"No," Simmons said.
A year ago it was Glory Johnson hurrying to put away loose items in her locker and be ready when the media arrived.
This weekend, Johnson has sat calmly on a stool and listened as the youngster fielded questions in her first NCAA Tournament. The postseason format includes formal press conferences with players on a dais and an open locker room.
Johnson's poise in the locker room matches her play on the court, and Coach Pat Summitt said the leap that Johnson has made from freshman to junior year has been tremendous. When asked if she could think of another player who had matured so much on the court from freshman to junior year, Summitt had a one-word answer, "No."
During her freshman year, Johnson struggled to adapt while her skill set caught up with her athleticism. Johnson was used to overpowering players in high school – and she did in college, too, until scouting tape was circulated, and teams determined how to use that aspect of her game against her.
Fouls piled up and Johnson, already inclined to play too fast, would get frustrated and play even faster. Johnson made strides in her second year, but had a tendency to backslide into bad habits and by the end of last season, Johnson was coming off the bench, where she languished during critical stretches in the 2010 Sweet 16 loss to Baylor.
At the beginning of her junior year, Johnson was still determining where she would fit in the post game. The 6'6 Kelley Cain and the 6'4 Vicki Baugh looked excellent in preseason and it seemed they would anchor the paint. Add to that the presence of the 6'3 Alyssia Brewer, the 2009 SEC Sixth Woman of the Year who started for Tennessee to close the 2009-10 season.
But Baugh, who had had two ACL surgeries, and Cain, who has hip and lower back issues, had health flare-ups. Baugh became a game day decision based on how her knee felt, and Cain had periods where she could play extensive minutes and others where she was used sparingly.
Brewer sliced her Achilles tendon in an off-campus accident in August when a large glass candle base shattered. She ended up needing surgery and – after deciding she wanted to play instead of redshirt – has played in 17 games while averaging just under 10 minutes a contest.
Cain, Baugh and Brewer are physically imposing and look like post players. Johnson is lean, charitably listed at 6'3 and doesn't look imposing until she takes the court and opponents see her leap for a rebound. Off the court she is usually smiling, engaging to talk to, friendly and smart enough to graduate with a college degree in global studies in three years while still meeting the daily demands of Division I basketball.
"Glory is just this extra feminine queen," Simmons said when asked to describe Johnson's persona off the court. "She has so much class. She has respect for everybody. On the court she's going to kick your butt."
Johnson has started her last 13 games – she moved into the starting lineup after eight games of coming off the bench after Angie Bjorklund exited because of her injured foot and now they both are there for tipoff.
Johnson started the season in the starting lineup, came out after she hit a lull in December, played so well off the bench that the coaches left it in place and then reclaimed the spot.
"Johnson has obviously done a great job of locking down the post position," Summitt said after Tennessee's 99-34 opening round win over Stetson. "I'm really pleased with her development."
Johnson, as in her first two years, has taken a physical pounding inside. It is where she does her work at the rim and on the glass, and she crashes about like a pinball in the paint. The difference in her third year is her overall composure.
On one offensive play Saturday, Johnson was hacked, shot the ball, missed, got the ball back, got held from behind by one defender while another hit her arms, tried to go up, couldn't, shifted to literally shake loose at least one defender while keeping her pivot foot in place, shot, missed again and got the foul call. The defender had to unwrap herself from Johnson's midsection before she could get to the free throw line.
Johnson took a deep breath and walked to the stripe without comment. The same scenario in her first two years would have resulted in Johnson likely reacting after the first foul and getting whistled for an offensive foul. Now, she absorbs the blows and keeps her focus on the basket.
"My teammates talk to me a lot about having composure and just to relax," Johnson said. "You've just got to worry about being successful in the game. The refs are not always going to make the right calls – or at least you feel like they're not going to make the right calls. You've just to work with whatever they give you."
Johnson remembers being a rookie in the NCAA tourney and trying unsuccessfully to settle her nerves. That team had freshman all over the floor, no juniors and one redshirt fifth-year senior and ended up losing in the first round in 2009.
Simmons has upperclassmen to lean on, including senior Angie Bjorklund, whose voice Simmons has noted has a calming effect on the team, and Johnson, who has said she personally relates to having a quick style of play that sometimes needs to be throttled.
"I just tell her to relax," Johnson said. "Don't try to force things. Hit the hot hand at the time. Wait until it comes to you. Let things come. I know the first time being in the tournament is a little weird, but I think she can handle it well."
Simmons' leaning on a veteran is expected. Simmons gravitating to Johnson to be the player who is one-on-one in her ear during a game is somewhat surprising.
