Lady Vols end week of preparation

The Lady Vols wrapped up a week of practice and exams and next head to the state of Texas for a two-game swing that will provide a good gauge on the team's development to date. Tennessee continues to have to function with its post play on a day-to-day basis as Kelley Cain made it through most of practice Friday while Vicki Baugh had to take a full rest day.

"It is what it is," Coach Pat Summitt said of the fluctuating availability of the 6'6 Kelley Cain and the 6'4 Vicki Baugh. "It's a wait and see."

Both players are expected to be available Sunday when Tennessee, 8-1, takes on Texas, 5-2, at 1 p.m. Eastern (FSN). The Lady Vols will fly via Delta charter on Saturday for Austin and hold a shoot-around at the Erwin Center later that day.

"I think they both will," Summitt said of the game-day status of the pair of posts.

Baugh didn't take the court Friday and instead used the time to get treatment with Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine. Cain participated in practice until Summitt asked her how she felt.

"I said, ‘Go get treatment,' " Summitt said.

Cain's right knee is actually feeling much better this season, but a right hip injury in a practice collision in October has hindered her for weeks. The injury was indeed unfortunate because prior to that Cain had been moving well, even in up-tempo sessions.

"I'm 21 and dealing with hip pain like this," Cain said. "I play with pain every day. It's very tough to get up and continue to play sometimes, but I just have my teammates behind me, and I have Jenny behind me, and I have God behind me, and they keep me going."

Cain, who smiles broadly despite delivering a rather bleak outlook on her daily physical condition, nodded when asked if her status was basically day to day every day.

"If I can move that morning and talking to JMo and getting treatment that (leads to) the decision," Cain said. It's difficult."

She also said the weather makes a difference in how she feels, and she hoped for warmer temperatures in Texas.

"It plays a big part," Cain said.

Despite her ailments, Cain's expression rarely changes in practice. She maintains an upbeat attitude and while lateral movement seems to be a bigger issue because of the hip, her forward progress up and down the court was rather nimble Friday.

Baugh and Cain lean on each other for support. They also both want to help the team.

"We just have to keep encouraging each other and having my teammates right there helps me so much," Cain said.

This week was used to finish exams – the academic part of student-athlete officially finished for all players for the fall semester on Thursday evening – and to get better on both sides of the ball.

"I think we did," Summitt said after Friday's practice at Pratt Pavilion. "We'll know when we play Texas. I think our scouting report was good, and they seemed very focused today overall."

With exams over and school out just two male practice players showed up Friday so the Lady Vols spent quite a bit of time going against each other.

With the tenuous status of two of the post players and Alyssia Brewer back just this past week, Alicia Manning has spent considerable time working in the paint for depth reasons. Summitt refers to her as a blue-collar-type player, and Manning showed why again Friday after taking a shot to the face that left bloodstains on her practice jersey. Manning left the court for a few minutes and returned to action.

Taber Spani also can log minutes in the paint, but with her ability to shoot from long range – and her shot was connecting all week in practice – she can sometimes be much more effective on the wing.

Tennessee takes to the road with a freshman at point guard in Meighan Simmons, who will also have dozens of family and friends in attendance at Sunday's game. The 5'9 guard is from Cibolo, near San Antonio, Texas. Summitt has already planned a meeting with Simmons to reinforce the notion of playing within herself and not letting the environment overtake her.

"(Saturday), we will have a sit-down," Summitt said. "Meighan and Pat. Don't try to do too much. Play your game. She has a tendency to try and do more than she needs to do."

Former Lady Vol Candace Parker – Simmons' favorite player – also is expected to be in attendance Sunday.

"She is excited, and I think the whole team knows that Candace is going to be there," Summitt said. "We will all be excited to see her. I would be surprised if that didn't inspire our team to have Candace coming to watch them play."

The players were noticeably happy Thursday and Friday – and that coincided with the ending of exams.

"I was so stressed out," Simmons said of her first collegiate exam period. "It's a major adjustment. It's a mentality thing. You have to go in and say, ‘Hey, I have to get my stuff done,' but once school is done I can just focus on basketball and not worry about juggling two things at one time and you're able to play to the best of your ability and not let academics be a distraction.

"But sometimes you're so worried about your academics it's to the point that sometimes you can't focus on basketball."

The break in school is not just a relief to freshmen but upperclassmen, too.

"You don't have to worry about it, just come in working on practice and play," junior guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen said. "No studying, no taking tests, going to class. Sleeping in and getting a lot of rest. It just takes a lot off of you.

"Especially around finals you're staying up until 3, 4 in the morning, basically all night. It takes a lot off of us."

VIDEO COVERAGE: Video clips from Friday's practice, plus interview with Meighan Simmons.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories