Lady Vols to face Chattanooga

The film session lasted longer Sunday than the time the players spent at practice, an indication that the coaching staff had a lot of teaching clips to show the team the day before the Lady Vols take the court tonight for the second game of the season against in-state foe Chattanooga, the first of three consecutive contests at home.

Tennessee, 1-0, got its first win of the season in a hard-fought road game over Louisville, 63-50 before a Big East record crowd of 22,124 at the official basketball debut of the KFC Yum! Center. The Lady Vols will be seeking their second victory tonight when they take on Chattanooga, 0-1, at 7 p.m. Eastern (SportSouth, Lady Vol Radio Network) at Thompson-Boling Arena, the first of three games this week with Virginia on Thursday and Arizona State on Sunday, all at home and all on SportSouth.

Coach Pat Summitt, the staff and the players spent more than an hour in the film room at Pratt Pavilion on Sunday going over defensive assignments and offensive decisions.

"That's why we spent the time," Summitt said. "We needed to spend the time. Great learning tape. They saw themselves."

The actual time spent on the floor Sunday was relatively short – less than an hour with drills devoted to defense and then the presentation of the scouting report. Junior forward Glory Johnson worked up more sweat after practice working on post moves, shooting and free throws – punctuated by some thunderous dunks.

The same five starters were on the floor when the scouting report was reviewed, but it would not be surprising to see a change. Summitt said she would meet with her staff and decide Monday.

"I may make one change," Summitt said.

Given the 22-point debut of freshman Meighan Simmons – just two points short of the best ever at Tennessee when Semeka Randall started her career with 24 points in 1997 – it seems possible that the combo guard could be in the starting lineup, though Shekinna Stricklen is still likely to start at point. Simmons can play on the wing and run some sets from the top of the floor.

At some point Tennessee also should get at least one of its bigs on the floor for the opening tip so that will shuffle the lineup. Kelley Cain and Vicki Baugh played limited minutes Friday against Louisville but both were very effective during their time on the floor.

"Yes, yes. I definitely think we can (increase the playing time of the pair)," Summitt said.

Tennessee also could be short a player. Freshman guard Lauren Avant suffered an injury to her right ankle early in practice Sunday and needed assistance to leave the court. She is under evaluation and her availability for Tuesday's game is in question.

Avant sustained the injury during a transition defense drill, a point of emphasis during the short session. Summitt said afterwards she was displeased with the overall defense across the board as a team in Friday's game.

"It wasn't very well played on our part," Summitt said. "We didn't talk. Our hands are all down here. I want to see how we come back (Tuesday) after watching the tape. It was ugly. I don't think that we were committed to playing great defense.

"I think being in that environment, it was loud, and just playing without a purpose so much of the time. Even on the dribble handoffs, we were fumbling things. We just weren't sharp. The thing that concerned me the most was our defense. We would have two people in the paint rebounding and everybody else was jogging back. And jogging, not sprinting. If we hadn't had Meighan Simmons, we'd probably lose that game."

Summitt also held one-on-one film sessions with Taber Spani and Stricklen.

"Spani and I watched a lot of tape," Summitt said. "(Stricklen) didn't get in a really good rhythm. She picked the ball up a lot."

Tennessee's defense instantly got better in the second half when Cain was on the floor. She also was 4-6 from the field.

"Absolutely," Summitt said. "The size is obviously key on both ends of the floor because she can alter people's shots and in and around the basket she has just really got a great touch."

The presence of the bigs – Alyssia Brewer is expected to be back some time in December – also will improve the screening action for the perimeter players. Cain, Baugh and Brewer all set excellent screens, and, as coaches say, can block out the sun,

"They sure do," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "When they're screening aggressively and in a fundamentally sound way, that's exactly right. There is nobody better. I wouldn't trade them for anybody in that regard."

Lockwood called the emphasis on film a "mental day" for the team.

"We're really proud of our team in a sense – hostile environment and the hype around that game," Lockwood said. "Our biggest thing we wanted us to see was our defense and just the sense of urgency with which we defend, and it starts with your transition defense. It was (better) but it isn't where we want it to be for game one of the season and the type of players we have.

"In a game, in defense of players, a coach jumps me for something, I listen to it and I acknowledge it, but I can't see it. In my mind it's already gone and done. That's the stuff you have to watch (on film) possession by possession, and that's what we did. We watched possession by possession, who should be where, how we're getting things covered, positionally where we were.

"I can honestly tell you it wasn't like anybody got hammered. What we were doing was a lot of teaching, a lot of visual stuff. It was a very important mental day for us."

The coaches didn't just compile defensive clips. They also pulled from the game tape multiple possessions when Tennessee had the ball.