But the difference in Johnson's composure is noticeable even to Simmons, who was a high school junior when Johnson was a freshman in college. If the Lady Vols were playing on television – and they often are – there was a good chance Simmons was tuned in to the game.
"Just from watching her she's grown since her freshman year and I think just from her experiences I can trust her," Simmons said. "She knows what it's been like to be a freshman and having all the difficulties and with Pat being on her and telling her what she needs to do."
Johnson did get a lot of instruction at practice as a freshman – and often loudly – from Summitt as the staff tried to both let loose her athleticism and rein in aspects of her play.
Simmons also has heard quite a bit from Summitt – with quite a few one-on-one film sessions – but the approach has been comparably low key, the coach recognizing that Simmons was a rookie playing out of position at a program that puts a lot of demands on its point guard.
It was very similar to how Summitt handled Stricklen in the same role, but six weeks after Stricklen had been shifted to the wing this season, the junior was still playing passively on offense and haphazardly at times on defense, and Summitt raised the bar with a one-sided conversation at practice that challenged Stricklen to play like an All-American.
Summitt doesn't want Simmons to lose her aggressive instincts on offense, but she also needs the freshman to make good decisions with the ball. Simmons has relied on Johnson, who has a sympathetic ear and a similar mental approach to the game, for help on the court.
"We kind of have a chemistry out there," Simmons said. "She is always in my ear. She'll tell me, ‘Do this. If you see me open, hit me.' I think that is what builds that trust. I think we got a lot closer, especially in practice."
Simmons has lofted some passes in Johnson's direction that tested the leaping ability of the uber-athlete, but she has come down with them and often converted the basket.
"We go out there and play," Simmons said. "I can see her, and I can throw her the ball and I know she's going to get it."
Simmons smiled and shook her head when she was asked if it was possible to overthrow Johnson.
"She can probably get anything, because she is so lengthy," Simmons said. "I can throw an alley oop to her and she can get up there and just go get it. I really believe she can just go get anything."
The two didn't know each other prior to Simmons' arrival at Tennessee last July, but Johnson, who lives in Knoxville, was around all summer and got to know both freshmen during the second session.
Simmons is intense on the court but eases up off of it, according to Johnson.
"She's a little calm, laidback," Johnson said. "She's still talkative, but she's calm, cool and collected off the court."
Simmons admires Johnson's ability on the court and performance in the classroom.
"I want to follow in her footsteps," Simmons said. "She sets a good example in the classroom. That kind of helps me out as well."
Johnson will graduate this May and would like to work overseas in some type of sports management capacity when her playing days are over. With a college degree, Johnson would be eligible to be drafted into the WNBA, but she said she would enroll in graduate school and play next season at Tennessee.
"I will be here," Johnson said.
That brought a smile to the face of Simmons, who will be a sophomore next season. Simmons understands what is happening when she plays under control, and she also knows she can lean on her teammates for help.
"When I am more calm out there, I feel more in rhythm," Simmons said. "I feel as if I am not getting tired as fast. If I try to do too much at once I tend to get tired really fast.
"I think patience, going out there being calm, taking a deep breath, in your mind you're like, ‘I want to play good. I don't want to make any mistakes,' but I just go out there, try to stay calm, get rid of jitterbugs before the game, pray and try to stay around my teammates to keep me hyped up."
Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Meighan Simmons, 5'9 freshman guard, No. 10 (13.6 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 senior guard, No. 5 (11.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.1 apg); Taber Spani, 6'1 sophomore guard/forward, No. 13 (7.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 junior guard/forward, No. 40 (12.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 apg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 junior forward, No. 25 (11.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg).
Simmons (33 starts), Stricklen (34), Johnson (26) and now Bjorklund (22), after returning from a foot injury, seem to be mainstays in the starting lineup.
The last spot varies depending on if the coaches, who joked Sunday they flip a coin to decide, want to go with an additional shooter (Spani) or a true big (Kelley Cain, Alyssia Brewer or Vicki Baugh).
As of Sunday, Summitt said she was inclined to start the same five as the last game.
"Obviously, we're very impressed with Marquette and how they fought back (against Texas) and had great composure," Summitt said Sunday during her press conference. "I think it's a team that is not going to be easily rattled. How they closed out that game is very telling.
"Their seniors have great leadership and that makes a big difference. I think what we have to do is go out and play our game. Defensive board play is going to be top priority along with taking care of the basketball. I like what I saw in the first game and hopefully, we'll continue to have that same focus in our practices as well as in our games."
The full text of Summitt's remarks can be read here.
