Lady Vols to face Arizona State on Sunday

The way to Dean Lockwood's coaching heart is through his cell phone. When a player calls and wants to meet him in the gym for repetitions that tells the Lady Vol assistant that the player has decided to invest in her own game. Candace Parker remains the gold standard at Tennessee for this extra effort, but Glory Johnson is now the one initiating the contact with her position coach.

"We just can't do this in practice," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said after a recent one-on-one workout in Pratt Pavilion with Glory Johnson that left him as sweat-soaked as the player. "You don't have the luxury of working with players individually. You've got to do that outside of practice. The player has to be hungry and thirsty for it and really, really want to learn and get better.

"I use the Candace example. Candace Parker would have been good no matter what but one of the things I respect her so much for is that she cared and invested enough in her game that she took individual time."

Johnson will next take the court for Tennessee, 3-0, on Sunday at 2 p.m. Eastern (SportSouth, Lady Vol Radio Network) against Arizona State, 2-0, at Thompson-Boling Arena. This will be the first time the Sun Devils have played in Knoxville.

Parker and Lockwood basically inhabited the gym in her third season at Tennessee and if Lockwood was on the road for recruiting reasons, Parker went on her own. She also was a habitué of the gym outside of practice in her first and second years, but it really increased in the third year. Lockwood hasn't been nearly as busy lately – and that is partly due to injuries and court limitations with some post players – but Johnson has taken some steps to change that.

"Some of it was force-feeding early, but (last Sunday) she mentioned it," Lockwood said. "She said, ‘Hey, can we do our thing today?' I said, ‘By all means.' It is rare that I won't be available for you. Something freaky has to happen for me not to be available for one of those kids who wants to get better.

"Her investment is starting to pay some dividends because you can see some carryover. That is what I point to. It doesn't mean anything if you can't carry it over in a game. We're seeing some of that stuff now and that's to her credit. I give her all the credit, because she is the one investing, she is the one that is receptive, and she's the one that sees this is important."

With the 20-hour limit set by the NCAA for all basketball activities, including games, and a mandatory off day a week, practice time gets crunched into team drills. While players will break into groups with position coaches, it is rare to find time to work one-on-one during practice and especially when the season starts because of travel and limited access to gym time on the road.

Lockwood, in recognition of the academic load carried by players, also tries to not make the endeavor too time-consuming. The shooting and free throw drills – Johnson hit 37 of 40 in that recent Sunday session – lasted fewer than 45 minutes and sometimes it's even less.

"We don't want it to be laborious," Lockwood said. "This is going to help your performance. This is going to help the team. If you're better the team is better. All those things are win-win."

Another shooting session lasted 38 minutes with two managers available to rebound so two balls were kept in rotation. Johnson lofted 183 shots in that stint.

"We were doing spot shooting," Johnson said. "She came in and she was very efficient with the time.

There is no secret. It's about quality reps. It's game reps. If you don't make your reps game-like, it's doing you, I won't say no good, but very little good. With Glory what we've tried to do is shorten the time but really make it pop."

Johnson has now realized the benefits of getting quality time with Lockwood.

"There were a lot of things I felt like I wanted to work on specifically," Johnson said. "I can shoot by myself but there were things I needed Dean's insight on. I just went straight to him, what about my hook shot, my shot's off, what am I doing wrong? He could tell me right then and there. He's so helpful. He's got an answer for anything.

"You've got to love Dean. He's a great coach. I feel like he can help me with anything I try to do. He can do a little bit of everything. He's little, but he's physical. He's powerful. And he never runs out of energy. He might get a nap in, and he can go for like 24 hours straight. That's Deannie boy for you."

Johnson also sought advice on why she was missing when she tried to dunk. Lockwood incorporated that aspect of Johnson's game into their workouts – it certainly got her attacking the basket – and recognized that it mattered to her.

"He knows it's something I wanted to do for myself," Johnson said. "I am not trying to impress anybody. I needed a reason why I was (missing). He had a lot of answers for it."

Lockwood was duly impressed with the show of leaping ability and power.

"It makes me envious," Lockwood said. "She's an incredible athlete. She is a very blessed, gifted athlete who has also worked hard. She's an impressive athlete. Her athleticism and explosion are second to none. There might be people in the same bin, but I don't there is anybody in the bin above her. She's such a good jumper. She's got the fast twitch and explosion with her track history.

