"When we go on the road, if we don't pack our defense and our board play, it could get ugly," Coach Pat Summitt said. "We get everybody's best shot, and we know that because we're Tennessee and because we've had success throughout the years, but they don't quite understand it sometimes.
"It's all about what's on the front of your jersey. You've got to bring it every night if you're going to play in this program."
No. 9/8 Tennessee, 7-1, takes on Old Dominion, 3-2, at 2 p.m. Eastern (MyVLT in Knoxville area, Comcast Mid-Atlantic live, tape delay at 4 p.m. on CSS, Lady Vol Radio Network) at the Ted Constant Center.
The Lady Monarchs are 3-0 at the Ted this season with wins over Georgia Tech and Louisville to their credit and have shown over the years to be a different team at home when Tennessee rolls into town. The games in Knoxville tend to be handled with relative ease by the Lady Vols but not those in Norfolk.
"It's night and day," Summitt said.
Does the current team, which won 81-76 on the road Dec. 18, 2008, behind a career game from Angie Bjorklund know that?
"Do you think I really have an answer for this team?" Summitt asked. "Do they know that? I am not sure. There's a history there. But they had better be ready because Old Dominion, and particularly Old Dominion at home, they're solid, they're tough. I'm sure they'll have a great crowd, which they always do for us. It's going to be an environment they have to get their minds ready ahead of time."
Old Dominion is promoting a "blue out" with fans being encouraged to wear ODU's blue to the game. A total of 500 T-shirts will be given away before the game.
The Tennessee coaches are seeking answers for their team - Dean Lockwood mentioned he and Summitt discussed matters at length while traveling to recruit this past week - and specifically how to deprogram the panic button.
The last two losses that Tennessee sustained - Baylor in the Sweet 16 and Georgetown in the Virgin Islands last week - underscored an issue that had been dormant so far this season and that is how the team scatters on the court and withdraws when severe adversity strikes. The result is a snowball of mistakes and panic plays that seems to infect the team. It even spreads to the players on the bench, who get quiet and morose.
"We showed some clips of the bench," Lockwood said of the loss to Georgetown. "When you come out of a game, I hand you a towel, we quickly communicate. People were almost in a state of shock.
"We have to overcome that. We've talked about that. One of the best ways is we get in that situation - and I don't want to get down - I don't know that there are easy, quick answers.
"That's one of those questions we have asked among ourselves as a coaching staff and as a general nature about our team," Lockwood added. "Is there something we don't recognize about them? Is there something we can do to help them more? How can we help them get through this? I don't have a specific thing.
"But I will say this. I think our team envisions themselves and thinks of themselves as a close team. The relationships are good, and they like each other. We haven't gone to those next layers next. There are going to be moments when things bottom out and you have to get somebody to respond. You have to confront somebody lovingly and caringly but definitely with a firmness and resolve to say, ‘This has to get done, and we need people to step up right now and do it.' And I don't know that we've gotten to those levels yet. There's more to come there."
That, of course, segues into the issue of leadership and the need for someone to step forward and help Bjorklund, who was thrust as a sophomore into a veteran position.
"The leadership thing, we've got to have somebody who on a consistent basis is leading the charge in practice and games," Lockwood said. "Their effort never wanes. It never is inconsistent. They're not rattled. It's somebody they can withstand if it's a tirade or a coach comes at them, and Pat's got the bull's eye on somebody that day, they've got to be able to pull themselves and others through that. I don't know that we've arrived at that one person or even a couple people."
Those are roles tailor-made for Bjorklund, a senior who knows how to deal with Summitt, and Vicki Baugh, a redshirt junior who has natural leadership skills but was off the court for 21 months because of knee surgeries.
"I think Vicki helps us a lot in that area. And I think what hurts her (is the amount of time off the court)," Lockwood said. "She's not been here enough to be the resident. She's been kind of a congressman who's has a residence here but they live in D.C. It's hard to really know what's going on in your neighborhood.
"Right now she hasn't been on site enough to really, really wrap her arms around all that as much as she would like to. But when she's been here and she's doing that you can notice a difference. She's a key player in that piece."
