowout.

"I didn't think that we gave enough effort over 40 minutes," Mitchell said. "About 32 minutes is what it looked like to me, so that's not going to get it done."

The Wildcats didn't get on the scoreboard until nearly six minutes into the game on a contested layup by Catina Bett. By then, Tennessee had built an 8-0 lead.

Kentucky pulled to within 11-9 with 9:30 left in the half after consecutive driving layups by freshman Amber Smith, but the Lady Vols scored the next six points to pad the lead. Mitchell credited Smith for at least giving his team a spark.

"I think we came out very aggressive," Smith said. "We never gave up, and we kept taking it to them."

The Wildcats won the rebounding battle in large part due to the return of senior center Sarah Elliott, who had been listed as doubtful for the game with a left knee strain.

Samantha Mahoney led Kentucky with 12 points.

Tennessee extended its streak to 318 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, albeit barely. The Lady Vols missed their first seven attempts from long range and didn't connect on their lone one of the game until Angie Bjorklund made one with under four minutes left.

The last time these teams met in Lexington in 2006, the unranked Wildcats shocked the top-ranked Lady Vols 66-63 at Rupp Arena. Kentucky hasn't beaten Tennessee at Memorial Coliseum, the regular home for the women's team, since 1986.

Mitchell, the first coach to start 2-0 in the SEC in his inaugural season at Kentucky, was handed his first league defeat. Mitchell was a graduate assistant at Tennessee during the Lady Vols' Final Four run in 2000.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pat Summitt's Jalapeno-Corn Casserole

4 cans white shoepeg corn, drained
1 stick margarine
1 (8-ounce) package Philadelphia cream cheese
1 tablespoon Jalapeno slices, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain corn and place in baking dish. Melt butter and cream cheese together and pour over corn. Stir together, adding Jalapeno slices to taste. (You can also add a little Jalapeno juice to the mix if you prefer.) Bake 40-45 minutes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fuller likely to miss Kentucky game

Alex Fuller watched Tennessee’s practice on Monday.

She’s expected to do the same for the Lady Vols’ SEC women’s basketball game at Kentucky Thursday, rather than play her usual role of reserve forward.

The 6-foot-3 redshirt junior, who sat out her freshman season after undergoing multiple knee surgeries, is dealing with soreness and some swelling in her knees. With the season’s duration in mind, rest and medication has been prescribed. Hence, the decision to have Fuller sit out against the Wildcats.

“I didn’t want to play her (Sunday) but her family was there,’’ said UT coach Pat Summitt, referring to the game at South Carolina. “I said ‘Fine but you have to rest after this.’ ”

Fuller has been a valuable reserve, averaging 7.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. When Candace Parker was suspended for the first half of a Jan. 2 game at DePaul, Fuller stepped into the starting lineup and scored 17 of her career-high 19 points by halftime.

“She’s having the best year of her career,’’ Summitt said. “I think we’re doing the right thing to err on the side of caution.”

Fuller had company on the sidelines Monday. Freshman forward Vicki Baugh tweaked her left iliotibial band, the thick tendinous fascia that runs along the upper portion of the leg. She sat out the latter portion of practice but is expected to be fine.

Freshman center Kelley Cain, meanwhile, continued her rehabilitation from surgery last month to address the tracking of her right kneecap. Jenny Moshak, the Lady Vols assistant athletic director for sports medicine, said Cain is “way ahead’’ of schedule in the eight-month rehab process. Cain will be on crutches for another month.

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

Talented Isn’t Enough: Sunday’s uneven effort against South Carolina served to underscore the point Summitt has been making recently about the Lady Vols. She thinks UT is the most talented team but not the best team, at least not now.

“In order for the most talented team to be the best team, they have to bring the best effort all the time,’’ she said.

“There’s a lot of teams in this country that are very talented. So you can have the best talent, but if you’re going against teams that are talented and play hard on every possession and play well together, I mean they can beat the most talented team if they’re not playing that way.”

Rebound Practice: Regarding UT’s inconsistent rebounding, Summitt is blaming herself for not incorporating it into the team’s shooting drills.

“I can’t believe it didn’t hit me until (Sunday) night,’’ she said. “We haven’t presented them with the type of drill work and emphasis to allow us to make it a habit. But we will, trust me.”

Notebook: Tennessee remained No. 2 behind Connecticut in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 poll. ... The SEC lost a team from the rankings with Arkansas dropping out after two losses. ... Point guard Shannon Bobbitt has reached 100 career 3-pointers in her second season with the Lady Vols. “It’s absolutely amazing,’’ Summitt said. “I keep saying she doesn’t get the respect.” ... Kentucky center Sarah Elliott suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s game against Mississippi State. The 6-6 senior is expected to play against Tennessee.

Dick Vitale Gala

College basketball's Knight and Summitt to be honored at benefit

SARASOTA -- Dick Vitale has been cleared to speak again so it should make it easier for the Lakewood Ranch resident to push along plans for building on the event he holds to benefit The V Foundation for cancer research.

In fact, his scare with throat surgery, coupled with the passing last March of 5-year-old Payton Wright of Sarasota after battling a rare form of brain cancer, has redoubled Vitale's passion to find ways to raise money for cancer research. The ESPN broadcaster is counting on the third annual Dick Vitale Gala on May 16 to take a major step toward that goal.

"I am on a mission," Vitale wrote last week about a target of raising $1 million for a research grant to fight pediatric cancer. "I am driven to help people battle that disease."

That mission will be helped by Bob Knight and Pat Summitt, college basketball's winningest coaches in Division I. The two luminaries will be the honored featured guests for the gala to be held at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.

