Lady Vols to take on South Carolina

The way Alicia Manning sees it the coaches have a lot of options to sort through while divvying up game minutes so she can make that decision easier for them by being a steady contributor off the bench in areas that the junior forward excels – defense, rebounding, especially on the offensive end, and free throw shooting, as she hasn't missed from the line in SEC play.

"One of my roles is to be a sparkplug off the bench, bringing high energy, communication no matter what defense we're in, try to be a vocal leader on the floor, defense and rebounding, offensive putbacks," Alicia Manning said.

Manning is one of three players for the Lady Vols that comes off the bench and would likely start at any other SEC school. The other two are junior forward Glory Johnson, who, like Manning, was an All-American in high school, and sophomore guard Kamiko Williams, the go-to player at her prep school in Clarksville, Tenn.

"It's different," Manning said. "Coming to one of the best schools in the country you knew that coming in that there was going to be other players better than you. I think we all just bring different aspects. That's Coach's decision, and we're all getting close to starter minutes anyways. We have a really good bench."

No. 5/6 Tennessee (17-2) is back in action tonight against South Carolina (10-8, 2-3) at 7 p.m. Eastern (SportSouth, Lady Vol Radio Network) at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.

Since SEC play started, no player on Tennessee's roster is averaging 30 minutes or more a game. The closest is senior guard Angie Bjorklund at 29.2 minutes. Three starters are averaging just under 24 minutes a game. A fourth starter is under 22 minutes.

"That hasn't always been the case," Coach Pat Summitt said.

During the national titles years of 2007 and 2008, the starters basically played the bulk of the minutes, though Summitt was quick to sit Candace Parker if she could, with the All-American sometimes logging just five minutes in the second half of wipeouts.

In 2008, Tennessee had an active roster of nine and a primary rotation of seven. Five senior starters departed after claiming the national championship in Tampa and the team was turned over to Alex Fuller, a redshirt senior with balky knees, and 11 underclassmen.

That group is now a collection of juniors and seniors, though a freshman, Meighan Simmons, cracked the starting lineup in the second game of her career and has remained there since.

"We haven't always had people step up and claim their position," Summitt said, referring to the teams of the past two-and-a-half seasons. "It's been by committee all the time. As a predominantly junior team, with two seniors, it's a little bit different. We don't feel like we have to rotate people to get them in and out.

"It's more of getting five people who are playing well together, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint. A lot of times it's wait and see. As a coaching staff we would like to know exactly what you are going to get when you head into a game.

"You don't always get what you expect. I like to say you get what you demand. In the course of a game, they might give into fatigue. We as a staff have to recognize that and get people that aren't going to give into fatigue."

Manning is averaging 19.2 minutes per game since SEC play began and is third on the team in attempted free throws at 13. She has hit all of them to lead the league in that category.

"Although she's not starting, she has a big impact on how the game is played," Summitt said. "Defensively, she is always very committed with her board play. She just does the dirty work and grinds it out.

"I feel like Alicia is that utility-type player that is going to get in a battle and make good things happen. She does that on defense and gets paint points."

Tennessee could also get deeper. Vicki Baugh had another productive practice on Wednesday, and Alyssia Brewer is close to game action. She didn't make the trip to South Carolina, as she is still in the accelerated conditioning phase of her return.

"When they come back, it's going to be scary," Manning said. "I can't even imagine what goes through the coaches' heads to have all this talent and try to figure out only five people on the court at a time. I think a lot of it depends on the team that we play and what strengths we can use against them. I think that has a lot to do with it."

The coaches have said the same thing and make in-game adjustments based on personnel. The Lady Vols also want an up-tempo pace and that can mean keeping the scorer's table busy with check-ins.

"It's part of coming here," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said when asked about players of starter caliber coming off the bench. "What is important to you? Minutes played or competing for championships? Because you can't win a championship on your own. And our tempo is such that we should get a lot of people playing."

A fast pace suits Manning's style of play, because like the 6'2 Shekinna Stricklen, she can play inside or out and start the fast break with her ball-handling skills.

