Saturday, January 05, 2008

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.

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