Knight, the former Indiana coach now at Texas Tech, has won three national championships. He goes for win No. 900 on Wednesday at home against Texas A&M. Last season, Knight passed Dean Smith as the winningest coach in men's Division I basketball and, with a win Wednesday, would become the first men's coach to reach the 900 plateau at that level.

Tennessee's win over Auburn on Thursday gave Summitt, the Lady Vols coach, win No. 960. The only other female coach to crack the 900 barrier was longtime Texas coach Jody Conradt, who retired last season with exactly 900 wins. Summitt has won seven national titles, second only to John Wooden's 10 at UCLA.

Vitale has been a tireless worker over the years for The V Foundation, which was formed in honor of former North Carolina State men's basketball coach Jimmy Valvano. Vitale and Valvano worked together at ESPN until Valvano died of cancer in 1993.

Vitale took up the cause for Wright after learning of her battle last year. Following Wright's death, Vitale became determined to keep her name alive through a research grant.

Those seeking information about reserving a table or sponsorship packages for the gala should call 1-800-4JimmyV. More information is available at Vitale's Web site:

Vitale is currently recuperating from throat surgery to remove ulcerated lesions on his left vocal cord and has not been able to speak for more than three weeks. He has also been battling a bladder infection that has required a pair of three-day hospital stays.

Vitale is scheduled to return to the "Mike & Mike in the Morning" ESPN Radio show Feb. 4 and plans to call his first game Feb. 6 between Duke and North Carolina.

Until then, he continues to work on the gala, an event that had Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as its honored guest a year ago and now has Knight and Summitt.

Vitale is already working on next year's event and has revealed that the gala will honor Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino and Florida men's basketball coach Billy Donovan. Pitino coached Donovan at Providence and Donovan was an assistant to Pitino at Kentucky.

For those unable to attend the gala, donations to The V Foundation to support the research grant may be made to The V Foundation c/o Tandem Enterprises, 7810 Mathern Court, Lakewood Ranch, Florida 34202.

The V Foundation Web site can be accessed at

Sunday, January 13, 2008

(2) Tennessee 71, South Carolina 48

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Coach Pat Summitt sees a Tennessee team that can do it all. Her mission is to make sure it does.

So after arguably one of the Lady Vols top defensive efforts Thursday night in an 85-52 victory over Auburn, Summitt turned things up with an intense press Sunday at South Carolina.

The result? No. 2 Tennessee's 35th straight win against the Gamecocks, 71-48. It was the fewest points the Lady Vols have allowed this season.

"When they decide they want to press, they're one of the best pressing teams in the country," said Summitt, who's won seven NCAA titles and 961 games. "When they want to run, they're one of the best running teams in the country. When they want to rebound, they're one of the best rebounding teams in the country.

"We feel our job is to keep them working hard, keep them motivated and keeping them together," Summitt said. "And for the most part, they've done that."

Shannon Bobbitt led Tennessee with 20 points, while star junior Candace Parker added 15 as the Lady Vols started 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the 11th straight season.

Bobbitt's performance matched her top scoring effort in an SEC game.

Summitt has chased perfection her entire career. She admits players see her expectations at times as unattainable.

Parker says that's the very reason players covet the Lady Vols program.

"She always expects the best out of everyone of her players," Parker said. "Our team knows that she knows what it takes championships. ... I feel as a team, we've bought into her philosophy."

Parker scored the team's second basket in a 9-0 start and added another bucket and two foul shots as Tennessee broke on top 17-5 with less than nine minutes gone.

South Carolina never got closer than 10 points the rest of way.

Ilona Burgrova led South Carolina (11-6, 0-2) with 16 points and a career-best 13 rebounds.

Parker -- and the large contingent of Tennessee fans at the Colonial Center -- had a brief hold-your-breath moment when she banged her knee between two South Carolina defenders.

Parker rolled and winced before getting up and taking a few limping steps. But after a brief rest on the bench, Parker was back running the floor.

South Carolina scored the first three baskets of the second half to cut Tennessee's 23-point lead to 37-20. But the Lady Vols went on a 7-0 run capped by a basket by Parker to restore control.

The Gamecocks haven't beaten Tennessee since a 56-52 victory on Jan. 23, 1980.

South Carolina is 0-3 against top 10 opponents this year, all by lopsided margins. It earlier fell to then second-ranked Connecticut 97-39 and then No. 9 Oklahoma 95-63.

Burgrova hopes South Carolina will use the lessons learned in facing Tennessee during the rest of the SEC season. "We can go and get what we want," she said.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Parker eyes 2nd title as pros beckon

It is not an official farewell tour, but Midlands basketball fans hoping to catch Tennessee All-American Candace Parker would be well advised to head to the Colonial Center on Sunday.

Hoops junkies can see plenty of Parker on YouTube. The popular video-sharing Web site features clips of the 6-foot-4 standout dunking against Army in the NCAA tournament, accepting the Wooden Award as the nation’s top women’s player last season, and dunking some more with former Lady Vols standout Michelle Snow during a Team USA practice at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

But with Parker expected to become the first women’s player to leave school early for the WNBA, No. 2 Tennessee’s trip to South Carolina likely will be the last chance for area fans to see Parker play in person — at least in a Lady Vols’ uniform.

Parker has yet to announce her intentions, but most signs point to the 21-year-old beginning her professional career following this season.

Asked this week in a phone interview if leading the Lady Vols to a second consecutive NCAA title would be a fitting end to her college career, Parker said: “To some extent, I think it would justify my decision to leave even more so.”

Given that the WNBA draft falls on the heels of the NCAA finals, Parker pointed out that she has to make up her mind before the tournament begins.

So when might that be?

“I’m trying to wait as long as I can,” Parker said, laughing a bit. “I have no idea. I’ll sit down with my family and friends and decide.”