"She is like Strick," Warlick said. "She is a four player that can rebound and handle the ball and get the ball up the floor. That is what we want from her. We want her to come in and give us high energy, come up with a steal.

"Everybody wants to start and play as much as they can, but A-Town understands her role and she understands what she needs to do when she goes in."

The next evolution in Manning's game is to develop a consistent perimeter shot, especially from the arc. Last summer she sustained a high ankle sprain while working basketball camp and missed most of the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League and the opportunity to get extra gym time. She was in a walking boot and on crutches for several weeks, severely limiting her basketball activities at a time when players need off-season repetitions.

"Coach doesn't want me to shoot (a lot) of (outside) shots a game," Manning said. "We have so many other scorers like that, but getting to the point where I can be consistent scoring 10 points a game or so."

The scouting report on Manning likely says to back off of her on the perimeter because she is a threat to drive but won't launch very often from outside. The forward noticed that tactic in Saturday's win over Vandy.

"In the Vanderbilt game it was really kind of a telling statement," Manning said. "I am so open. I need to (hit those) to take pressure off of Stricklen and Kelley (Cain). I am just trying to earn the green light with Coach to take those outside shots, but I've got to prove to her in practice that I can hit them and then get that trust from my teammates."

For now Summitt wants Manning playing to her strengths, which are defense, board play and scoring inside, either by penetration or putbacks. Manning has a knack for getting on the glass, especially on the offensive end. Grabbing a teammate's missed free throw has become one of her specialties.

"She is committed to playing great defense and getting on the boards," Summitt said. "She doesn't need to be trying to find threes. She needs to be getting paint points. She's wanting to take outside shots. It's not her strength so just telling her, ‘Get in the paint. Your pull-up game is solid.' "

Manning can also hit midrange shots, especially around the free throw line.

"She can hit that high post jumper," Warlick said. "I like her aggressiveness as far as attacking."

Manning, like the rest of the junior class which entered as wide-eyed freshmen and got thrust into roles they were not ready for at the collegiate level because of graduations and injuries, has matured during her time at Tennessee.

"I think all that takes time and everyone is finding their way," Manning said of the players settling into their roles. "Hopefully we can just keep it up and stay consistent with it. We were on a high and last game kind of set us back a little bit but I am sure we're going to grow from it and learn it."

Manning was referring to the 12-point win over Vandy during which the Lady Vols let a 22-point second half lead dwindle to eight. The fact that the players were prepared to tell the coaches what went wrong before the film session to review the game was cited by the coaches as progress.

Tennessee now moves away from the confines of its home court. Of the next five games, four are on the road, including Thursday at South Carolina and Sunday at Auburn.

"I think these next five games are really going to be big for us," Manning said. "They're going to show us what we're really made out of. We get everyone's best shot, especially at their home. It will really be a growing two weeks for us."

The Lady Vols went 15-1 in the SEC a year ago. The lone loss was at Georgia, and the road can get tricky in league play.

"I still don't know how we lost that game," Manning said. "That was the weirdest game besides Ball State. Being the state that I came from and they recruited me heavily there is a little bit of that going into it, a little rivalry there. Also, it's an SEC school and every SEC school is a big game for us. Last year was an upset for us. That is still in the back of our head."

Manning is from Woodstock, Ga., near Atlanta, thus her nickname of A-Town. During her media interview this week Manning was sporting lime green nail polish – think Shrek color – that a friend picked out for her.

"I don't like this at all, but I didn't want to be rude," Manning said. "I'll take it off later."

Despite her good-natured disposition off the court, Manning has earned her minutes by being tenacious on it.

Last season Tennessee nearly lost at South Carolina, and it took a career game of 17 points from Williams to avoid defeat. The Lady Vols never led in the first half and didn't take the lead for good until Bjorklund hit a three with 27 seconds left. When South Carolina in-bounded the ball, Manning managed to tip the pass, which was scooped by Williams, who was fouled and hit both free throws for the final 60-55 score.

Kelley Cain, who is from Atlanta, scored 10 points in that game on 5-8 shooting and should be a primary scoring target on Thursday given the Gamecocks' lack of size inside.