"I look at her and I just think she is one of the finest athletes in the women's game. If we can get her skill set to get close to that, oh my gosh, you talk about an impressive player. With her gifts physically we want to get that skill set matched up to correspond. I can't think of another player in college basketball that I would trade for her athleticism. I wouldn't want to."

Lockwood said reconciling the athleticism with the skill set would be a smoother process now that Johnson seeks him out, instead of him having to try to convince her to get extra time in the gym.

"It's tremendous," Lockwood said. "How easily pleased I am, I get excited about that because that shows a hungry player who is investing and is really serious about improving. If you're like that, that excites coaches. I have to take ownership and responsibility for my individual game. All the plays we're drawing up if you can't finish it or knock a shot down, it means zip."

Johnson also has adjusted better to the physical demands of college basketball. She has a lean body type and the pounding in the paint took a toll on her over the course of a season.

Lockwood recalled practice sessions in her freshman year in which Johnson was so depleted he wondered if she would make it to the end. This season she has worked with a nutritionist and also had two full years with Heather Mason, the strength and conditioning coach.

"She looked like she was just going to keel over," Lockwood said. "I don't see that from her anymore. She has really taken the ownership of her conditioning. She has gotten serious about her performance."

In her first two seasons, Johnson started strong and barely got to the finish line. Her production decreased, as did her playing minutes. This season, she hasn't been fast out of the gate offensively, but she hopes that means steady improvement over the course of a season.

Johnson particularly struggled Thursday against Virginia and ended up fouling out after being in foul trouble for nearly the entire second half.

"The last game foul trouble got me bad," Johnson said. "I wasn't expecting that, some of the fouls I got. It kind of hit me hard."

In the Chattanooga game on Monday, Johnson just wanted to get the ball to the guards.

"The game before that our threes were on," Johnson said. "They had a lot of men in the paint so when our threes are on I just kept throwing it back out there. They tried to play us like our guards couldn't shoot. I probably should have looked for my shot a little bit more but when my teammates are on and they're hitting, I look for my teammates, whoever's hot, I hit."

Johnson started the game against Virginia on the perimeter defensively – that is an area in which she could be a superstar for Tennessee – but the silence behind her was crippling for the team. The Cavaliers made their first eight shots and Pat Summitt was livid after the game. Johnson said the blame belonged with the players.

"A lack of communication, and not talking on screens and backdoor cuts," Johnson said. "Our help-side was nowhere to be found. When we don't communicate it hurts us the most. If no one's talking and no one is calling out screen and no one is calling out backdoor or help or anything like that there is no way that we can know what's going on with their offenses.

"It's just confusing. It's really confusing. At the beginning of the game if something like that happens … . All five have to talk."

The alarming thing for Summitt is that this remains an issue with a veteran team with one senior, three juniors and a freshman in the starting lineup. Meighan Simmons, the newcomer, gets an early pass – freshmen are usually just trying to survive in the various defensive schemes and desperately need upperclassmen to direct them – but Summitt blistered the team after the game for its lack of focus and communication.

Johnson said the talking has to start in practice. Lack of communication at practice means the coaches are upset. The same thing in a game can lead to an early deficit, as occurred against Virginia.

"In practice no one's in here and when you're barely talking and no one's in the gym and then all of a sudden you have (a packed arena), you can't hear anything and you're not talking anyway," Johnson said. "You're not helping the team. Be mindful of communication. Be loud. It'll help your team out, and it'll help you out.

"It's got to be everybody. Everybody has got to be on the same page. If not, then we're going to struggle."

Johnson also was honest about why Tennessee fell behind early in the last game.

"The majority of it wasn't because we weren't hitting our shots," Johnson said. "Our defense was bad. It was rough. It wasn't going the way we wanted it to, and we just weren't going as hard on defense as we were on offense.

"Just focus on defense. If that's what's hurting us the most, forget our offense and focus on defense. If our defense is good enough, they can't score. The score should be 0-0 if we're not hitting either."

Summitt would appreciate the implementation of that attitude – a process that would be much easier if it's led by the players and not her repeated exhortations from the bench.