The obvious example is Anosike, who became very comfortable in a leadership role. She earned the right to demand accountability.
"I think you have to start with positive supportive things because you earn the right to be a little bit more of a hammer," Lockwood said. "Until your yard is clean … I have zero credibility. I use the example of Nicky. She earned that right. Her freshman year she got beat up verbally by Shyra Ely half the time. She learned that ‘I am going to come in here with unbelievable effort, and I am going to knock it out in practice.'
"After awhile she earned that right to have a little edge to her. Until I earn that, be as positive as I can be. I need to challenge you positively. That builds those bonds. Once I trust you and you trust me now we can get into each other. But until that is built up and that's strong, that's a tenuous thing to do to another person."
Bjorklund brings the positive words as that is her nature. Glory Johnson, who was a freshman on the Tennessee team that ended up surrounded in negativity after setting program records for worst performances, indicated words of encouragement need to increase among players when things go wrong. That is not what happened in the Virgin Islands.
"When things like that happen, stay positive," Johnson said. "It happened a lot where things got negative, and people weren't talking to each other and it was quiet on the bench and on the floor. And when that happens that's when we struggle. We're not talking to each other, and you don't hear anybody, no one is communicating on offense and defense, that hurts.
"A turnover, a missed shot, a bad pass and all of a sudden we come back on defense and we don't make a stop and they keep on making runs, and we have no reaction on our face or we're yelling and pointing fingers, that's when it just snowballs. When we get to a level where we can be positive and stay positive and criticism is constructive, then I think we'll learn from that and we'll go farther.
"Just stay positive with whoever it is. If there is a person who has 20 turnovers, just stay positive and tell them, ‘Next play, next play.' And don't worry about what happens in the past."
Summitt can bring the fire and brimstone, as needed, and she did in Friday's practice, especially to emphasize mental focus while making layups and better one-on-one defense.
"We control so much in practice, but we're not going to be able to do that Sunday afternoon," Lockwood said.
The goal is to get the players to seize the team, a process that the 2007 and 2008 teams eventually learned.
"There was a point where they said, ‘I've got the steering wheel. Step back. Stay close because I may need you but you don't need to drive anymore. We got it,' " Lockwood said. "We're hoping that comes."
The coaches can make use of timeouts and perhaps need to do so more often. Parker used to remind Summitt not to take them home with her, but that was because she played extended minutes and got pounded inside. She wanted a quick rest during a timeout. With this team, perhaps familiar voices during the game, especially when adversity lurks, would help.
"There are only so many things during a game that you can do in those moments," Lockwood said. "Timeouts would be one because you can bring them over and talk. But the minute they hit the floor and that clock is live again your power goes down significantly to impact things as a coaching staff.
"Is there someone out there who can give us some intelligence and poise under fire? We need that. We still need some more of that. How can you help your team? As I go home I am going to be thinking, how can we help our team. You're always thinking about it."
The players met last week with Lockwood sitting in on the session at their request. He thinks it was productive but the proof comes on the court.
"I hope so and I think so but my answer with that would be the same of any get-together and talks," Lockwood said. "Any communication that happens is fine but when the rubber meets the road is the test when you get put back into an environment, whether it's adversity or just going onto your next thing.
"Our emphasis for the day (Friday): If you learn well but don't do well, it doesn't mean anything. Not only do I have to learn it but I have to go out and apply it. That, for me, is really the test."
A team that can engage the panic button and not turn loose also needs confidence. It's a simple answer but not an easy fix.
"Confidence comes from demonstrated ability. The old Bill Parcells thing," Lockwood said. "There is one way I get confidence - once I go through something and I establish that I can do it, it doesn't worry me anymore."
Johnson indicated the team is aware of what it needs to do and wants to take significant steps to seize ownership.
"I think I'll look back at the (Georgetown) game and say that's what we needed to work on and I am glad we got that fixed," Johnson said. "We'll be a lot more confident."
Johnson also believes the team is finally seasoned enough to sort through what went wrong and understand why.
"I think we're mature enough," Johnson said. "We've just got to buckle down and do what we have to do to win the game whether it's denying the three-point shooters, making sure they're not getting any three-point shots off, especially when you hit 30 points worth of threes (as Georgetown did).