"Kelley is a big teddy bear off the court," Manning said. "On the court I think she brings such an intimidating force to other teams. She's a shot blocker and she can alter other team's shots in the paint. Nobody can really box her out.

"When Kelley is in there working hard she's one of the best if not the best post in the country. She's one of those players when we need something we know we can count on her and go to her."

Cain also sets screens that swallow defenders to get shooters open. Over the holiday break when the Lady Vols played against each other because the male practice squad was away from campus, Manning found herself on the wrong side of those screens.

"I have hit several of her screens in practice and it literally feels like you're running into a brick wall," Manning said. "I honestly feel bad for teams because she's no joke. She is so strong. She is such a big body and she is so strong."

Cain said the upside of Manning is her consistency. She also agreed that Manning would likely start at other schools.

"Her key thing is energy and defense," Cain said. "She always brings that. She is definitely consistent at that factor so we always know what we are going to get from her.

"And to be honest I think just about anybody on this team could start anywhere. Starting here, it's a big deal but anybody on our team can start. It's just a matter of who finishes."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Meighan Simmons, 5'9 freshman guard, No. 10 (16.2 points per game overall/14.6 SEC, 2.9 rebounds per game/2.2, 2.6 assists per game/3.8); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 senior guard, No. 5 (11.8 ppg/11.0, 3.2 rpg/2.6, 2.4 apg/1.2); Taber Spani, 6'1 sophomore guard/forward, No. 13 (8.4 ppg/6.6, 4.4 rpg/3.4, 1.5 apg/2.2); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 junior guard/forward, No. 40 (10.3 ppg/9.6, 7.1 rpg/7.8, 2.0 apg/1.4); and Kelley Cain, 6'6 redshirt junior center, No. 52 (8.1 ppg/8.8, 6.2 rpg/9.0, 2.0 blocks per game/3.2).

Glory Johnson leads the team in scoring in SEC games at 14.8 ppg and is tied with Cain in league play at 9.0 boards per game. Kamiko Williams has 10 blocks in league play and leads the team with five steals. Alicia Manning contributes 5.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg in SEC games.

South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley is expected to start: Valerie Nainima 5'5 senior guard, No. 31 (6.5 ppg/7.6, 1.8 rpg/2.4), hails from Suva, Fiji, returned to action Dec. 12, just 18 weeks after ACL surgery on her right knee, started the past two SEC contests and averaged 12.0 ppg, had 16 points against Tennessee in Columbia last season, sat out the 2008-09 season after transferring from Long Island University, where she was the fastest player in school history to reach 1,000 career points, doing so in her 53rd game, played for the Fijian national team, also played volleyball and netball in high school; La'Keisha Sutton, 5'9 junior guard, No. 11 (9.8 ppg/9.8, 2.8 rpg/3.4, 3.9 apg/4.4), hails from Trenton, N.J., has started all 18 games this season, tallied 19 points against Tennessee in Columbia a year ago, tallied six assists against Ole Miss, including the game winner for a three to Nainima for a trey, led the team with 19 points against Xavier, had a career high eight assists against Florida, unanimous selection to All-SEC Freshman Team, New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year; Ieasia Walker, 5'8 sophomore guard, No. 3 (12.1 ppg/13.8, 3.4 rpg/3.4, 2.2 steals per game/2.0), hails from Amityville, N.Y., posted double-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds in win over Ole Miss, ranked fourth in SEC with 40 steals, hit career-high four 3-pointers against Florida and led the team with 22 points, started 17 of 18 games this season, scored 2,000+ points and grabbed 1,000+ rebounds in high school, was New York Basketball Long Island Player of the Year, won two national titles with the Silver Bullets AAU team; Ashley Bruner, 6'0 sophomore forward, No. 21 (8.8 ppg/11.4, 6.2 rpg/7.0 rpg), hails from Norman, Okla., posted a double-double against Georgia with 16 points and 11 boards, was a perfect 8-8 from the field against Florida for 16 points, put up 17 points and grabbed career-high 15 boards against Xavier in the season opener, leads the SEC in field goal percentage at 63.4, holds all-time rebound mark for Norman High School, also competed in track; and Jewel May, 6'1 senior forward, No. 52 (3.8 ppg/2.6, 4,4 rpg/4.0 rpg), hails from Conyers, Ga., has started all 18 games this season and 48 of the past 49, grabbed nine rebounds against Kentucky, started 28 of 29 games last season, nominated for the Wendy's High School Heisman, won the state high jump title and also competed in the triple jump, 100m, 4x100m and 4x400m.

