Lady Vols get back to practice

The plane ride home from Mississippi was bumpy because of inclement weather and a night game on the road meant an arrival in Knoxville well past midnight, but the Lady Vols held a high-spirited practice Friday – minus two players for health reasons – that left the coaches smiling afterwards.

"Absolutely," Coach Pat Summitt. "A couple of times in our drills we weren't exactly having a sense of urgency, but I thought we quickly brought them together."

"It was better than I thought," Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "I thought we would come in a little more sluggish because we got in late last night. But, knock on wood, this team I am kind of seeing a little maturity."

DeMoss had plenty of energy Friday, and the other coaches stifled smiles after an animated DeMoss had plenty to say about the execution of one drill. The fact there are three assistants plus Summitt who can take turns raising their voices – and getting the desired response – has been good overall.

"I think that's what we've got here," DeMoss said. "We've got three assistant coaches that can step in at any minute. The thing about it the kids really respond to all three of us. They really do. I am sure that comes from Pat's leadership. They know if we say it, it is filtered through Pat.

"They don't bat an eye. That's an advantage we have is that at anytime anyone of us can get on them and get our point across to them."

Tennessee has yet to play its best game this season, and the Lady Vols have a higher level that they can still reach, right in time for crunch time.

"We're kind of chipping away at that next level," DeMoss said. "I don't think you're going to see a leap to this (way high). I think you're going to see (a staircase approach).

"You talk about Vicki Baugh, who is getting a little bit better every game. She kind of can be the X factor. As coaches it makes us a little more confident because we're not going in guessing."

"Absolutely," Summitt said. "But we need to be healthy. It's very few days that we don't have someone sitting on the sideline. We need a healthy team to win a championship."

Redshirt junior center Kelley Cain remained out Friday because of a sore hip and lower back and has not played in the past two games.

"We're optimistic that she can get back (soon), and Jenny (Moshak) is working with her every day," Summitt said. "She is very committed to doing the rehab she has to do. I hope she'll be ready to go. That would be a real plus for us."

Freshman guard Lauren Avant was held out of Friday's session under the program's concussion protocol after she sustained a blow to the head in Thursday's truncated 66-39 win over Ole Miss after the game was ended with 5:24 remaining because of water on the court from the storms that raked the region. Rainwater entered through the air vents on the roof and then plopped onto the floor.

It was junior guard Shekinna Stricklen who noticed the water as the team ran down court on a fast break, and she hollered to Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss, who immediately sprung off the bench and pointed out the wet area to an official, who blew the whistle to stop play right as Ole Miss' Kenyotta Jenkins hit the spot and took a tumble.

"Shekinna told me," DeMoss said. "As they were coming back down the floor, she goes, ‘Coach, a big pile of rain or water just fell on the floor!' I jumped up and I looked and I saw it and about that time that Ole Miss kid hit it and boom.

"It just came down like in a sheet. And then it would stop and then it was a steady stream and then it would stop and then a steady stream. The wind was blowing those (air) vents open and so when the wind would gust, the rain would come in and then when the wind would die down, it would shut that vent again."

After calls were made to the SEC, and Summitt and Ole Miss Coach Renee Ladner spoke on the sideline, the decision was made to halt the game for reasons of player safety.

"The weather was crazy," Angie Bjorklund said. "Even flying (home) it was a little crazy. I think it was the safe choice to call the game."

Bjorklund could have used the final five minutes of the game, as she had logged just seven before the 5:24 mark, and Summitt had intended to let her finish the game as the senior works her way back from a month off after a right foot injury.

"Angie's foot is a little bit better, moving a little bit better," Summitt said. "I think she's OK, and I think we're being smart. We're not playing her extended minutes. With that said, she ought to be able to have some healing taking place even though she's on the court."

Summitt was particularly pleased with the post play in Thursday's win, and she cited the efforts of Glory Johnson, in particular, after she was 7-10 for 18 points with nine boards, four steals, three assists and a block.

"Guard play, that's sometimes a little bit touch and go," Summitt said. "That's one place that I think we can get better at is guard play."

The Lady Vols will be back on the practice court Saturday to prepare for Sunday's game against LSU and the chance to finish the SEC slate with an undefeated record. It's also Senior Day for Bjorklund and Sydney Smallbone.

"Senior Day is always a special day," Summitt said. "These two players have invested in this program. Those two did it right. They came in here, they worked hard, they got in extra shots, they got out in the community and did community service so we're going to miss them.

"It'll be neat to be able to recognize them."

2012 RECRUITING: Xylina McDaniel, a 6'2 forward from Spring Valley High School in Blythewood, S.C., near Columbia, is expected to take an unofficial visit to Tennessee this weekend.

The Lady Vols have three verbal commits from the class of 2012 in guard Andraya Carter, forward Jasmine Jones and forward Bashaara Graves, and are likely to sign five players from that class.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Angie Bjorklund talks about the rain game, plus Friday practice clips

Pat Summitt interview after Friday's practice


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