"From an offensive standpoint, we weren't aggressive coming off screens and hunting shots," Lockwood said. "That's a two-way function. Sometimes it's (the screener releasing too soon) and other times the player receiving the screen takes off too early (not allowing the screener to get to the spot). As Coach (Bobby) Knight used to say, ‘A screening action is an action between two people. There are two people who are responsible for making it work.'

"That's one of the things we saw up there is that we could do so much better. The object of when you set a screen is you're trying to get a shot for someone. Whether it's an on-ball (the ball handler uses the screen to get off a shot) or off-ball screen (the shooter receives the ball after using the screen), you're trying to generate an advantage of a shot. We've got to be more assertive and aggressive in how we set and use our screens."

Summitt will be seeking much improvement on both sides of the ball on Monday and she hopes to be able to get deep into her bench and not overuse any players with three games this week and three consecutive games next week in the Virgin Islands.

"We should be able to do that, but they spread us out," Summitt said. "Their spacing is really, really good. They've given us fits here and there."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 junior guard/forward, No. 40 (14.0 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 senior guard, No. 5 (6.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Taber Spani, 6'1 sophomore forward, No. 13 (0.0 ppg 1.0 rpg), Alicia Manning, 6'1 junior forward, No. 15 (2.0 ppg, 3.0 apg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 junior guard, No. 25 (5.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg).

Those are the listed starters based on the last game, and Summitt indicated Sunday after practice that the lineup could change. Based on freshman Meighan Simmons' debut performance, she could be on the court for the opening tipoff, which would likely mean Manning or Spani would come off the bench. Manning is an instinctive rebounder, while Spani is a deep threat from three-ball range. The staff would have to decide which is most needed to start the Chattanooga game.

Summitt is not one to emphasize the starting lineup and has shown an inclination to shuffle it when needed. It can matter more to the players, but Bjorklund said the team's depth means those on the floor, whether starting or off the bench, need to follow one rule.

"Go hard every possession," Bjorklund said. "Just go hard every possession because we have subs coming in. If you need a blow we have a really deep bench. Our bench can play. They can come in and maintain and keep the lead or whatever we need to do.

"Wherever you end up going on the floor, it might not be your specific position, I think it's wherever you go you just have to do whatever it takes to win. If Strick has to play the one or the four, whatever it takes. I think as the year goes on (there will be) more specific roles, but it also depends on injuries and that type of thing. Just take it one game, one day at a time."

Chattanooga Coach Wes Moore is expected to start: Tenisha Townsend, 5'6 junior guard, No. 5 (12.0 ppg, 4.0 apg), hails from Antioch, Tenn., career-high four three-pointers Friday against East Tennessee State, started against Tennessee as a freshman, played at Brentwood Academy in Nashville, father Theodore Townsend III played football for Austin Peay; Kayla Christopher, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 3 (16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), hails from Oliver Springs, Tenn., selected for preseason All Southern Conference team, coached by mother, Michelle Christopher at Oliver Springs High School, two-time Class A Miss Tennessee Basketball finalist; Kiara Smith, 5'10 redshirt sophomore guard, No. 32 (0.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg), hails from Rome, Ga., played in 17 games last season, missed the 2008-09 season because of knee injury; Bailey Dewart, 5'11 redshirt junior guard, No. 30 (5.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg), hails from Spartanburg, S.C., had a career-high 12 points against Tennessee in 2008, took a redshirt year last season because of knee injury, 2007 Miss Basketball in South Carolina, both parents played basketball at Limestone College, sister plays volleyball for Appalachian State; and Whitney Hood, 6'2 junior forward, No. 25 (15.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), hails from Meridian, Miss., transfer from Clemson sat out last season, 11 boards Friday was a career high, career high in points is 16 against North Carolina in 2009, both parents played basketball at Mississippi State.

The Lady Mocs lost Friday to East Tennessee State, 77-60, after leading midway through the second half but were outscored 27-8 down the stretch. Chattanooga is shorthanded this season after the graduation of Shanara Hollinquest and Megan Rollins. Two forwards, Michelle Davis and Erin Helton, left the team last spring and a top recruit, Taylor Hall of Morristown, gave up basketball before changing her mind and will now be eligible after this semester.

After the Lady Mocs' opening game, Christopher was asked about next facing Tennessee.

"We have to pay attention to details and work harder," Christopher said.

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Chattanooga game. Here is in his assessment.

When Chattanooga has the ball: Lady Mocs Coach Wes Moore traditionally runs a spread-out four out, one in scheme to spring three-point shooters.