Courtney Newton, a 5'10 junior guard from Flowery Branch, Ga., started the last game against Ole Miss, her first start of the season, and tallied six points, connecting on two 3-pointers, and four rebounds.

Marah Strickland, a 6'0 junior guard and transfer from Maryland, has started five games this season but came off the bench in four SEC games and didn't play in the last one, a 63-58 overtime win over Ole Miss, because of a sprained left foot. Strickland, who is from Mt. Airy, Md., is averaging 9.3 ppg overall and 4.8 ppg in league play. Strickland was 3-6 from behind the arc in South Carolina's win over LSU.

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

When South Carolina has the ball: The Gamecocks can't match up with the Lady Vols' size so they likely will want to use their guards to increase tempo.

"They're going to run every chance they get, and they like to press a little bit," DeMoss said. "They want to get us in an up-and-down game because their size is OK, it's not great, and (Ashley Bruner) plays bigger than 6'1. She is really all over the glass right now.

"But I think their guards are probably their strengths so they're going to try to turn it into our guards versus their guards probably."

Defensively, DeMoss expects South Carolina to show an assortment of looks, especially full court.

"They'll pick us up man-to-man, and try to run and jump, trap a little bit out of that and some 2-2-1 full court zone press," DeMoss said.

When the Lady Vols set up in the half court the Gamecocks are likely to play man.

"I am thinking more man," DeMoss said. "I think they're going to really get out, try to pressure us, try to deny the ball, get us to turn it over on the perimeter, make it real hard for us to get the ball inside. I think they're going to come out really aggressive."

When Tennessee has the ball: The Lady Vols want to go inside, especially with the 6'6 Kelley Cain on the floor, but they also want to gauge how the game unfolds. If the three-point shooters are left wide open, that is a good decision to launch, as long as the hot shooter has the ball.

"We started some games, like at Florida, where we hit those threes, and we were off to a great start," DeMoss said. "If we had a crystal ball and said, ‘All right, we're going to hit our threes tonight, so let's shoot them …' you've just got to go with the flow of the game. If we're open early, we're not going to tell our three-point shooters to not shoot it. If they start shooting threes, and they're not falling, now we've got to change our plan of attack.

"It's just a matter of what they're going to give us. I don't think they're going to start the game giving us threes. I really don't. If we're open from the three we're going to shoot it."

Defensively, the buzzword for the Lady Vols is flexibility. After starting the SEC playing mostly man, Tennessee went to the zone early and often against Florida and then back to a mixture against Vandy with an emphasis on man.

"Whatever it takes to win," DeMoss said. "I don't think we're that hardheaded we're going to stay man to man. We want to do what is best to give our kids a chance to win the game. So show a little zone and if it looks effective, we usually stay in it. If it's not effective we usually go back man.

"We want to play the best defense on that particular night."

One stat that is unusual to see is that Tennessee and LSU, two SEC programs that have been stalwarts on defense, are tied for last in league play in steals with 24. Auburn leads with 47. All three teams have played five games so the difference of 23 is rather large.

"We set a goal before every game to get deflections so it's something that we talk about," DeMoss said. "We probably don't emphasize it enough in practice. We don't really start our best defensive team. We're starting our best offensive team, so you've got to give up something.

"We want to go after everybody (but) you've got Taber (Spani) and Angie (Bjorklund) on the wings and they're usually guarding people that are probably a little quicker than they are so they are a little reluctant to get out in those passing lanes and try to get tips and steals. They've got to play smart."