"When we scout teams, the coaches help us a lot and what they put on that piece of paper is what we need to learn from and what we need to go into the game knowing. That is like a cheat sheet when you have a test. So use it to our advantage and I don't think that's what we did."
Sunday's game falls in the middle of exam week for Tennessee - they started last Thursday and end this coming Thursday - so the players' attention may be somewhat divided this weekend, which has been also filled with textbook study hours, not just scouting reports.
"Exams are rough right now for me," said Johnson, an honor roll student every semester at Tennessee. "It will help not having to go to class and being able to relax. And if you're up studying all night being able to sleep until practice and not having to go to class."
Still, that maturity also means this team should not overlook Old Dominion.
"Let's hope so," Lockwood said. "You lay out the history to them and what they've done (at home) and their capabilities. If you're a basketball team at the age and level that our players are now you've got to have some level of intelligence that this team could be dangerous to them.
"They have to embrace it. Once we show them what they're doing well and how they do it, our kids have to be able to embrace that and realize, ‘Hey, we've got to bring it.' "
Johnson said Tennessee, of all teams, should recognize the effect of a home court and how the Lady Vols are greeted on the road with attendance leaps.
"That's how it is when you go away sometimes," Johnson said. "When it's not on your home court, it's a little different. When they are on their home court, they're a lot more confident. They have their fans there.
"But whatever game it is and whoever we're playing against just being confident in what we can do and knowing what we have to do to win the game. … Go in confident and know you're leaving with a win. Don't worry about what the team is, who the team is."
Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Meighan Simmons, 5'9 freshman guard, No. 10 (17.1 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, 2.6 assists per game); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 senior guard, No. 5 (11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.0 apg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 junior guard/forward, No. 40 (11.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg); Taber Spani, 6'1 sophomore guard, No. 13 (8.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 junior forward, No. 25 (9.3 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.7 steals per game).
The lineup could change, depending on the availability Sunday of Kelley Cain, a 6'6 redshirt junior center who made the trip but can be bothered by soreness on the right side of her body in the hip and knee areas, especially in cold weather. The Norfolk-area was hit with a wintry mix Saturday and low temperatures.
Spani started the last time Cain was pulled from the starting lineup. Summitt also could use Alicia Manning, a 6'1 junior forward, in that starting spot. Both Spani and Manning can line up inside or out, and Stricklen also can post up in the paint.
Old Dominion Coach Wendy Larry is expected to start: Jasmine Parker, 5'6 senior guard, No. 2 (16.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 3.6 spg), hails from Norfolk, Va., nickname is "J.P.," needs 15 points to tally 1,000 for her career, tied career high with 24 points against Louisville this season, Second Team All-CAA, All-CAA Defensive Team last season, had 13 points, four assists in Tennessee game a year ago, also played field hockey and soccer in high school; Shadasia Green, 5'9 senior guard, No. 35 (9.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg), hails from Paterson, N.J., scored 14 points in team's last outing against Florida, started all 33 games last season, scored 12 points against Tennessee last season, career-high 24 points against Louisville a year ago; Kquanise Byrd, 5'7 senior guard, No. 11 (5.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg), hails from St. Petersburg, Fla., nickname is "Q" or "Byrd," started last two games this season, career high 13 points last season against UNC-Wilmington, started 24 games last season, her first for ODU after transferring from Miami-Dade Junior College, hit a three-pointer against Tennessee last season; Alena Voronina, 6'2 senior forward, No. 5 (10.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg), hails from Brisbane, Australia, nickname is "Russia," because was born in Yekaterinburg but grew up Down Under, played in 28 games last season, grabbed four rebounds against Tennessee; and Tia Lewis, 6'3 junior forward/center, No. 44 (11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg), hails from Poulan, Ga., started 32 games last season, her first for ODU after transferring from Central Florida and sitting out the 2008-09 season, made Colonial Athletic Association All-Tournament team, had 11 points, 10 rebounds against Tennessee last season.
POINT DUTIES: The Tennessee staff is expected to continue with the Meighan Simmons experiment at point guard after her performance Wednesday against Lamar - career-high 28 points, including a school-record eight threes, and five assists.
