Lady Vols excited about upcoming trip

The Lady Vol players were all smiles before practice Monday, the result of their head coach being happy with their effort in Sunday's game and the fact that they leave this morning for the Virgin Islands. The three-game tourney gets underway Thanksgiving Day, and it was hoped that Vicki Baugh would be ready for some playing minutes by then.

Vicki Baugh, a 6'4 power forward coming back from two ACL surgeries that kept her out of a competitive game for 21 months, has missed the past three games because of tightness/soreness in her hip and iliotibial band. The knee ligament hasn't been the issue and the knee hasn't even had any swelling when she does practice. Perhaps the tropical breezes and warm Caribbean Sea will provide some relief for Baugh this week.

Kelley Cain, who sat out the second half in Sunday's 80-64 win over Arizona State, returned to practice Monday and went the distance. Baugh did some full court warmups with the team and then underwent sideline rehab for her hip and IT band with Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine.

Alyssia Brewer, who is projected to play in mid-December when Tennessee travels to Texas, practiced in the half-court setting with the scout team and participated in post drills.

All three post players will be in the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam, and Glory Johnson will appreciate any company in the paint. Brewer remains out of game action – she is not yet released to play full court – but if Cain can go, and Baugh can provide a few relief minutes, Johnson can catch her breath over the three-game format.

Coach Pat Summitt said freshman point guard Lauren Avant, who remains on crutches after spraining her ankle a week ago, won't make the trip and was instead released to go home to Memphis for Thanksgiving with her mother, Dana Avant, who was at Sunday's game. Air travel can increase swelling and might have impeded healing for the ankle, and the team is taking commercial flights so Avant would have had to navigate crowded airports during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

Tennessee will use Tuesday to travel – Shekinna Stricklen said she was looking forward to an island dinner upon arrival – and have Wednesday for a practice and film study day. The games will take place Thursday with a 5:45 p.m. Eastern matchup with Missouri, Friday with an 8 p.m. Eastern matchup with Georgia Tech and Saturday with an 8 p.m. Eastern matchup with Georgetown.

A payment of $4.99 will allow online streaming of all the games: Paradise Jam.

Johnson has held down the paint while her teammates have been injured or ailing – Summitt told her to ask if she needed a break but Johnson went the distance in the second half Sunday – and she smiled at the moniker of "lonesome post."

"I was very lonesome, and I was looking for subs, but they didn't come," Johnson said with a big smile.

Tennessee's depth remains an asset, but it would be even more so if the posts all get healthy. Summitt referenced the overall depth in her Wednesday media teleconference and said it would be needed this week on the island.

"I like that a lot," Summitt said. "That's a place where we'll hopefully have an advantage. I like the fact we can go very deep on the bench and not lose much. I feel like they finally understand.

"I told Glory, ‘If you get tired, pull yourself and we'll put you back in.' I am not opposed to doing that especially with these three games. I think our depth can really help us in that situation."

Summitt didn't have a true post to sub for Johnson on Sunday – though Alicia Manning and Taber Spani have been logging minutes in the paint – and Johnson said she decided to not ask for a rest.

"I can play long minutes, and I am not going to give in to fatigue or pull myself," Johnson said.

Baugh's teammates will be especially excited to have her back on the court with them.

"We'll be happy," Stricklen said. "I bet Glory will be really happy. I give Glory a lot of credit because she's really holding it down right now. Kelley is playing a little bit in there but I think when Vicki comes back it will be a big help, especially when she gets her confidence back it's really going to help. Because she can run the floor, a post that can just dribble and go.

"When we get her and Kelley back it will be really good. I think it will really help."

Johnson is looking forward to a trip to the tropics for a wee bit of relaxation when they arrive Tuesday and before they leave Sunday.

"I've got my sunglasses. I've got my flip-flops. I've got my cute little outfits I can wear in 94-degree weather," Johnson said. "I'm excited. It's been cold over here, and I don't like being cold. I like being hot. I would rather be sweaty than freezing. It's kind of weird because I was born in Colorado Springs where there's blizzards."

Johnson agreed that the post players should be assigned to the beach so they can soak in the saltwater to help with the soreness.

"Just tell Pat that," Johnson said. "We're all so sore. I am going to take that advice."

The players have their trip itineraries – it includes snorkeling on Sunday – and they intend to enjoy any down time.

"I'm excited," Stricklen said. "We don't start playing until Thursday. We practice on Wednesday so really when we start focusing is Wednesday. Tuesday, we'll be enjoying it. I am ready to see how the food is going to be."

"I can't wait. It's going to be fun," Meighan Simmons said. "Just being able to take a break and being near the water. I love water. … But we're going there for one reason and that's to play ball."

Summitt wants the team to be ready for the competition but also enjoy being on the island.

"I know they're excited," Summitt said. "I think we're pretty focused. I know they're excited about this trip and the coaches are very excited as well, and we've got a lot of fans going down. They'll get to go to the beach and have some fun, and we want them to, because that's part of it, but I think when it comes game-time we're going to be focused. You've got to play three consecutive days. You had better be focused and you had better stay focused.

"I think it's a great time for them to bond and it's typical when you go on these trips that that happens. I think this group understands what they have to do, but we want them to have fun. But when it comes down to step over the lines, we'd better be ready to compete."

Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said she knows that Summitt recognizes that these holiday tournaments are a mixture of business and fun.

"It's a great trip for our team and these seniors and juniors," DeMoss said. "It's kind of a reward for what they've contributed to the program. I know they have a lot of stuff planned for the teams. The beach is right there next to the hotel. When we step on the court and step in a film session, it's business, but when we're outside of basketball she's really good about letting the kids enjoy it."

Monday was a full day for the players – classes, film, two-hour practice, weightlifting, media interviews and then home to pack and get ready for an early morning flight out of Knoxville.

"A bit of preparation for Missouri and then a lot of us," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said about Monday's practice. "Areas to clean up. Defensively, we had a stretch of 8:42 and they didn't score a field goal. Well, great. But at the end of the game we only had five deflections (with three by Johnson). Not great. Our goal is 20. We're not active enough yet defensively. We just want to be more active. We want to be more attacking with our defense.

"Our rebounding isn't near what we think it needs to be or what we think it should be. Those two areas, no surprise, Pat, defense and rebounding, so that's what we wanted to get better at (Monday). And then execution, fundamental stuff. Making simple, complete, sharp, crisp passes. Play through the posts. Play inside-out. Be able to hit the open player. We're going to be trapped and one of the things we want to be able to do is play out of that."

Summitt gave the players a passing grade for Monday's effort, and expressed confidence that the team would prepare as expected in the Virgin Islands.

"Overall (Monday), good job, and I think the maturity level of this team is so much better than what has happened in the past," Summitt said. "I think they can turn it on when they need to turn it on."

VIDEO COVERAGE: Video clips from Monday's practice.


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