Bjorklund plays some of the best position defense on the team, and Spani, who brings deep three-ball range and board play, is still on a learning curve when it comes to perimeter defense.

Spani has started league play with a surprising 0-11 performance from behind the arc, but teams aren't leaving her open because Spani remains a long-range threat and despite that stat she is still shooting 48.0 percent (12-25) overall. Inside the arc Spani is shooting 85.7 percent (12-14). She also is 9-9 from the line and has 11 assists to just four turnovers.

Two of the best perimeter defenders are Glory Johnson and Kamiko Williams. Johnson has become effective coming off the bench – it seems to settle her down and then she has the effect of a hand grenade going off on the court when she comes in – and Williams can either create havoc or be erratic on defense. When Williams is dialed into defense, she is outstanding. When not, she is likely to get beat.

"Kamiko has got to learn, ‘Don't pick and choose when you play hard. You play hard all the time,' " Pat Summitt said.

Freshman guard Lauren Avant, who spent much of the first half of the season injured, also can carve out some playing time because of her on-ball defense.

Redshirt junior forward Vicki Baugh had another outstanding practice Wednesday and will remain a game-day decision because of persistent issues connected to her thrice-operated knee. Baugh, even not close to 100 percent, is a fierce defender. She got a block against Vandy within seconds of entering the game.

"She's played well and played on balance," Summitt said.

Summitt would like to play Baugh at South Carolina if circumstances allow.

"I probably will," Summitt said. "I always talk to Jenny (Moshak), and I always talk to her and see how she's feeling. She's looking more comfortable and more balanced."

PRECOCIOUS POINT: Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons was a last-minute recruit, relatively speaking, and wasn't a target for point guard. Fellow freshman Lauren Avant was targeted for that slot, but she is working her way up to speed after an injury-riddled fall.

It is the speed and scoring ability of Simmons and a hard-to-quantify swagger that placed her in the starting lineup. She is learning the point guard position as she goes and has had to adjust from the go-to player in high school to flowing with four other people on the court.

"Just continue reminding her what she needs to do," senior Angie Bjorklund said. "Whether it's habits she needs to break that she formed in high school, that type of thing, that's what my seniors did my freshman year. They continually got on me about the same stuff that she just needs to make a habit.

"I think she's incredibly coachable and responds really well to leadership. I think that's important. She is always trying to get better so that helps."

Bjorklund and Simmons have benefited from each other presence on the court, as defenses have to account for both behind the arc, plus Taber Spani, and Shekinna Stricklen if she is roaming on the perimeter. The foursome frequently finds each other for assists, and Simmons can get the ball up the court while the defense is scrambling to match up with the shooters and also account for Kelley Cain inside.

"What's great is she's so fast," Bjorklund said. "She pushes so well in transition, whether she's got an open jumper or a layup, she's looking to score, and she's looking to attack early, which I think is great.

"As a scorer and having the point guard who can score she's not going to hesitate to push the ball. I really like her at the point guard position. She really fits in the offense well."

Point guard may be the hardest position to learn in college. Playing point for Pat Summitt is a challenge in itself.

"It is. It is," Simmons said. "I think it's just the whole perspective of being versatile. You have to be able to play so many positions and (handle) the expectations of Pat and the expectations of other people.

"Playing the point guard it is tough because you have to know where your teammates are at all times. You have to remember all the plays that we have. You have to know when to pass, know what everybody's strengths and weaknesses are out there on the floor. It is tough."

Summitt has been patient with her preternaturally gifted player, but she has outlined priorities, and for the head coach defense will top the list. Summitt knows great defense stops pretty offense in postseason, as her teams have repeatedly done that to other contenders who can score but can't get a must-have stop.

"Playing great defense, distributing the ball and then looking for her shot and typically for her it's looking for her shot, looking for her shot and then deciding to play defense," Summitt said. "I've talked to her, and Meighan is very coachable, and she'll learn from this there's no doubt."

Simmons' mistakes on defense are typical of first-year players.