That happens with leadership and this team doesn't have the fiery personalities of past ones, such as the presence Nicky Anosike commanded and the leader Alexis Hornbuckle became during her junior season after being somewhat aloof in her first two seasons.

Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss has the perspective of having been away from the program for seven years and now returning. She sees a team where the leadership will need to come from several players.

"Like a Angie Bjorklund, she's more of a leader by example, and you need a variety of leaders," DeMoss said. "You need leaders by example. You don't just need leaders that talk a good game but they can't back it up. Angie, I think, has matured and she is trying to evolve into that (vocal) leader.

"I think (Shekinna) Stricklen is becoming more vocal. Is she as vocal as we need her to be? No. But it's a process.

"I think Kelley Cain (can) help to lead the frontline people. Leadership is not a perfect science, a cookie cutter-type leadership position. We can tweak it the way that it fits us. Angie leads by example, Stricklen can be a little bit more vocal and then Kelley can help lead the frontline people. You may have to do it by committee."

Summitt added, "If they don't show us who the leader or leaders are, we'll arrive at that."

If the team were to force the issue, Johnson points to the two seniors and two redshirt juniors.

"I would say the upper-upperclassmen, Syd (Smallbone) and Angie, just because they're seniors, along with Kelley and Vicki, they've really been through every little thing," Johnson said.

Vicki Baugh would be a particularly good candidate, but she has been out of the past three two games because of issues around her knee – IT band, hamstring and hip. She didn't practice Saturday and is doubtful to play Sunday. Baugh remains vocal on the bench and given Johnson's assessment of how the team views her, Baugh could step into a primary leadership role once she is able to get on the court.

"As far as communication and telling us what we're doing wrong while she's watching on the bench, that's just as good," Baugh said. "We listen to her because we respect her. As long as she's talking, we're listening."

In the meantime, the voices will also be those of the coaches, who have a simple message for the players.

"Take ownership," DeMoss said. "They need to take ownership. They don't need to be looking over to the bench so much and what do we do, what do we run. Take some ownership. We give them five or six options; now you go out there and make it work. You run it.

"When we need to call something different then we will, but take more ownership as to what is going on on the floor, not just be into your own game and not worry about what your other four teammates are doing. We don't have that type of person that is concerned about the whole team. That is what we're trying to do – better communication."

Tennessee is a team of incredible talent, but the coaches are still having to dial up individuals to get them to play hard all the time. That's a concern for the staff, but it just means the intensity level from the bench is raised.

"You have to constantly challenge them," DeMoss said. "You have to say that's not good enough.

"That's good enough if you want to get beat in the first round of the tournament. That effort is good enough. If you want to go to Indianapolis, that effort is not good enough. As coaches we have to point that out, and we have to hold them accountable, and they have to hold each other accountable. It's a group effort."

Summitt's reaction after the Virginia game was as angry as it's been since this group's freshman year. She thought a veteran team that talked all preseason about being on a mission meant it, and she unloaded in the locker room at halftime and after the game.

"Absolutely," Summitt said. "It's unacceptable. It's like, ‘What has this team won?' We've yet to get this group to a Final Four and why? We have a lot of people that give in to fatigue. They're not passionate about what they're doing.

"And that's why we may have to shorten our bench. I don't have a problem with that. If we don't have any injury factors we'll be fine."

Tennessee has three players out right now – freshman point guard Lauren Avant, redshirt junior forward Vicki Baugh and junior forward Alyssia Brewer. That leaves 10 players on the roster and just two true posts in Cain and Johnson.

With Johnson and Cain on the bench at times against Virginia, Taber Spani and Alicia Manning lined up in the paint. Manning became a 6'1 center.

"It was me and Taber (at the four, five)," Manning said. "It's funny how people look at the numbers but when it comes down to it you're a post and your job is to rebound and handle all the garbage around the paint. It's not that big of a deal. I don't really mind it. I like playing the four slash five slash three. It makes me versatile. It comes in handy."

Manning is a defensive-minded player who has earned minutes and stints in the starting lineup because she is willing to guard people and get on the boards.

"I am alarmed by the fact that we played so well against UTC, and we focused on defense and obviously we couldn't miss," Manning said. "Then to come back for a game like this (Thursday), it's like we thought we learned the lesson that you've really got to play defense. They scored way too many points, same with Carson-Newman.