Marquette Coach Terri Mitchell is expected to start: Angel Robinson 5'8 senior guard, No. 32 (13.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.8 apg), hails from St. Paul, Minn., selected to All-Big East First Team, first player in Marquette history with at least 1,500 points, 500 assists and 250 steals, played 45 minutes in win over Georgetown, tallied 15 points, has started 104 consecutive games and played in all 133 games of her career, scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half against Texas to spark the comeback; Tatiyiana McMorris, 5'7 senior guard, No. 23 (12.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.8 apg), hails from the Bronx, N.Y., selected to All-Big East Second Team, she is Mitchell's first recruit from the state of New York, has connected on 75 three-pointers this season, including two to win games against St. John's and Texas; Sarina Simmons, 6'1 sophomore forward, No. 42 (7.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg), hails from Milwaukee, Wis., swatted career-high five blocks in first round win over Texas, grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds against Iona, dished career-high six assists against Louisville, selected to Big East All-Freshman Team in 2010; Paige Fiedorowicz, 6'0 senior forward, No. 41 (10.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg), hails from Johnsburg, Ill, has scored in double digits in six of last seven games, including 14 points in the win over Texas, logged 46 minutes in the win over Georgetown with 11 points and eight boards, played volleyball and participated in track in high school, younger brother CJ is a tight end at Iowa; and Katherine Plouffe, 6'3 freshman forward, No. 21 (6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, selected for Big East All-Freshman Team, played guard in high school at Henry Ainlay, moved into the paint at Marquette, member of Canadian junior national team, twin sister Michelle plays at Utah, older sister Andrea played at Washington.
"We put in so much hard work in the off season to just get in the gym more," Robinson said. "We really made that a focus, to be the senior class to lead the underclassmen this year. We really wanted to show them the hard work that you have to put in to be good and compete with the better teams, like going against Tennessee.
"I think it also had a lot to do with holding each other accountable and calling each other out on the spot in practice to be better so that we could make it here and make an impact."
The seniors' goal after appearances in the WNIT was to return Marquette to the NCAA tourney. The Golden Eagles' previous NCAA appearances were in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2007 with a 3-5 record in the first round and 0-3 in the second.
Mitchell was asked by the Associated Press what a second round win, especially against Tennessee on its home floor, would mean for the program.
"If we do something like that, a lot of people would be looking at Marquette and saying, ‘Wow, what did you do?' " Mitchell said. "Obviously, it would mean so much because it would be the farthest the program has ever gone. We've only gone to the second round. It would be legacy to them, passing it on.
"That's one big thing they've talked about is we're passing on the tradition to the younger players and the incoming freshmen, ‘This is what it means to wear a Marquette uniform.' We just want to play to the first media (timeout); that's all I want to think about, really, is not get ahead of myself.
"If we do come up with a victory, you and I will have a lot to talk about (Monday)."
SCOUTING REPORT: Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Marquette game. Here is her assessment.
When Marquette has the ball: The Golden Eagles are both patient on offense and willing to push tempo.
"They like to score in transition, push the ball," Warlick said. "They run a lot of ball screens – screens at the top, screens on the wings. They do dribble handoffs, high-low, kind of spread the floor."
Marquette's guards will both play on the perimeter and post up inside. Overall, the offensive players are patient in the half-court sets and will allow time for a play to develop.
"They're a well very coached team," Warlick said. "Everybody touches the ball. They move the ball pretty well."
Defensively, the Golden Eagles rely on being disciplined and knowing personnel.
"They run a 2-3 matchup, and they follow cutters," Warlick said. "And then they'll go man. They do a lot of things, and they play really hard on defense."
Against Tennessee, Warlick expects to see different looks.
"I think they're going to mix it up," Warlick said. "They're going to run their matchup and run man, I think they'll do both."
When Tennessee has the ball: The starting lineup for the Lady Vols has changed throughout the season – the players have said sometimes they don't know until right before tip time – but the philosophy doesn't, regardless of combinations. Tennessee wants to play inside-out.
"We would be stupid if we didn't pound the ball inside," Warlick said.
The intent is not to get all the scoring from inside but use the paint points – and ball movement through the bigs, who will pass out of double teams – to create balance.
"We want to be able to shoot the basketball, but we always say that we want to play from the inside-out," Warlick said. "That's what we're going to do. We're going to have to hit some outside shots against them, but we're going to pound the ball inside."
Tennessee started the Stetson game with balance. Glory Johnson scored on a high post drive, and Angie Bjorklund connected from outside.