"Just being more efficient on defense and not relaxing so much," Simmons said. "There were times I relaxed once the ball was away from my man, and I stood up instead of staying low and keeping my head on a swivel and knowing exactly where my man and the ball is."

The coaches also are keeping an eye on minutes played balanced with the fact that Simmons has had the position heaped on her by circumstances.

"That's a valid question and concern for our team and staff," Summitt said during her Wednesday teleconference. "Meighan is the type of player that when she goes as hard as she goes, it's important as a coaching staff that we gauge her energy level and effectiveness. She goes harder than most of our guards.

"She and Kamiko (Williams) have improved in that area. Shot selection, that's an area where we can get better with our guard play. If I do see (fatigue) in a game, it's going to be our job to not let her play extended minutes."

So far, Simmons is averaging a manageable 25.5 minutes per game overall and 23.9 in SEC games, but the staff will still keep a close eye on her court time.

"In high school they're getting ready to start playoffs," Associated Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "This is the time where it gets a little long for some freshmen toward end of January, first of February."

Warlick repeated what Summitt said about Simmons needing to elevate her defensive play.

"Her defense has got to get better," Warlick said. "If I could say, ‘Meighan, what part of your game do you need to improve?' It's the importance of defense. Now, she'll make a good play, but she's got to make those good plays all the time. She's got to get better on that end, but I love her aggressiveness, her speed.

"She can score. She is going to take some shots that maybe look like ill-fated shots, but you've got to allow her to do that. Now, if it's time and possession and she's not hitting those, we've got to go, ‘Meighan, let's get into the offense.' She's still learning. She's not a point player. We recruited her for a two, so she is still learning to get in that flow."

Simmons has struggled at times this season and sometimes has been given substantial rope from Summitt. Other times, such as against Florida, she took a seat on the bench after back-to-back unforced turnovers. She also had some defensive slippage against Vanderbilt.

"I think she is being a little bit patient with me because I am still getting in the flow of the whole point guard thing and trying to make sure I am not turning the ball over too much," Simmons said. "I've just got to continue to play and not think about if I turn the ball over I'm going to get taken out.

"It's been pretty good. I've had my tough moments, but I'm a resilient person and if anything comes my way I can fight through it and continue to play hard and try not to lose my focus."

Simmons also is learning that Tennessee wants paint points – and she can dribble penetrate with her speed – in addition to setting loose the long range shooters.

"Offensively, just being a little bit more patient, starting in and out, get the inside look and if the inside look isn't there then that's your time to shoot and score," Simmons said.

Simmons also will seek out teammates for help, especially the ones who have been on campus for four years.

"Especially in practice when it's been something that I don't understand, and I can ask Kelley or I can ask Angie or Vicki," Simmons said. "They are always there to help, especially out there on the floor."

Simmons enjoys the road trips, although the weeknight ones when the team arrives back in Knoxville in the wee hours after a game and the players still have to be in class a few hours later by Summitt's attendance policies, require advance planning.

"You've got to be able to do your schoolwork and make sure you have it done," Simmons said. "(Arrive home late) and be in class by 8 or 9 o'clock. That is the toughest part."

But Simmons likes the environment on the road.

"For some reason on the road I don't why but I just feel like my adrenalin starts to flow a lot more," Simmons said. "It's not that I have anything to prove it's that I know I have to go out there and we have to own every court that we play on and that's just my attitude and say, ‘Hey, we're on your court, but we're going to win. We're going to do everything that we can to win.'

"The away game is always fun for me."

