Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lady Vols find themselves doing laundry after loss

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Pat Summitt wanted her Tennessee Lady Volunteers to dwell extra long on their wash out at Vanderbilt earlier in the week.

So, she's got them laundering their own practice clothes indefinitely — a task that usually falls to the team managers.

"I'm sure some of the players — the real competitors — it bothered them," Summitt said of the 74-58 loss on Sunday to the Commodores.

Summitt said she found it disturbing that several of her young players are struggling to compete hard enough to succeed in Southeastern Conference play.

She's not worried about her veterans like guard Angie Bjorklund and forward Alex Fuller. Even freshmen Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen and Briana Bass have lived up to Summitt's expectations with their efforts.

The loss dropped Tennessee (12-3, 1-1 SEC) to No. 13 in The Associated Press rankings, their lowest spot in the poll in 23 years.

Summitt once forced her Lady Vols to wear their practice jerseys inside out after back-to-back losses against Duke and Kentucky in 2006 because she didn't feel they deserved to wear the Lady Vols logo.

The Lady Vols drew more of Summitt's ire this week with long practices and drills focused on improving defense.

And if having to wash their own jerseys wasn't enough, associated head coach Holly Warlick put the Vanderbilt score on the scoreboard at Thompson-Boling Arena during practice and plastered it around the Lady Vols' locker room.

Tennessee might be able to relinquish their laundry duty with a strong showing at Mississippi State (13-3, 1-1). The Lady Bulldogs have never beaten the Lady Vols in 28 tries, but this could be their best opportunity to do so.

The veteran Commodores team ran into little defensive pressure from Tennessee as five players scored in double figures.

The Lady Bulldogs are just as dangerous.

"They're a veteran team. We are going to again be in a situation where we know we have to step up and do a much better job on both ends of the floor — particularly our defense and our board play — and have a different level of commitment," Summitt said.

Tennessee is suffering from having its best defensive player, sophomore starting forward Vicki Baugh, sitting out with a left knee sprain. Baugh has missed the past three games and remains day-to-day.

Baugh, who is averaging 7.8 points and nearly 9.7 rebounds a game, has helped bail the Lady Vols out of several tight games.

"Obviously we miss her so much. She changes the way we defend. She changes how we get up and down," Summitt said. "She's one of our most competitive players."

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