"It's not going to be any secret," Warlick said. "They know what we're going to do. It's a matter of us making shots. We made shots (Saturday) and played well. Everybody got touches. Everybody got good looks. I was pleased with how we played and I hope it carries over."
Defensively, Tennessee has been opening games in postseason in man.
"I would be shocked if we didn't start out in a man to man," Warlick said.
The Lady Vols, however, are always flexible enough to switch into a zone.
"They are very good penetrators so that's going to pose a problem for us," Warlick said. "We're going to have to defend the penetration and haven't been very consistent with it. We'll run some zone. We're going to mix it up.
"We'll try to keep them off guard as well, just as they'll do us."
AND THE POSTS SAID AMEN: Alyssia Brewer, whose deadpan expressions would serve her well as a standup comedian, smiled when told of Holly Warlick's blunt – and accurate – assessment of how the Lady Vols needed to score Monday.
"Yes," Brewer said. "I am in concurrence with her 100 percent. I definitely think that is where we are going to get our bread and butter in this next game is playing inside-out from the get-go."
It might not always be an easy sale to the guards, who have been shooting 50 percent of late.
"They are shooting like 60, 70 percent," Brewer said with a laugh.
Still, the game plan remains to get touches in the paint. Tennessee's size could be a considerable weapon, but it hasn't been fully deployed because of health issues.
"It's getting there," Brewer said of her comfort level.
Both Vicki Baugh and Brewer can look hesitant at times on the court.
"I think we're just kind of more cautious as to what is going on around us," Brewer said. "She doesn't want to get hurt. I don't want to get stepped on because that has happened to me plenty of times in practice, and it's not the best feeling in the world. It's like you get shy. We're still working through it."
Both players do, however, attract a lot of attention from the defense when the ball gets to the paint, and both will fire out of double teams to an open shooter on the perimeter. Both played on the perimeter in high school and are comfortable passing the ball.
"When you start working from inside-out it opens more for everybody," Brewer said.
One player who can make that game plan work well is the 6'6 Kelley Cain, who was rather spry in practice after the SEC tourney and then got clipped last Wednesday in the hip by a teammate.
When asked how she felt, Cain laughed and said, "Fine," which has become her standard answer.
Tennessee may still start with its somewhat smaller lineup – the 6'2 Shekinna Stricklen and the 6'3 Glory Johnson inside – but the trio of bigs will rotate in and out of the game.
"I think that's a game plan we have to take throughout the whole tournament," Baugh said. "We have a lot of size on our team and very talented posts that can step outside. I think that's an advantage that we have to take advantage of."
Taber Spani is one of the guards with the green light to fire away from behind the arc. She smiled when asked if the shooters sometimes have to be reminded to find the bigs.
"It's a balance," Spani said. "And when we are shooting well, naturally, we all just want to play to our strengths. But we realize for our team to be successful it's got to go inside early. For us guards if we pound it inside, it'll open it up.
"You've got to play to the opponents' weakness, and obviously Marquette is not that big so we've got to pound it inside. We know it'll open up (the outside)."
GROUP SCOUT: Tennessee's depth means an opponent needs a longer scouting report since Pat Summitt has shown she will use 11 players in the first half at times.
Marquette Coach Terri Mitchell said some of the Tennessee players are placed in a group because "they're all really skilled and they're all really athletic – you could use a lot of the same terminology for many of them."
Mitchell started preparing her team on Saturday after the win over Texas, repeated the process Sunday and will reiterate the scout Monday.
"We have three days and we hope that Marquette education is stepping up to the plate and helping our players understand what it is to really know a scouting report," Mitchell said. " … We can't give them easy looks. If we leave any one of their players open, it's going to be a long night for us. They are too skilled. If we don't rebound – we think, ‘Pat Summitt, Tennessee,' we think rebounding.
"We understand that. We're going to have to fight for every rebound that goes up. There are certain things we have identified to get our players to wrap their heads around in this game so they are not overwhelmed."
Marquette will counter with its own attacking style, especially in transition.
"Attacking is always part of our game plan," senior guard Tatiyiana McMorris said. "We know Tennessee played Georgetown and we actually beat Georgetown. We're feeling good about this game. We're just going to follow the game plan the coaches give us and hopefully come out with a win."
The full text from Marquette's press conference can be read here.
NEW OPPONENT: Tennessee and Marquette have played just once in program history. The current players would have been in elementary or pre-school when the Lady Vols defeated the Golden Eagles in a Thanksgiving tournament in Burlington, Vermont, in 1996.
The second meeting will occur Monday after Marquette beat Texas, 68-65, on Saturday to move to the second round.
