Cierra Burdick out with broken hand

The Lady Vols got one player back Tuesday but lost another one to injury. Go inside with InsideTennessee for the latest on the team, plus video coverage.

Cierra Burdick walked into the arena with her right hand in a splint and a look of dismay on her face. The sophomore forward, who spent the evening of New Year's Eve in Pratt Pavilion to get in a workout on an off day, learned Tuesday morning that she had somehow broken her right hand during that session, which focused on defense and lofting shots.

The injury, according to sports medicine chief Jenny Moshak, was to the fourth metacarpal of Burdick's shooting hand. The hand was bandaged and splinted Tuesday.

Burdick will undergo additional evaluation and is now listed as out indefinitely. She will make the trip to Columbia – the team leaves Wednesday and plays South Carolina at 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday (TV: SportSouth) – but won't be available to play.

"It's a tough time (for this to happen), as we're getting ready to head into our SEC play, but we'll get her back," Coach Holly Warlick said. "We're going to have to deal with it and stay positive."

Generally speaking, metatarsal breaks can take several weeks to two months to heal and sometimes require surgery, depending on severity of the injury. Specifics about Burdick's injury and timetable to return to action are not yet known.

Burdick had been a regular starter at the small forward position and can also move inside to play in the paint. She scored 19 points in the last two games and had begun to get into a rhythm with her shooting stroke. Burdick also grabbed 15 boards in the final two games of 2012.

Taber Spani is a seasoned senior and is likely a good candidate to move into the starting lineup Thursday, especially with the Lady Vols opening SEC play on the road against a South Carolina team known for its stiff defense.

Spani, who has been bothered by back issues, averaged 21 minutes in the past two games.

Jasmine Phillips, who missed the last seven games by Warlick's decision because her academics had slipped, has been back at practice since the second week of December when she completed her exams. Warlick held the sophomore out of the December games as part of the coach's disciplinary action. Phillips is academically eligible, and Warlick said she would be in uniform this week.

Phillips injured a quad muscle in preseason and then developed hip flexor issues, so she has played in just two games this season. The guard is likely to be rusty, but she is athletic and has good instincts on both sides of the ball.

Two other candidates for more playing time on the perimeter in Burdick's absence are freshman forward Jasmine Jones and senior guard Kamiko Williams.

Burdick also could line up inside so freshman forward Nia Moore will need to be ready to provide more relief inside for Graves and Harrison.

"I feel for Cierra, and I feel for this team," Warlick said. "She's a vital part of our success, but this is a team sport, and somebody is just going to have to step up."

Tennessee had a lot of talent sitting on the sideline Tuesday. Freshman guard Andraya Carter did shoulder rehab exercises – she is out for the season – on the training table while Burdick was examined behind her.

Pat Summitt, the head coach emeritus, sat on the table with Carter and chatted with both players.

The restoration of Phillips to playing status – Warlick had indicated in early December that a likely return date was January for the juco guard – means Tennessee's roster stays at nine until Burdick returns.

"She's a great defender," Warlick said of Phillips. "From the defensive standpoint she will give us a little extra bonus of someone who can defend the basketball."

Warlick and her staff continued the emphasis on defense at practice after the day off Monday. The head coach said the emphasis would shift back to offense Wednesday when the team will practice in Columbia, the day before the matchup with the No. 18/15 Gamecocks.

It is a tough draw to open conference play and especially on the road.

Much like Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer noted that this Tennessee team plays with a defensive intensity more fitting of its head coach emeritus, coach Dawn Staley has the Gamecocks playing in her image with a tough and hardnosed style. South Carolina came within made free throws of upsetting then No. 1 Stanford prior to the Cardinal coming to Knoxville.

"I think they are going to come at us with everything they have defensively," Warlick said.

The Lady Vols watched some film clips of their defense in the 66-47 win over Rutgers before taking the practice court Tuesday.

"I loved the intensity," Warlick said. "If we bring the intensity, like we did on the defensive end like I know we can, it's exciting."

Tennessee starts SEC play with South Carolina on the road and Georgia at home on Sunday.

"It's a grueling conference," Warlick said. "It's a conference that we have to come ready to play every night. To open up at South Carolina there, and then to come back and play Georgia … it's a tough road, but we started out the year sort of the same with three of our four games on the road so our pre-conference schedule will help us."


Tuesday practice clips

Bashaara Graves

Meighan Simmons

Holly Warlick

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