There is little left for Parker to accomplish in college. A two-time All-American, Parker claimed two national player-of-the-year awards last season, won an NCAA title and became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game when she jammed twice in a first-round game against Army in 2006.

But perhaps the most telling sign that Parker has reached superstar status came last month when her benching at DePaul was one of the top stories on SportsCenter. Parker was held out of the first half after missing curfew prior to the game, played near her hometown of Naperville, Ill., and attended by 60 of her friends and family members.

“Sometimes people love controversy and they love — the media covers things like that,” Parker said. “So I wasn’t surprised when that was the lead story and everybody found out about it.”

Parker is used to the attention. Pat Summitt won an intense recruiting battle for Parker, who still has a photograph of her and Summitt taken when Parker, then in seventh grade, attended a Lady Vols’ game at DePaul.

Nor has Summitt forgotten the first time she saw Parker play during an AAU tournament in the Raleigh-Durham area.

“When I walked in and saw her, I was like, I do not want to play against this young lady,” Summitt recalled. “I just thought there was a great upside for Candace and I thought she’s got a chance to be one of the best that’s ever played the game.”

Summitt puts Parker in the same rarefied air as former Tennessee stars Tamika Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw. But what makes Parker unique is her versatility: The redshirt junior, who sat out her first year at Tennessee with a knee injury, is listed as a forward-center-guard on the Lady Vols’ roster.

Parker ranks among the nation’s top 10 scorers with 21.3 points per game and leads her team in rebounding (8.7), field-goal percentage (54.8), blocked shots (2.3) and steals (2.6).

Experts believe Parker will be the first player taken in the WNBA draft.

“The WNBA needs stars. And she’s obviously one of the most heralded players coming out of women’s basketball,” said John Lombardo, who covers the league for Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal. “She’s just an exciting player, which the WNBA needs.”

But Parker will bring more to the WNBA than a soft shooting touch and good leaping ability. Named one of People magazine’s 100 most beautiful people last spring, Parker is engaged to Atlanta Hawks forward Shelden Williams and could bring crossover appeal to a league struggling to fill arenas.

But those are concerns for another day for Parker, who is trying to savor what likely will be her last semester on campus. Parker, on track to graduate in May, enjoys cooking, going to Tennessee’s rec center to watch friends play intramural sports, and checking out the Vols’ football games — on TV.

“I love football, watching football on television,” she said. “But 108,000 (fans), that’s just too much for me.”

They represent 108,000 potential autograph-seekers from what Summitt calls all the “Candace Parker fan clubs out there.”

But Summitt said Parker does a good job keeping it all in perspective.

“I really try not to think about it because they say college is some of the best years of your life, and you want to enjoy it,” Parker said. “I never really understood because people are always like, AAU’s the best time of your life, and high school’s the best time of your life. You don’t realize it while you’re in it, then you look back and say, ‘Wow, those times were great and those memories were great.’ ”

Thursday, January 10, 2008

(2) Tennessee 85, (22) Auburn 52

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt told the Lady Vols she wanted them to play more aggressively. Nicky Anosike was listening.

Anosike scored a career-high 20 points and second-ranked Tennessee physically dominated No. 22 Auburn in an 85-52 win Thursday night.

"I thought she just set the tone really at both ends of the floor," Summitt said. "It was really good to see her be much more aggressive offensively without any hesitation."

Anosike and Candace Parker dominated the paint and the boards, both achieving double-doubles as Parker scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Anosike pulled in 12 for the Lady Vols (13-1).

The Southeastern Conference's second-leading scorer, DeWanna Bonner, finished with 19 points for Auburn (12-4), but even the 6-foot-4 forward was no match for the Lady Vols' size in the SEC opener for both teams.

The Lady Vols finished with 34 points in the paint, 33 points off turnovers and 22 second-chance points. They also came away with 12 blocks and 15 steals -- five from Anosike.

"I guess I just came out and wanted to work hard and play hard. And I did," Anosike said.

The Tigers have lost three straight games, and their 52 points were the fewest of the season.

"I tell you that was a long 40-minute game," Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. "Tennessee's overall size ... it's just hard to get around that, it's hard to pass through that."

Tennessee didn't score in the first 2 minutes, and Auburn jumped out to a 6-0 lead.

But Bonner fouled Anosike as she was taking a shot, and the 6-foot-4 center made both free throws. That kicked off a 19-0 run that ended on a jumper by Angie Bjorklund to put the Lady Vols up 19-6 with 11:18 before halftime.

The Lady Vols opened the second half on a 10-0 run and slowly built their lead to 37 points -- their largest of the season -- with 5:51 left in the game off a 3-pointer by Bjorklund that put Tennessee up 79-42.

The Tigers didn't score in the second half until 15:34 left in the game, and shot only 24.2 percent in the half.

Sherell Hobbs added 12 points for the Tigers, and Trevesha Jackson grabbed seven rebounds.

Auburn was still missing guard Whitney Boddie, whom Fortner suspended for academic reasons. Freshman Alli Smalley, filling in for Boddie, scored four points.

"To come in with a freshman point guard who's only started three games ... it's tough," Fortner said. "I think she's going to be a really good little point guard, but we have some adjusting to do."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Coach Pat Summitt Talks About the Start of SEC Play

On the road swing at DePaul and Notre Dame last week…

“Our road schedule was a good one for us. We had time after the holidays to get in a lot of good practices and work on various aspects of our game. I thought it paid off for us, particularly in our DePaul game with our scouting report defense. We took it to heart and, overall, did a nice job there. We had good scouting at Notre Dame again. Overall there was better intensity and more consistent play for 40 minutes in those two games. That has been a focal point for us – to become a 40-minute team and not play the scoreboard, but to go out and play possession-by-possession basketball.”