ON TAP: All 12 SEC teams are in action tonight. The other matchups are: Georgia at Alabama; Arkansas at Vanderbilt; Auburn at Mississippi State; Kentucky at Florida; and Ole Miss at LSU.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with South Carolina, 42-2. The Lady Vols are 17-1 in Columbia, with the lone loss, 56-52, coming Jan. 23, 1980. The Carolina Pep Band positioned itself behind the Lady Vols' bench and played its amplified drums and electric guitars for the entire game. Tennessee moved its timeout huddles nearly to the free throw line but still couldn't hear. The AIAW responded by banning bands from playing during games or using electronic amplification. Since then Tennessee has won 38 consecutive games against the Gamecocks, the longest streak for the Lady Vols in SEC play. … Tennessee is 10-1 in games played on January 20. The last win on this date came against Vanderbilt, 79-63, in 2008. The first win on January 20 was against Maryville All-Stars, 35-29, in 1972. The lone loss on this date was against Kentucky, 66-64, in 1979. The teams played a month later and Tennessee won 89-51. … Former Lady Vols will be on the sideline for the opponent in Tennessee's next two games. Nikki McCray (1991-95) is an assistant coach for South Carolina while Carla McGhee (1986-90) is an assistant at Auburn. … South Carolina's honorary captain for Thursday's game is Helen Timmermans. Timmermans led the women's basketball program as it achieved varsity status in January of 1974. With the title of associate director of athletics for women then and a lifelong season-ticket holder, she has been part of all 36 seasons of varsity women's basketball at South Carolina. … The Gamecocks are 9-2 this season when scoring at least 60 points, including a 3-0 mark when tallying 70 points. South Carolina is 1-6 when scoring fewer than 60. In the Dawn Staley era (2008-09 to present), the Gamecocks are 14-3 when scoring 70 or more points. The team is just 8-27 when falling short of the 60-point mark and is 12-11 when scoring between 60 and 69 points.

BY THE NUMBERS: Overall stats with SEC figures in parentheses.

Tennessee is averaging 81.4 points a game (84.0 in the SEC) while allowing opponents to score 55.5 (50.4). South Carolina averages 59.6 points a game (57.6) while allowing 59.6 (62.2).

The Lady Vols are shooting 46.0 percent overall (48.3), 35.6 percent behind the arc (34.3) and 66.9 percent from the free throw line (76.5). The Gamecocks are shooting 38.7 percent overall (37.7), 26.6 percent from long range (29.8) and 64.0 percent from the line (66.7).

Tennessee makes an average of 7.1 three-pointers a game (6.8) while allowing 5.0 (4.8). South Carolina makes 4.9 threes a game (5.6) while allowing 4.4 (3.6).

Tennessee averages 46.7 rebounds a game (51.6) for a +11.7 margin (+14.2). South Carolina averages 35.2 boards (33.0) for a +2.1 margin (+1.0).

The Lady Vols average 14.4 assists (13.4) and 15.2 turnovers (13.4) a game. Opponents lose the ball an average of 18.5 times a game (13.2). The Gamecocks average 9.9 assists (9.2) and 16.2 turnovers (16.0) with foes losing the ball 17.6 times a game (15.0).

Tennessee averages 8.5 steals (4.8) and 5.4 blocks a game (8.2). South Carolina averages 8.6 steals (5.8) and 2.8 blocks (0.6).

SOUTH CAROLINA VIDEO COVERAGE:

South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley at SEC Media Days last October

Ieasia Walker, a sophomore guard, represented the Gamecocks at SEC Media Days, and said then that she needed to elevate her play with Valerie Nainima sidelined as she recovered from ACL surgery.

"With her out (to start the season) I feel I have to be more of a leader," Walker said. "She coaches me through the process."

Walker said the transfer last spring of Kelsey Bone, a McDonald's All-American center, after one season surprised the team. Bone, after sitting out a transfer year, will play next season for Texas A&M in her native state.

"You just move on," Walker said.

Coach Dawn Staley said the team talked about it last spring but not when the players reconvened to begin the new season.

Staley's instructions to her players were that "this is the last time we're going to discuss this and then we're going to move forward."

Staley, who played in the WNBA and overseas, said last October that Nainima would try to return this season – which she did – and that "she's talented enough to play professionally."

Marah Strickland, a transfer from Maryland, is playing this season after sitting out a year.

"She's an outside threat right away," Walker said.

The website for South Carolina women's basketball also has a video with Dawn Staley from Wednesday in which she talks about the game with Tennessee.

TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE

Lady Vol senior guard Angie Bjorklund before Wednesday's practice

Lady Vol redshirt junior forward Kelley Cain before Wednesday's practice


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