"At the same time we found a way to win so that is a plus. Hopefully we can take that at least and then learn from the mistakes we did make.

"My personal opinion is that no matter what every single game defense should be a top priority. It's not one of the things that your defense is going to be off. It's just one of those things you have to bring to the court with you every single day and every game you play."

If lack of desire to play defense once again becomes an issue, Summitt said it would be addressed with lack of playing time, and she indicated that applied to the entire team.

"We should be able to get there, maybe not everyone, but enough people that will be invested in taking care of that side of the ball," Summitt said.

When the man defense sputtered so quickly against Virginia, Summitt briefly went to the fallback matchup zone but then switched back to man on principle.

"I wasn't going to bail them out," Summitt said. "You're going to hunker down and play great defense or we're going to get beat."

Tennessee has been vulnerable to dribble penetration – for that matter all teams are because it is difficult to defend – and Virginia took advantage of the openings.

"I am hoping we can get it addressed," Manning said. "If not we're going to have a lot of problems. Our 2-3 worked out well for us because we could keep them in front of us but I don't think we're going to be able to rely on that all year. The same with our switching defense, we were able to keep them in front of us.

"There are going to be teams we play where they're going to want us to switch and they're going to want us to play in a 2-3 and capitalize on that so we just really need to focus on our one-on-one defense."

To the team's credit it did indeed. The start was porous, and a double-digit lead shrank to seven late, but the middle of the game – before halftime and directly after – were rather tenacious.

"We talked about picking them up in the backcourt and turning them," Summitt said. "What they were doing initially was just running the ball up our backs. So slowing that action down by making sure we were picking up in the backcourt instead of the frontcourt I thought that changed things in a good way."

Summitt indicated that that style of play would become more prevalent going forward.

"I think in the middle, especially coming out from our halftime talk, I think we really were just strictly focused on playing defense, and it showed," Manning said. "They didn't score a lot during that middle segment. Beginning and end our defense started to loosen up a little bit, and they started to score again. She was heated.

"I think we learned we have all the talent in the world to make it really far but sometimes we've just got down to buckle down and play defense. It's one of the things we have to learn from and it's kind of was a glaring factor that could cost us a game and hopefully we'll figure it out."

The next chance is Sunday against Arizona State.

"When Pat gets upset you've got to find the quickest way to get her happy and Sunday's our opportunity," Johnson said. "Stay positive, work hard in practice and show her we're working all the time and show her in the game. Everything that we worked on we've got to put it to use in the game."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 junior guard/forward, No. 40 (10.3 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 senior guard, No. 5 (17.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Meighan Simmons, 5'9 freshman guard, No. 10 (20 ppg, 3.0 assists per game); Glory Johnson, 6'3 junior forward, No. 25 (5.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg); and Kelley Cain, 6'6 redshirt junior center, No. 52 (7.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg).

Arizona State Coach Charli Turner Thorne is expected to start: Dymond Simon, 5'5 redshirt senior guard, No. 1 (16.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg), hails from Phoenix, Arizona, All Pac-10 Team in 2009, injured her knee in March of 2009, missed last season to recover, received multiple All-American honors in high school at St. Mary's, which retired her number; Tenaya Watson, 5'9 senior guard, No. 35 (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), hails from Long Beach, Calif., played point last season in Simon's absence, All-American at Central Arizona in junior college before transferring to ASU, went 35-0 in 2009 and won the NJCAA national title; Kimberly Brandon, 6'2 redshirt junior, No. 25 (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), hails from Chatsworth, Calif., started 25 games last season; media guide lists her biological, Gregory and Valencia Brandon, and adoptive parents, Andre and Michelle Chevalier, sister Gennifer is a basketball player at Cal, biological father played basketball at Creighton and was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics, adopted parents both played basketball for Cal State Northridge; Becca Tobin, 6'5 senior forward, No. 32 (5.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg), hails from Glendale, Arizona, started 28 games last season and hit double figures in 15 games, grabbed 10 boards against Stanford, blocked six shots against Oregon State, also played volleyball in high school; and Kali Bennett, 6'5 redshirt junior forward/center, No. 11 (6.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg), hails from Ventura, Calif., transferred to ASU from Washington and sat out the 2008-09 season, played in 31 games last season, was also a standout cross-country runner and played volleyball in high school, brother Zack is on the crew team at Washington.