Tennessee has been seeking to find some stability at point guard and has used Shekinna Stricklen at the spot for two years with backup from Briana Bass and Kamiko Williams. This would have been Cait McMahan's redshirt senior year but an unstable knee forced her early retirement from the game midway through the 2008-09 season. McMahan did play one game in the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League last summer and wowed the crowd with her drives and finishes at the rim.
"Wow," said Glory Johnson, who also played in the league and watched McMahan's debut. "How did she go out there and do that? It would help a lot. She's not scared to put the ball down on the floor. That is missed, but someone else will take her position. Someone else has got to fill that hole."
Stricklen, a natural small forward, and Bass, a true point guard, were both thrust into the spot as freshmen before they really had time to get ready.
"I think it has (hurt not having a veteran point guard)," Johnson said. "I think there's a hole where that needs to be filled but that's where some of the guards have to step up (with the attitude of) if that's what I need to do, that's what I need to do. If I need to handle the ball down the floor, if I need to put the ball down and dribble, I'm a guard, I can take care of that.
"I would but I'm a post and Pat is going to get me so I let the guards take care of that. I look for the guards and hopefully they come to me because I would rather not put the ball down and get in trouble for that. Somebody has got to step up and take the initiative and just be confident. When they put that in their minds and be confident of what they can do, I think we'll be fine."
Simmons showed an inclination to take the reins in Wednesday's game. The real test will come with a team that brings intense pressure as Georgetown did - and ate up Tennessee's guards - but the coaches would like to keep Stricklen off the ball as much as possible. She has not been comfortable with teams that can bring the heat that the Hoyas did.
"We hope," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "Again, that's something I don't know what we'll have a definite answer until we go farther down the line, but we hope. We've known that for Strick it's not her position of choice for her or where she's most comfortable. That has been something of necessity and there have been times where she's played very, very well, but you can tell there're times where the stress level or the load of what a point guard has to think about … if you're used to playing wide receiver all your life and then somebody puts you at quarterback it's a different thing.
"And I think for her it's been different to have to be aware of all the things a point guard has to be aware of, so we were hoping she could relax more and be in her comfort zone a little bit more. Meighan did a great job of pushing the ball. Make or miss, that ball got up the court quicker so we were hoping for some of that as well."
SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Old Dominion game. Here is his assessment.
When Old Dominion has the ball: The Lady Monarchs want to drive to the basket and get paint points, and they use two speedy players to run the point, Jasmine Parker and Shadasia Green.
"It's a shared thing," Lockwood said. "Both of them are doing it. Jasmine Parker is the (overall) better scorer of the two. She's got deep range. She's got a terrific pull-up jump shot. She uses ball screens a lot. She is somebody we have to be very, very aware of."
ODU will seek paint points throughout the game, and the Lady Monarchs want to get to the line. In the 69-65 win over Louisville on Nov. 26, ODU was 13-20 from the line compared to 6-14 for the Cardinals. In the 63-55 loss at Florida on Nov. 30, ODU was 8-13 from the line compared to 21-36 for the Gators. In both the win and the loss, the difference was at the stripe.
"One of the things with them since I've been here at Tennessee that they've always been good at is beating you off the dribble," Lockwood said. "They are very good at beating you off the dribble. They are very good at paint points. They are a very good offensive rebounding team. They get the ball to the paint a lot off their drives, and they're very good at getting fouled.
"You can't go into the game like you just got out of bed and be half in a (defensive) stance. You had better be in your stance and you have better be ready to guard drivers because that is what they can really do."
Defensively, Old Dominion is primarily a man-to-man team, at least so far this season.
"I've seem them play a majority of man," Lockwood said. "They will try to put good ball pressure in you. They're going to try to dig a little bit for steals. They'll overplay some, but they're not heavy all the time. They kind of pick spots. A lot of is personnel driven.
"They're a quick hands, quick feet type team who will try to generate some points through their defense."
ODU will occasionally pick up full court as a team.