"That's a staple," Lockwood said. "Wes is a terrific coach, and tailors things to his personnel. They've struggled with getting big kids there. I think that is common to a lot of mid-majors. People at our level snatch them up, even if they're project kids, because they're so rare in women's basketball."

Lockwood said Chattanooga has Whitney Hood inside but will spread out its other players, especially Kayla Christopher and Tenisha Townsend so they can get in position to shoot threes.

"They're still doing the four out, one in, dribble drives and kicks, they play for threes via inside-out," Lockwood said. "They're going to throw to the post. If anybody remotely helps or doubles, they're kicking out. That's their forte."

Christopher, who is from nearby Oliver Springs, Tenn., warranted looks from Tennessee.

"I remember watching her play, and I was impressed with her," Lockwood said. "She knows how to play. She has got an aggressive, assertive mindset as a scorer. She's got very good shot mechanics. She can make shots. You give her space, that kid will make shots on you."

Defensively, Chattanooga is more likely to play man but the size of the Lady Vols – even with Kelley Cain and Vicki Baugh coming off the bench – likely means a modification.

"Wes has traditionally been a little bit more of a man-to-man guy, but how he plays man to man is like our gap defense," Lockwood said. "He doesn't go out and get you. He's going to play the gaps. He's going to protect the paint. They are very help-conscious.

"They don't go out and deny. They're playing right in the gaps. No penetration holes. They're going to let the ball go around the horn as much as possible. They're not letting you get into the gaps and the lanes. That's how they play their man and then they also play a 2-3 zone. It's a very protective type of thing. They're not going to overextend. We have to be ready to get them to move a little bit, and our shot selection has to be good."

When Tennessee has the ball: The Lady Vols are still bringing their bigs off the bench, but Lockwood said the offensive philosophy doesn't change – they still want to get points in the paint.

"A big part of what we do – and you can put this in one of your (stone) tablets – is we want to generate paint points," Lockwood said. "If it was Kelley and Vicki in the lineup I'd tell you maybe 60 percent of that is going to be post feeds. Now, it may be post feeds but it may also be drives.

"We're going to try to get paint points. We're going to try to push tempo a little bit. Our biggest thing about watching Louisville is we really want to take good, high-quality shots. We thought we settled a lot in that game, and we don't want to do that."

Defensively, Tennessee used its man and zone schemes in the season opener as Louisville had a combination of shooters and athletic players who could get to the paint. Long-range shooters will be an emphasis in the second game of the season.

"We've got to guard the arc," Lockwood said. "Our pressure defense is going to be really important. We want to make sure that we're putting pressure on their perimeter players and really guarding and defending the arc. We know that's a strength of their game. They play so well with their spacing and their ball movement. They're unselfish. They spread you. They move the ball.

"In order to make that harder for them and prohibit that easy ball movement, you've got to break them down with pressure. That's one of the things we're looking to do. (Defensive) rebounding is a real big thing for us in every game, but in this particular game we've got to get one and done (when Chattanooga shoots)."

DIVIDED ATTENTION: It's an unusual scenario in any sport to say the least. On Sunday, Faith Dupree was on the scout team as Tennessee went over the scouting report with the Lady Vol players. On Monday, Dupree will sit behind the basket and watch the team she practices with go against the team she will transfer to next month.

It has to be the one of the most amicable parting of ways in college sports. Last September, Dupree, a 6'3 forward from Knoxville, announced she would transfer midseason to Chattanooga for the chance to play a major role and be a go-to player for her team. She had considered transferring in the summer before the fall semester started, listened to her family tell her to give it another shot and then knew a few weeks into the school year that her initial decision was the right one.

That typically means a player separates herself from the program. In this case, Dupree has continued to practice, lines up with the scout team to help her former teammates get ready for an opponent and maintains close ties to the players.

"I just needed a change," Dupree said. "Nothing is weird. I appreciate Pat for letting me (practice) because I am not sure a lot of coaches would."

That's an understatement. Dupree's position coach, Dean Lockwood laughed out loud when asked about the unusualness of the situation.

"We've joked about that a couple of times," Lockwood said. "I was in the bowels of (men's) Division II and we sent a manager or sometimes one of us – there's you and your assistant if you're lucky – we had a Diet Coke cardboard box and we're clearing his gear out, and we're taking it. At that point somebody else can use those shoes. He only had those shoes for three weeks. Somebody else is going to get the warmup. We're not letting him walk out of here with that gear.

"It's almost like corporate. You've got five minutes to clear your stuff out and we're going to walk you to the parking lot, see you later. It's not at all like this.