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Arizona State game. Here is her assessment.

When Arizona State has the ball: Tennessee needs to ready for another team this week that will want to take the ball right at the Lady Vols and crash the glass.

"They push in transition, and they want to score quick," DeMoss said. "They're very aggressive off the dribble so we've got to look to defend penetration, and they're very aggressive on the boards.

"We've got to give them one shot. They're averaging 23 offensive rebounds a game so we've really got to be mindful of keeping them off the boards."

The Sun Devils also have size across the frontline that could exceed that of Tennessee in some combinations, especially with the Lady Vols' injuries at the post position to 6'4 Vicki Baugh (did not practice Saturday, not expected to play) and 6'3 Alyssia Brewer (projected to play in mid-December).

"They do," DeMoss said. "They've got really good size."

Defensively, DeMoss expects Arizona State to extend its defense.

"We're going to see a lot of full court pressure," DeMoss said. "We're going to see man-to-man full court pressure with them trapping the point guard, we're going to see a 1-2-2 zone press and a 2-2-1 zone press. They really like to extend their defense and create some of their offense from their defense."

When Tennessee has the ball: The Lady Vols have been successful on offense in the past two games with one or two and sometimes three perimeter players scorching the nets. DeMoss wants the team to stay alert on the offensive end.

"We've got to stay aggressive on the offensive end, because they're a very aggressive defensive team," DeMoss said. "We can't be passive. We can't let them take us out of what we want to run. We've got to make strong cuts. We've got to set good screens. We've got to do the things to get ourselves open for good looks.

"We're going to keep attacking the way we have, hopefully keep executing. We've been shooting the ball pretty well so hopefully we can continue with accurate shooting."

Defensively, a lack of focus was the issue in Thursday's game. The coaches want to see a much different level of commitment at the opening tip Sunday than they saw a few days ago.

"Number one, we've got to defend penetration better," DeMoss said. "We've got to protect the paint better. We let Virginia get inside of our defense too much. We've got to start the game with that mindset to protect the paint and limit their shots to one bad shot, we've got to get the board and go the other way."

Arizona State opened the season with wins over Northern Arizona and UC Riverside – both teams were held under 50 points – and has been off the court for a week. The opponents shot 33.0 percent from the field, and Arizona forced 46 turnovers. The Sun Devils tallied a 46-15 advantage on the offensive glass.

"We have tremendous respect for their team and their program and how they play," Pat Summitt said. "They do a great job spacing, inside/outside attacking … just toughness about them."

ON TAP: Five other SEC teams are in action Sunday in the following matchups: Middle Tennessee State at Arkansas; Indiana at Georgia; Notre Dame at Kentucky; South Carolina at Penn State; and Vanderbilt at Florida State. On Monday, Auburn is at South Florida.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Arizona State, 2-0. The last matchup was at Tempe on Nov. 19, 2006, in what had been set up as a homecoming game for Lady Vol post Sybil Dosty, but she transferred to ASU after the 2005-06 season and sat out the game for the Sun Devils under NCAA transfer rules. Tennessee snapped ASU's 26-game home winning streak in the 83-74 victory. Sunday will be the return game to Knoxville from that home-and-home contract. The most memorable game between the two programs was Dec. 27, 2000, when they played outdoors – a first for women's college basketball – at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. Pat Summitt got a technical foul in the game, and she later said she did it to try to stay warm. Temperatures in the desert at tipoff were in the low 50s. … Tennessee is 9-0 in games played in November 21. The last win on this date was against Chattanooga, 66-63, in 2008. The first win on November 21 was against Vanderbilt, 77-53, in 1979. … Arizona State was picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the Pac-10 in both the media and coaches' polls. Stanford, a Final Four team in 2010, was picked first followed UCLA, USC and Cal. Arizona State went 18-14 last season and advanced to the second round of the WNIT. The Sun Devils made the NCAA Elite Eight in 2009. The return of point guard Dymond Simon, who missed last season to recover from knee surgery, gives the Sun Devils an all-conference guard to run the show.


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