"Some, but not a lot," Lockwood said. "What I've seen so far in the early going I've not seen them extend their pressure a lot. The guards may pick up full, but they're not bringing everybody up. Late game or behind late in the game they might do something.
When Tennessee has the ball: The Lady Vols have two starting lineups in place now that vary depending on the availability of the posts. Tennessee traditionally has been an inside-out team but with so many shooters on the floor when the smaller lineup starts, the Lady Vols have flipped to outside-in.
"We still want to get good shots," Lockwood said. "Paint scoring, it's a little bit like running the football, you've got to be able to have that to really be a championship-caliber team. If you're doing it with your post players, that's one thing, but you can also do it through your dribble drives, through your offensive rebounding.
"Those are two areas for us that have not changed despite what the lineup is. If you've got a Kelley Cain and a Vicki Baugh playing 20 minutes or more, you're going to get touches to those kids. But it's also about driving the ball, getting it into the paint, creating help situations, offensive rebounding.
"We're still a good enough team rebounding wise that we should be able to generate points through our offensive rebounds and putbacks. So that's one area, in terms of philosophy, that we still want to do.
"And I think for us also is the execution factor is even more important. If you don't have your big kids playing inside, how we set and use screens and free up some shooters and how we space and move the ball has become that much more important to us. Not that it's ever unimportant but it's become that much more important."
Defensively, Tennessee has to be ready to guard penetrators and can deploy its man or matchup zone.
"I think we've shown where our zone has been good for us," Lockwood said. "I think we're going to continue to shore that up and get better at it because we will need it. We'll need to use it. But for us, even when you're in a zone, you've got to have the ability to guard people one on one and keep them out of the paint and also with your help defense to be very, very strong.
"This team, they can make liars out of me, has not shown that they're going to beat you from three-point land. Where they're going to beat you is getting into the paint so even when we're man, our help defense has to be strong. I think we'll use both (man and zone). I really do."
ON TAP: Six other SEC teams are in action Sunday in the following matchups: Florida at Brown; Georgia Tech at Georgia; Kentucky at Louisville; Ole Miss at South Alabama; Savannah State at South Carolina; and Vanderbilt at Denver.
ODDS AND ENDS
Tennessee leads the series with Old Dominion, 34-9. The last win for the Lady Monarchs was at home on Dec. 7, 1997, an 83-72 victory during Tennessee's 10-loss and eventual national title season. ODU has come close several times at home since then, the last in 2008. The Lady Vols' win streak in the series is at 14. … Tennessee is 7-0 in games played on December 5. The last win on this date was against Old Dominion, 83-51, in 2007 in Knoxville. The first win on December 5 was against Middle Tennessee State, 87-63, in 1978. … Redshirt junior forward Vicki Baugh will graduate this December with a degree in psychology and a minor in communication studies. She will participate in commencement ceremonies next May with her academic class of seniors, Angie Bjorklund, Kelley Cain and Sydney Smallbone. Baugh will begin graduate studies in sports psychology in January. … Angie Bjorklund must like seeing the ODU uniforms. The senior guard from Spokane Valley, Wash., has averaged 22.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 apg and 2.0 apg in 30.3 mpg. Her career high of 29 points was scored in Norfolk in 2008, and Tennessee needed every point to keep the win streak intact. Bjorklund has shot 63.1 percent overall and from behind the arc against the Lady Monarchs. … Tennessee freshman Meighan Simmons has reached double figures in scoring in her first eight games, good for fourth place on the career list of first-year debuts. Candace Parker had nine while Glory Johnson had 10. Chamique Holdsclaw holds the frosh record with 14 straight games in double figures to start her career. Other records to watch: Angie Bjorklund needs 13 treys to tie the school record of 266. Shekinna Stricklen is 41 points away from 1,000 for her career. … ODU is No. 2 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll. The Lady Monarchs have held onto that spot for two weeks. … ODU Coach Wendy Larry has a career record of 591-225 so she is now just nine wins away from 600 for her career. Larry has been at Old Dominion for 27 seasons and tallied 542 wins for the Lady Monarchs. Prior to taking the post with her alma mater, Larry was the head coach at Virginia Wesleyan College from 1978-79 and Arizona from 1985-87.