"Now, I'm being dead serious. I think it just speaks to the healthiness of the situation. I think it's a great move for Faith, and I think she's at peace about it and excited about it. I've talked to Wes (Moore) a couple of times, and they are absolutely thrilled about it. I just think it's one of those things where it's a great business move for Faith Dupree."

Dupree will likely thrive in Moore's system. She has post-up skills and can shoot the three ball. She also knows a few players on the team already, including Kayla Christopher. They played together on an AAU team when Dupree was 9 years old, and she has crossed paths with her ever since in high school and summer ball.

"I love how he plays, four out, one in mostly is his offense," Dupree said. "I would be a four on the outside. I can shoot threes. I can post up. I think I will fit in pretty well with his game plan. I am going to see how they play together, how they react to Wes and see how it goes. I think they'll get it together."

Dupree will watch the game from an area close to the student section.

"I'm not in the student section. I am not in their section," Dupree said. "That's the most neutral place I can think of. I am just going to sit there. I am not going to clap. I am not going to get excited.

"Actually, I'll get excited for a couple of my former teammates. I got all excited when Vicki (Baugh) came in. I rehabbed with her all last year, so I was excited to see her play. Win or lose, I'm not going to be happy either way."

Dupree will leave at the end of this semester – she needed to complete it so that she would transfer in good academic standing – and enroll at Chattanooga. Since she has already sat out one season to rehab a back injury and won't play in any games this fall – she does not suit up or sit on the bench – Chattanooga will seek a waiver from the NCAA that would allow her to play immediately.

If that is denied, the school will seek a waiver to play next fall and not have to fulfill the year in residency rule at the new school. If that is denied she would not able to play until January of 2012.

"We wanted to aim high," Dupree said of the request to play right away.

A packet of documents will be sent to the NCAA, including a letter from Dupree explaining the transfer that she will give to the Chattanooga staff on Monday. Otherwise, Dupree is sticking to her neutral zone.

"I told Coach that I would see him after the game," Dupree said.

Dupree will definitely be back next summer in Knoxville. Moore told her that his players typically take classes in May in a short session and then return to their hometowns for the summer to work out on their own. Dupree said she would definitely play in next summer's Women's Pilot Rocky Top League.

For now she is working on conditioning and defense in her sessions with the Tennessee players.

"Right now I am just getting in better shape," Dupree said. "I am shooting a little better. Defense is my weak spot. I am still trying to guard Kelley (Cain), guard Vicki. If I can guard them I can pretty much guard whoever. I am trying to focus on my weak points."

A strength is clearly the bond Dupree has made with the Lady Vols.

"The relationships Faith has here with her teammates and her coaches are very, very good," Lockwood said. "We're losing a player. We're not losing a friendship."

ON TAP: Two other SEC teams are in action tonight in the following matchups: Florida State at Auburn and Illinois at South Carolina. On Tuesday, Mississippi State is at Tulane and on Wednesday it's North Carolina State at Alabama; Mississippi Valley at Arkansas; and Ohio State at LSU.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Chattanooga, 23-6. The Lady Vols have an 11-4 record in Knoxville. The last loss in the series occurred at home, 58-55, on Jan. 26, 1973. … Tennessee is 4-1 in games played on November 15. The last game on this date was against Baylor, a 74-65 win in 2009. The one loss on November 15 was against Purdue, 78-68, in 1998. … Pat Summitt mentioned the 29 turnovers against Louisville in her post-game press conference and again Sunday after practice. But it wasn't the most memorable and only ties the ninth-worst episode of miscues. Tennessee had 32 turnovers against Texas, a 91-60 loss on Dec. 11, 1984 and the worst loss in Lady Vol history. … Tennessee is 41-20 all-time against the Southern Conference. The Lady Vols have played six teams in the SoCon but have losing records against Appalachian State (3-5, last loss was in 1976) and UNC-Greensboro (0-2, last loss also in 1976). …. Tennessee went 17-0 at home last season and has won 19 consecutive contests at Thompson-Boling Arena. The last loss was to Duke, 64-62, on Feb. 16, 2009. … Chattanooga has won the past 11 Southern Conference titles, but the coaches and media predicted a third-place finish for the Lady Mocs this season. Chattanooga made the NCAA tourney last season and lost in the first round to Oklahoma State, which had to overcome an 18-point deficit. … Chattanooga is No. 17 in CollegeInsider.com's inaugural Preseason Mid-Major Top 25 poll. The women's Mid-Major Top 25 comprises teams from America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Great West, Horizon, Independents, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt and West Coast Conference. … Chattanooga Coach Wes Moore is 10 wins away from No. 500 for his career. Moore, who is entering his 22nd season, has an overall record of 490-141 for a winning percentage of .777, fifth best in the NCAA.


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