On the upcoming Southeastern Conference schedule…

“I’m excited about conference play and opening up here at home. To be at home will be nice. With Auburn coming in that is number one on our list. They have one of the best players in the league in DeWanna Bonner. They are the type of team that can spread you out and play off the dribble and are very aggressive. It will be a challenge for our defense, particularly in the one-on-one game. We spend a lot of time trying to shore up our one-on-one game and our help and rotation. That is a place our basketball team will continue to be challenged and must continue to grow. As I look at South Carolina and Auburn, both have done a nice job of taking on some quality opponents. That is good for our league, and something I notice right off. South Carolina has great balance offensively, just like Auburn. There are some similarities there, in terms of having to guard, not only their best players, but also deeper into their rosters.”

On Auburn’s DeWanna Bonner…

“It is difficult to guard a player of her size. She can play on the perimeter and play off the dribble. She is unique, even in our league. Certainly, she is a go-to player. If you look at the number of shots she has taken, she is getting a lot of shots up. The one thing that Auburn does very well is spacing offensively. It’s not like you go out every year and guard a player of her size. The skills she has to possess such an effective face-up game and to be able to play off the dribble, the way she has, is interesting. I think back to when I saw her as a high school player, she has really developed and refined her skills. That will be a tough guard for us in terms of the matchup and her versatility. She has tightened up her skills and is playing very well for them and getting to the free throw line. She has done a great job using her face-up game to get to the free throw line even more.”

On whether Candace Parker is bothered by so much attention…

“Overall she has handled this well. Even coming out of high school she got a lot of attention because she was the best player in the country. It is magnified now at this level. There are times when we have to step in and protect her, especially when we are on the road. Everyone is seeking autographs and there are a lot of Candace Parker fan clubs out there. In terms of her getting distracted, I think she does a great job of keeping it all in perspective and staying focused with her team. It is important to her to be a great teammate, and I’ve been pleased overall the attention and what potentially could be distractions for her or for our team.”

On how it feels to cross paths with former Lady Vols…

“There are no secrets, because I’ve got so many former assistants, players and graduate assistants in the game now. They are all very familiar with Tennessee. It is special to have so many former Tennessee people, not only being a part of the women’s game, but also contributing to various programs around the country and right here in the SEC. It makes me very proud of all of them and what they bring to these respective programs.”

Pearl, Summitt Team Up For Tennessee Basketball TV Special

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee basketball coaches Bruce Pearl and Pat Summitt have joined together to co-host a first-of-its-kind Vol Network basketball television special.

This 60 minute exclusive gives a compelling insight into the Vols and Lady Vols programs as they prepare for the conference schedule.

In addition to Pearl and Summitt appearing together throughout the show, viewers will enjoy a special sit-down with Tennessee's Chris Lofton and Candace Parker.

'Inside the Orange' the Tennessee Basketball Television Special can be seen across the southeast on SportSouth on the following dates:

Wednesday January 9 at 10:00pm ET

Friday January 11 at 6:00pm ET

Saturday January 12 at 6:00pm ET

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pat Summitt's traveling road show

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In contrast to shades of brown and gray marking winter's residue outside that even Bob Ross would have struggled to liven up, layers of lime green and orange inside the Joyce Center complemented the festive atmosphere of a full house on hand Saturday as Tennessee beat host Notre Dame 87-63.

Such is life for Pat Summitt's traveling road show these days.

"Obviously, I enjoy it," Tennessee's coach said. "The hard part would be to get this team to play well when we didn't have a lot of people in the stands. I think they thrive on it."

The Lady Vols have long been famous for pulling in crowds at home to watch the team play on the court that now bears the coach's name, but the fervor doesn't stop at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. In their first six games away from home this season -- three on the road and three at neutral sites -- the Lady Vols played in front of an average of 7,182 fans. On the current trip alone, DePaul and Notre Dame, both ranked at the time, each filled their gym for the first time this season when Tennessee came to town.

Put another way, Tennessee is averaging more fans on the road this season than all but seven other programs did at home last season.

Tennessee drew record crowds on the road before Candace Parker showed up in Knoxville, including a program-best average of 9,208 in 2002-03. But No. 3 is clearly a big part of the reason this year's team is one of the toughest tickets this side of Hannah Montana. Regardless whether this season is Parker's collegiate farewell tour, she draws a level of individual attention matched by only a handful of other female team-sport athletes -- names like Abby Wambach, Cat Osterman and Jennie Finch.

Parker took the court by herself a little less than an hour before Saturday's game to get in a few shots. Before she could have pinned any letters on someone in a game of H-O-R-S-E, a crowd of people two-deep gathered along the baseline to snap pictures or simply marvel. Even if she chooses to view herself simply as an ambassador for the program, she's undeniably the chief diplomat in women's basketball.

"I came to Tennessee because I was one of those people lining the court," Parker said, recalling a childhood trip to DePaul to see Summitt and the Lady Vols. "To be a fan of women's basketball is to be a fan of Tennessee. And that's a responsibility that we have to represent our school. It's something we don't take for granted."

It's not just about good vibes and snapshot memories, either. There is a reason opponents shoot 62 percent from the free-throw line against Tennessee players who can't do anything but stand and watch. And there's a reason beyond offensive and defensive tactics why Tennessee answered a 3-0 Notre Dame lead Saturday with a 30-7 run.

Stopping Parker would be tough enough in front of an empty gym. Doing it with adrenaline and nerves pushing all those coaching instructions out of your head in front of a sea of orange and waves of noise is next to impossible. One breakdown begets another, and all of sudden, Angie Bjorklund finds herself standing alone on the 3-point line often enough to shoot 7-of-9 from behind the arc.

