Lady Vols get back to work

Pat Summitt does not schedule to go undefeated and yet she hates to lose. The cognitive dissonance that can cause was on display Wednesday afternoon at practice – the day after Tennessee lost to Baylor – when the head coach met with her team in a locker room session she referred to as a "roll call" of the players.

"The first thing I did was go in the locker room and give them a piece of my mind," a hoarse Pat Summitt said at practice Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena. "That was when my staff was working on what we wanted to do today. I called everybody out. It was roll call and rightfully so because we really didn't have anyone step up and be a warrior, aside from maybe Kelley (Cain).

"We had some smack going on on the bench and I had to shut that up. When no one is playing well everybody can kind of chime in. I think what we're doing today is getting them focused and understand that we are a team, and we've got to play like a team every possession."

Summitt was asked if she had ever had to address such an issue in game, and she smiled.

"In 37 years, sure," Summitt said.

It's not common, but neither is it particularly rare, especially if a team is frustrated and not hitting shots as Tennessee found itself in the 65-54 loss to Baylor on Tuesday in Waco, Texas. The Lady Vols shot 25.0 percent for the game, a staggeringly low connection rate for a team that has shooters and scorers and one of the lowest in program history, if not the lowest in decades.

"It wasn't pretty, and I don't like ugly," Summitt said. "We've got to get better. We're going to get better. I can tell you that. I can promise you we are going to get better."

The first change will be to the starting lineup with Kamiko Williams moving out and Taber Spani moving in for Sunday's game with Stanford, the second 2010 Final Four team that the Lady Vols face this week.

"She's not going to be in the (starting lineup)," Summitt said during her Wednesday media teleconference. "She has a lesson to learn and rightfully so. I think Meighan Simmons is the best at the point position. She didn't play that well either but that environment and the crowd was a little overwhelming. I'm probably going to put Taber Spani in – we need more offense."

Williams played most of her minutes at the point position against Baylor and she and the team struggled. During one timeout a visibly frustrated Williams stopped to talk at the coaches' huddle, walked toward the bench and was guided back to the team huddle.

"Kamiko was not very efficient at all," Summitt said at practice Wednesday. "She was playing by herself. It was everybody thinking it's my turn, and they didn't play team ball. It got stuck in their hands.

"We needed to move the ball to get open looks. We took contested shots. Once you get the ball moving now you can get open looks. But it got stuck in our hands. It, was like, ‘It's my turn,' and probably Kamiko and Meighan were the worst."

Summitt's ire Wednesday was with the entire team and certainly not just with Williams but point guard is the spot that needs an shakeup right now, and Meighan Simmons has some game experience at the position, albeit very limited for the freshman. Williams is better suited either off the ball or in limited situations at the point when she can get to the paint and create. Against Baylor and the 6'8 Brittney Griner the ball needed to be moved and reversed.

Junior guard Briana Bass is a true point but Tennessee has played a lot of zone the past two seasons and her 5'2 size doesn't allow her to match up in that deployment. True freshman Lauren Avant has missed weeks with a nerve contusion of her hand and then an ankle sprain and is just now back to practice.

"She's got to go to work," Summitt said. "She's got a lot of catching up to do."

The next game isn't a matchup for someone to ease into playing time with No. 3/2 Stanford headed to Knoxville.

"I would anticipate that they're going to get after us on the defensive end," Summitt said. "They have athletic players and they have very skilled players. We have really got to defend.

"We have got to have a mindset that every possession matters and if we don't have that then we'll be in the same situation that we were against Baylor."

Tennessee has played shorthanded in the paint all season – and the Cardinal is loaded with size – and that trend held at practice Wednesday.

Cain, who played 25 minutes against Baylor and was cited by Summitt for being "a warrior" – was on crutches as a precaution and held out of practice with a sore hip and lower back pain.

Vicki Baugh, who logged four first half minutes and didn't play in the second half because of ongoing pain and stiffness, also was held out of practice.

Alyssia Brewer, who just returned to practice last week after Achilles tendon surgery in September, went down in practice and was diagnosed with irritation. She received treatment on the sideline and didn't return.

Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine, listed all three players as day to day, and Summitt said she anticipated having them available for Sunday. Of course, how much remains a game day decision.

In the meantime, the Lady Vols will have to continue to configure lineups without one of the three bigs inside. Glory Johnson, a 6'3 forward who Summitt acknowledged gave up considerable size to Griner, is the only healthy true post. Shekinna Stricklen, a point guard two weeks ago, has moved to power forward.

Summitt indicated that Spani would play at the three spot – she has started to warm up from long range – on the perimeter with Angie Bjorklund and Simmons for offensive reasons.

The loss clearly still bothered Summitt. She said she was hoarse from having to yell throughout the game to remind players to get their hands up on defense and to box out.

"It still hurts," Summitt said. "We've got to get a whole lot better and a whole lot tougher. We had our hands down the whole night and that's why my voice is like it is.

"It's not like this was their first rodeo. So really disappointed in this team and the lack of leadership on this team."

Practice lasted about three hours Wednesday but that also included a film session and the meeting with Summitt so not all of that time was spent on the court. The assistants were preparing the practice plan while Summitt took the team into the locker room.

"I was speaking on behalf of the entire staff," Summitt said. "They're frustrated. (The players) know when they sign here what's expected.

"We can't be kind to this group because they're not self-starters. I don't know why. You look at our team right now and we've got veteran players. For our coaching staff it's just really frustrating."

With school out until next month Summitt is not limited to NCAA time restrictions on team activities, but she also knows there is a game Sunday and a lot of basketball left to be played so the players – who had weights Wednesday after practice – will get Thursday as an off day to rest their legs. With no class it's a true off day for the team, too, and when they scooted off the court Wednesday there were some smiles.

The team will return to practice Friday and also hold a session Saturday. Wednesday's session was devoted to offensive execution and decision making after the abysmal showing Tuesday in Waco.

"We just haven't been very good," Summitt said. "We haven't played well together as a team. It was me, me, I, I time. That drives coaches crazy. That is why I went in (Wednesday) and let everybody have it. Just going down the list, what we expect from you and what we didn't get. I think this is going to be good for us.

"A wake-up call is always good provided you buy into it. If this team will buy into it I like our chances."

VIDEO COVERAGE: Video clips from Wednesday's practice with Pat Summitt remarks.


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