The spectacle that is Tennessee basketball affects things on the court almost as much as it affects the atmosphere in the stands.

"They are a great program and a great team, and I think that we played against that a little bit today," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I expected that maybe at the beginning of the game we would play like that and loosen up. But I thought that definitely we were intimidated."

Parker said after putting up 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists that she was glad to be heading home, as she called Knoxville, after spending most of a week in the cold and snow of her other home region. But after a one-game homestand against Auburn to open SEC play, it will be back on the road for eight more games.

And everywhere the Lady Vols go, the crowds will follow. For Parker and Tennessee, they're as much a part of life on the road as hotel keys and elevator rides.

"I never want them to take this for granted," Summitt said. "There were the days I started coaching and we had 50-some-odd people come to games, and you could count them all."

You can still tally the crowds pretty easily. Just check the arena capacity.

(3) Tennessee 87, (14) Notre Dame 63

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt thinks losing to Stanford may have been just what the third-ranked Lady Volunteers needed.

Since then, the Lady Vols have put together back-to-back complete-game efforts, beating No. 15 DePaul by 34 on Wednesday and No. 14 Notre Dame 87-63 on Saturday.

"I think our loss to Stanford got our attention," Summitt said. "I think our team had been a team that would come out and play hard and play well in spurts. But in terms of consistency and sense of urgency, I did not think we had played that way until DePaul. I thought DePaul we had 40 minutes of intensity. I thought we had the intensity here today."

Angie Bjorklund matched a career high with seven 3-pointers for 21 points and Candace Parker added 20 points to pace the Lady Vols. Bjorklund said the Irish left her wide open because they were double- and triple-teaming Parker.

"I think it helps to have five players out there on the court every time who can score," Bjorkland said.

Still, Bjorklund was surprised how wide open the Irish left her. So was Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.

"I think if I was that open I'd probably make them, too," she said. "It's a little easier when nobody's around you."

The Lady Vols (12-1) took control from the start, forcing the Irish out of their normally pressing defense by making their first four 3-pointers, three of them by Bjorklund. Tennessee used a 22-2 run midway through the first half to open a 30-10 lead and were in control throughout.

"I'm incredibly disappointed we weren't able to play our game and certainly their defense was a big reason why," McGraw said.

Parker said she knew with the Irish focusing on her a teammate would step up.

"I like to say, 'Pick your poison.' Because if you're going to double me then it's going to leave someone else open and they're perfectly capable of knocking down the shot or getting to the basket," Parker said.

Tennessee improved to 19-0 all time against the Irish (12-2), who had their winning streak stopped at 10 games.

Nicky Anosike added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Lady Vols and Alexis Hornbuckle had 10 points. Charel Allen led the Irish with 17 points and Devereaux Peters had 10 points and eight rebounds. The Irish shot just 27 percent in the first half and trailed 41-22 at intermission.

"We played scared," McGraw said. "We looked like we were afraid to get our shot blocked most of the game and never really took the shots we normally take."

The Lady Vols were 33-of-66 from the field, the best performance by an opponent against the Irish this season. Behind 7-of-9 shooting by Bjorklund, Tennessee was 11-of-19 from 3-point range, matching a season high for 3s. The 58 percent shooting from 3-point range also was a season best.

"We gave up 33 points from behind the 3-point line. You can't do that against any team, let alone a great team like Tennessee," McGraw said.

A crowd of 11,418 attended the game, the fourth sellout in Notre Dame history. The Lady Vols played in front their third straight sellout crowd.

"The hard part would be to get this team to play well when we didn't have a lot of people in the stands," Summitt said. "I think they thrive on it."

Summitt to speak at Big Orange Tipoff Club

The Big Orange Tipoff Club holds its first meeting of the season Wednesday, hours before Tennessee’s men tip off the SEC basketball season at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt leads off a lineup of speakers that should interest men’s and women’s basketball fans.

The lunch meeting begins at noon at Calhoun’s on the River. Members and non-members are welcome. Seating is usually close to capacity so early arrival is a good idea.

Six of the eight meetings are at noon on Wednesday, with the Jan. 24 meeting moved to Thursday to accommodate featured speaker Bruce Pearl.

Dale Brown, Tamika Catchings and Pearl’s mentor, Dr. Tom Davis, are also on the lineup, along with former UT captain Steve Ray and UT’s men’s broadcast team of Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp.

A speaker has not been announced for finale on March 1, a Saturday evening prior to the home game against Kentucky. Barry Smith of the Tipoff Club hints that it will be someone of great interest.

Smith said the Tipoff Club is about more than just lunch meetings.

There are three upcoming bus trips to away games: South Carolina on Jan. 12; Georgia on Feb. 16; Memphis on Feb. 23.

The South Carolina trip includes the men’s game on Saturday and the Lady Vols’ game on Sunday.

The club also invites several charitable organizations to watch the Vols or Lady Vols, providing tickets, concessions and sometimes transportation for eight groups to attend games this season.

For information on meetings, bus trips, visit the club’s Web site: Membership is $75.

Here’s the 2008 schedule: Jan. 9, Summitt; Jan. 16: Kesling and Bertelkamp; Jan. 24 (Thursday): Pearl; Jan. 30: former LSU coach Dale Brown; Feb. 6: Dr. Davis, former coach at Boston College, Stanford, Iowa and Drake; Feb. 13: Catchings, former Lady Vol star, WNBA All-Star and Olympian; Feb. 20: Ray; March 1 (Saturday): TBA.

Lady Vols need to be a consistent 40-minute team

Pat Summitt finally got the start-to-finish effort she had been looking for all season.

Now she wants to see if the Tennessee Lady Vols can do it again.

"They did pretty much everything we asked of them in the DePaul game (a 102-68 victory on Wednesday), but that's one game," Summitt said. "That's their best 40-minute game, but there are a lot more games to play.

"I can't judge them on one 40-minute game."

It's all about consistency for Summitt.

Consider the challenge issued as the No. 3-ranked Lady Vols (11-1) travel to No. 14-ranked Notre Dame (12-1) for a nationally televised game at 2 p.m. today (TV: WVLT).

This comes after UT hit a season-best 60.3 percent of its shots against DePaul and outrebounded the Blue Demons 47-33.

Still, the coach of the seven-time national champions isn't ready to get the Lady Vols sized for an eighth NCAA crown just yet.

"I don't know if they'll continue to want to be a 40-minute team and bring the intensity on the defensive end," Summitt said. "I know one thing, I'm not going to be happy, our staff isn't going to be happy, and the player's probably aren't going to be happy, if we don't continue to progress the way we expect."

All too often this season, Summitt has called her team "scoreboard watchers."

They play well enough to get by. They let big leads disappear.

"It's like they watch the scoreboard and play the scoreboard instead of the way they were playing and finishing out last season," Summitt said.

"The most frustrating part of coaching this team this year is their lack of attention to our scouting report defense. There has been a lack of a sense of urgency for consistent play and being motivated for 40 minutes."

Get the message?

The Lady Vols better or they could be in for some rough practices heading into the SEC portion of their schedule.

Tennessee concludes its four-game road stretch against a Notre Dame team that has won 10 in a row and coasted to an 84-59 victory at Richmond on Wednesday.

The Lady Irish are led by 5-foot-11 senior guard Charel Allen (13.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), 5-9 sophomore guard Ashley Barlow (13.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and 6-0 junior guard Lindsay Schrader (10.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg).

"I think we match up well with them," Summitt said. "They've got an athletic perimeter game. They play off the dribble and they're very aggressive.

"They're very committed to running some high-low game in what I call a Princeton-like offense."

Another sellout is expected and Summitt feels recent road tests at Stanford and DePaul should have the Lady Vols ready for their third-consecutive test against a ranked opponent.

"I'm glad we've played the tough schedule," she said. "I think it will help us that we've been on the road for a sellout at Stanford and on the road at DePaul for a sellout."

No More Surprises: After suspending Candace Parker for the first half of the DePaul game, Summitt isn't expecting any more issues with curfew violations.

"I hope not," she said. "I think that might have rung a bell. OK, we know when curfew is now."

South Bend Smallbone: UT freshman Sydney Smallbone returns to South Bend after signing with UT out of St. Joseph's High School.

She's averaging 2.7 points and had a career-high nine points and four rebounds against Louisiana Tech.

"Sydney is a player who has refined her offensive skills," Summitt said. "She's got 3-point range and is aggressive off the dribble.

"Like every freshman, she has to go through the transition and learning phase on the defensive end. That's been her biggest challenge."

Series History: Tennessee is 18-0 all-time against Notre Dame. The Lady Vols grabbed a 78-54 win against the Lady Irish last season in Knoxville.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Fuller takes up slack in Parker's absence

The star of the show was benched and a lesson learned.

Twenty minutes without suspended junior All-American Candace Parker was obviously an eye-opener.

It reminded everyone the real star of the show is the Tennessee Lady Vols’ basketball team, not any one player.

“I was really proud of our team and the way they responded,” UT coach Pat Summitt said of suspending Parker for the first half of Wednesday night’s 102-68 romp past DePaul for missing curfew.

“You never know when there’s a little adversity how it will all play out, but the team was great. Candace had a great attitude and was very supportive. It was really positive and very upbeat.”

Turning a negative into a positive is one of Summitt’s long-standing traditions.

It’s one of the reasons seven national championship banners are dangling from the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena.

This was just another example.

“I hated it,” Summitt said. “I hated that what happened happened and I had no choice as a coach. I think we have to abide by the rules, and if not there are consequences.

“I’m sure there were a lot of disappointed people. It wasn’t easy. It bothered me for her and for all the people who bought tickets to that game because of Candace. But I also knew that was a decision I felt was the best one.”

In a packed gym, virtually everyone had come to see Parker make her long awaited return home to Chicago.

Her family and friends were 60 strong and parked directly behind the UT bench donned in CP3 T-shirts — and the No. 3-ranked Lady Vols (11-1) never blinked.

At the half, Parker still in warmups, UT had a 53-34 lead against the No. 15-ranked Blue Demons.

Alex Fuller, Parker’s replacement, was unconscious.

She was tossing up left-handed hooks, scoring from the lane and firing her way to a career-high 19 points.

“Alex has been shooting the basketball really well, but she hasn’t scored as well in the paint,” Summitt said. “She had a great left hook, she read the defense, but what was really encouraging was how she rebounded the ball (seven boards).

“Not only did she help us in this game, I think she could play a significant role for our team as we move forward.”

Then there was Nicky Anosike. She stepped up and went 6-of-7 from the floor, had 17 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.

Alexis Hornbuckle, playing her first game since learning of the death of her paternal grandmother before Christmas, scored 16 points.

Oh, and Parker played 19 minutes in the second half, scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and had five rebounds.

“I don’t know what was going on in the minds of each individual,” Summitt said of playing without Parker, “but collectively they went out and played really well as a team.

“They played hard and they shared the basketball.”

The Lady Vols took Thursday off for some free time to shop and see the sights of Chicago.

They return to practice today in Chicago to prepare for Saturday’s visit to No. 14-ranked Notre Dame (2 p.m., TV: WVLT).

Polar Vols: It’s a tradition for a few brave souls in the Chicago-land area to take a dip in Lake Michigan on New Year’s Day.

That was too tempting to pass up for Lady Vols’ assistant AD for sports medicine Jenny Moshak and assistant AD for basketball operations Danielle Donehew.

“They were polar bears,” Summitt said. “I didn’t know they did it until Danielle came up and showed me some pictures.

“I told her they had lost their minds.”

On Pat and Candace

Wednesday night was to be a big night for Tennessee women's basketball star (that may be an oxymoron) Candace Parker. The Lady Vols were playing in DePaul, near Parker's hometown, and the building was full ... mostly with family and friends of Parker, eager to see their shining star play.

But Candace Parker missed curfew on New Years Eve, and head coach Pat Summitt benched her for a half in front of all her family and friends.

Harsh? Yes. But I love it. Parker's a star, and a lot of people wanted to see her play that night, but you know what ... if you want Pat Summit's brilliance, discipline, and work ethic to continue to be a part of what makes Parker great, then you've got to want Summitt to lay down the law with Parker, even on a night that was supposed to be nothing but warm and fuzzy. You either want Pat Summitt to coach her, or you don't. There's no middle ground.

If Parker's family and friends want her to be as great as she can be, then they'll support Summitt gluing her ass to the bench, even if it means they see 20 fewer minutes from her during her return home.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

(3) Tennessee 102, (15) DePaul 68

CHICAGO -- It wasn't exactly the homecoming that Candace Parker had envisioned.

Benched for the first half for missing curfew, Parker scored 17 points and third-ranked Tennessee beat No. 15 DePaul 102-68 on Wednesday night.

"I apologized to my teammates, my coaches, my family and friends and Chicago in general for not being able to play in the first half," Parker said. "Coach is very strict on discipline and I broke the rules so I suffered the consequences."

Parker, who grew up in nearby Naperville, didn't start for the first time in her career. She had close to 60 family and friends in attendance including both her grandmothers, who were seeing her play at the collegiate level for the first time.

It was easy to spot Parker's family. They were sitting right behind the Tennessee bench wearing shirts with her a photo of Parker when she was 3-years-old on the front. On the back was Parker's No. 3. Her mom had the word "Mama" above the number.

"I thought those were really cute," Parker said. "My mom totally surprised me."

Her fans had to wait until the second half to see her play.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was torn on not playing Parker.

"I wanted to start her," the Hall of Fame coach said. "With our rules we have to be consistent. I'm glad people got to see her play."

Even without their All-American, the Lady Vols were too much for DePaul, handing the Blue Demons their worst loss at McGrath Arena.

"Anybody that plays with Tennessee has to survive the Tennessee run. Without Candace we were down by 19," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said.

Alex Fuller scored a career-high 19 points and Nicky Anosike added 17 for the Lady Vols (11-1).

"I'm really proud of them," Summitt said. "Alex and Nicky did a fantastic job."

Deirdre Naughton, Allie Quigley and Natasha Williams each scored 13 for DePaul (11-2).

With the game tied at 27 with 7:17 left in the first half, Tennessee went on a 17-2 run over the next 5 minutes. The Lady Vols pounded the ball inside as Anosike and Fuller combined for eight of the points.

DePaul's Erin Cattell made a 3-pointer with 2:20 left to cut it to 44-32, and the teams traded baskets before Fuller scored the last seven points of the half for Tennessee to extend the lead to 19.

After Quigley hit a 3-pointer to start the second half, the Lady Vols scored the next seven points to put the game away. DePaul could get no closer than 21.

Fuller was 8-for-8 from the field in the first half as the Lady Vols shot 62.5 percent (20-for-32) from the field.

Parker started the second half to a rousing cheer from the crowd. After drawing two quick offensive fouls, she finally scored on a layup.

This game was a chance for the Blue Demons to see how they stacked up against one of the best teams in the country. DePaul was coming off its first loss of the season on Friday night when they lost to Texas in the Maggie Dixon Surf 'N Slam Classic.

The Blue Demons, who had matched their best start in school history, rebounded from that loss to rout Appalachian State in the second game of that tournament.

With only one day to prepare, DePaul was no match for Tennessee, which has won all 17 meetings with the Blue Demons. DePaul's 26-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents ended.

"We have to play like we're the No. 15 team in the country all the time," Bruno said.

Associate head coach Holly Warlick was back on the sidelines for Tennessee. She missed the team's West Coast trip after breaking her right ankle and developing a blood clot in the leg.

The Lady Vols, who were coming off their first loss of the season, scored over 100 points for the first time since last season. They fell in overtime to Stanford on Dec. 22.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Family Keeps Parker Grounded

Candace Parker wasn’t your normal, run-of-the-mill Chicago-land eighth-grader.

She was a star in the making.

Everyone knew it, including Parker when she first saw her name in print of the Chicago Tribune.

“It was the first time I realized I could use basketball for opportunities,” Parker said.

Eight years later, the University of Tennessee junior is a full-fledged star in the world of women’s basketball.

She’ll get a chance to show the hometown folks how far she has come when the No. 3-ranked Lady Vols (10-1) visit No. 12-ranked DePaul (11-1) tonight (TV: ESPNU, 9 p.m.).

“I’m excited. This will be my first trip home to DePaul,” Parker said. “I’m excited at the chance to play in front of family and friends.”

After all, these are the people who keep Parker grounded.

Anytime she starts believing the hype — maybe listening a little too closely to the talking heads calling her the best women’s player of all time — all she has to do is chat with her family.

“We don’t always tell each other what we want to hear, but what we need to hear,” Parker said. “I’ve had two great role models with my brothers.

“They keep me grounded, motivated and hungry, and they challenge me. I respond best when someone tells me I can’t do something, and that is what my brothers do for me.”

Anthony Parker is averaging 10.6 points per game as a guard for the Toronto Raptors. Marcus Parker is a doctor.

“They’ve been successful and driven,” UT coach Pat Summitt said of Parker’s family. “They all keep each other in check.

“Her brothers are always on her and her parents coached her. She has enough people to tell her what to do.”

Lately, it seems like everyone is trying to tell Parker what to do with her future.

She has one year of eligibility remaining at UT, but she hinted once again this could be her farewell college tour on her climb to the WNBA.

“With me getting my degree in May,” Parker said, “things are looking like I won’t be at Tennessee next year, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

As usual, Parker will rely on family and friends for guidance. She expects close to 60 of those family members and friends to make the trip to a sold out McGrath Arena at DePaul tonight.

The defending national champion Lady Vols find out for the first time how they react to a loss.

Stanford knocked Tennessee from the ranks of the unbeaten with a pre-Christmas overtime victory in Palo Alto, Calif.

Ever since, Summitt has tried to light a fire in a sometimes lackadaisical, young group of Lady Vols.

UT has shown a tendency this season to lose early leads and try to coast to the finish line of games.

“At Stanford, I was disappointed in the team’s inability and lack of commitment to close out the first half,” Summitt said. “We were up by 11 points, but at halftime had only a six-point lead and that was costly for us.”

Similar disappearing leads have occurred against UCLA, Middle Tennessee State, West Virginia and North Carolina.

“We know we need to focus and bounce back,” Parker said.

Series History: The Lady Vols lead the all-time DePaul series 16-0.

Tennessee won a 96-89 overtime decision the last time they played the Blue Demons in Chicago (2003).

The previous season, Summitt claimed her 800th career coaching victory, 76-57, against DePaul.

Mismatched Milestones: DePaul just celebrated its 600th win in 34 years as a program with a 111-64 romp past Appalachian State on Dec. 30. In her 34th year as head coach at UT, Summitt has 957 victories and counting.

Warlick Back: UT associate head coach Holly Warlick returns to the sidelines after missing the West Coast road trip to UCLA and Stanford. Warlick has been recuperating from a blood clot which formed after she suffered a broken foot Dec. 7.

Frosted Vols: The Lady Vols have been in Chicago since Monday and will stay a couple of more days before heading to South Bend, Ind., for a nationally televised (CBS and WVLT) Saturday afternoon game against No. l6 Notre Dame. The high temperature expected today is 18 degrees.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Candace Parker returns home as No. 3 Tennessee visits 15th-ranked DePaul

Candace Parker is finally coming home to play.

Parker expects to have close to 60 people in attendance Wednesday night when the third-ranked Lady Vols visit No. 15 DePaul.

"I'm excited, this will be my first trip home to DePaul,'' said Parker, who is from a Chicago suburb. "We've played at Notre Dame before. I'm excited at the chance to play in front of family and friends. This will be the first time both of my grandmothers will see me play, so I am really excited.''

Pat Summitt has always tried to give her Tennessee players a chance to play near their home before they graduate.

Earlier this season the Lady Vols visited West Virginia, allowing senior Alexis Hornbuckle to play in the same arena that she won four high school state championships.

It was special for Hornbuckle to get a chance to play in front of her hometown fans.

Summitt can only hope that this isn't the last season she'll get to coach Parker, who is from Naperville. Parker is set to graduate in May, but still has a year of eligibility left after redshirting her freshman year. The star is undecided on whether she'll come back or go to the WNBA.

"I always tell her, let's just enjoy this season,'' Summitt said. "If you're ready to move on in April, then move on. I've said this before, that the college years are some of the best years of your life.''

Parker is putting aside talk about her future for now and is just happy to be playing near her home.

"I've learned to live in the moment and not look too far ahead,'' Parker said. "I will graduate from the University of Tennessee in May, 2008. I've played my college career and gotten my education. I'll cross that (WNBA) bridge when I come to it but I'm living in the moment right now.''

The spotlight has been on Parker ever since high school, when she led Naperville Central High School to state titles in her junior and seniors year. She was the two-time high school player of the year.

Parker really jumped onto the national scene by winning the McDonald's High School All-American Game slam dunk contest in 2004. She beat five male competitors for the prestigious title, including champion Josh Smith and future 2005 NBA Slam Dunk contestant JR Smith.

"Being part of the growth of women's basketball, I understand that any attention is good attention. Whether it is the dunk or whatever my game brings. I remember my first big article,'' Parker said.

"I remember how excited I was. I remembered this could be something different. It was the first time I realized I could use basketball for opportunities.''

DePaul (11-1) has a chance to use Wednesday's game as an opportunity to showcase its talent.

"They're the defending national champions with the best player in the country,'' DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "This will be a measuring stick for us.''

The Blue Demons are coming off their first loss of the season to Texas on Friday night in the Maggie Surf 'N Slam Classic.

"It's an important game because it will help to see where you are,'' DePaul guard Allie Quigley said. "We are playing the national champions at our place and it will be great.''

The Lady Vols (10-1) have had a target on them all season that comes with being the defending national champions. Tennessee lost its first game of the season on Dec. 22, falling in overtime to Stanford.

"I know that it is important to play well together as a team after a loss,'' Parker said. "We know we need to focus and bounce back.''

While the Lady Vols hope to recover from their first loss, Parker knows that whatever she decides down the road, the future is bright for her.

"WNBA wise, I am excited to have the opportunity to play at that level and to play for the Olympics, which has been a dream of mine forever. To play overseas and travel is what I see in the future.''