The Tennessee-Texas series has been ongoing since 1978 – the Longhorns will come to Knoxville next season – but despite the 33-year history and 31 matchups, the teams have never met in postseason, and the streak, which seemed in jeopardy until Tatiyiana McMorris hit a three for Marquette with 5.9 seconds left, remains intact.
The Lady Vols already played the Longhorns this season, a 92-77 win in Austin on Dec. 12, 2010, and both Coach Pat Summitt and the players said they would rather face a new team rather than Texas again.
That is not because Marquette is perceived as an easier opponent – the Golden Eagles beat Georgetown, which beat Tennessee last November – but because it's a different challenge.
"I don't think they are taking Marquette likely," Holly Warlick said. "No way. They watched them. They have a lot of respect for Marquette. You can't go through the Big East and get in the tournament if you're not a good team."
All 13 Lady Vols sat behind the baseline – ushers kept people away seeking autographs by NCAA rules – for the first half of the Marquette-Texas game. The players said Sunday they could glean more info about a team by seeing it in person, rather than a scouting report, film clips or TV vantage point.
Shekinna Stricklen noticed that the Marquette guards wanted to push tempo.
"They get the ball out quick, and they are pushing the ball up the court," Stricklen said. "So we are really going to have to sprint back in transition."
Tennessee's record in second round games is 22-0, and the Lady Vols have never lost a tourney game on their home court. To say that Tennessee is favored to win Monday is a tremendous understatement.
"It's tournament time," Stricklen said. "You take no team lightly. It's either do or die."
Kamiko Williams, who was sitting next to Stricklen and listening to the interview piped up, "Playing for Pat, you shouldn't take any team lightly, regardless whether it's tournament or regular season."
Stricklen smiled at the sophomore's contribution and laughed when asked when the maturation process finally kicked in for Williams.
"I think after last year and some of this year, too," Stricklen.
"I got tired of getting in trouble," Williams.
"And Pat staying on her 24/7," Stricklen said.
Both players noted that they could get a better feel for the speed of Marquette's guards by watching in person rather than just game tape.
"You can see how quick they really look," Stricklen said. "TV sometimes it really doesn't look like it's that quick, but they're really quick."
The film clips in a scouting report have to be condensed – info overload won't do a team any good and scouting sessions fall under the 20-hour rule so coaches have to divvy time wisely among all the assorted basketball activities – games, practice, conditioning, weight training, meetings and scouting.
"They show you certain clips, but just watching a game you can see what they do (all over the court and not just what the camera filmed)," said Williams, who focused on where the guards went on and off the ball.
Vicki Baugh watched the action in the paint. Marquette played well in the first half – plus Tennessee was already familiar with Texas personnel – so the Lady Vols paid more attention to Marquette.
"I could really see how the person looks completely, because on the (scouting) sheet you go by their height, but just physically seeing the player (in person) is a lot better to get an idea about their game," Baugh said.
"Like she said you can actually see their attributes and how tall they are, their mannerisms and all that, instead of going off a sheet of paper and film clips of the other team," Kelley Cain said.
Alicia Manning also was attentive during the first half viewing.
"I like that better," Manning said. "I like to feel the game out, see the crowd's reaction and see the coaches' reactions to what plays. You get more of the emotion when you watch it live."
Alyssia Brewer noticed that Marquette likes to push tempo, as does Tennessee.
"I think it will be an interesting matchup," Brewer said.
Cain also welcomed a new opponent.
"I like playing new people just because it's like a new challenge that we like to take on," Cain said. "We're used to being challenged, and we like it, so we're ready. We're excited we get to play somebody new."
Manning has played Texas three times already in her Tennessee career and also liked seeing a different team in the bracket in Marquette.
"It's good to have a new one," Manning said.
"I love the fact that it is somebody new," Brewer said. "Some of us were talking about it earlier. After our out-of-conference games you go into the SEC and everything is repeated, everything is the same."
The situation was magnified the past two seasons because the SEC expanded to 16 games. Tennessee's non-conference games this season were completed Dec. 30 against Rutgers. When the SEC played a 14-game schedule, Tennessee would schedule two other games in the gaps. In Brewer's freshman year it was Oklahoma and Duke.
"I definitely love being able to play somebody new," Brewer said.
Sophomore Taber Spani said the team had discussed getting a new team, but the focus remains on Tennessee.
"We want to focus on playing (our best game)," Spani said. "But it is nice to have Marquette, and they're a great team. Having senior experience in the NCAA Tournament is huge. You could just tell that they were not going to let their team lose against Texas.
"We're going to have to be ready for that, and we know that they want it. Being seniors, they don't want to lose. They don't want to be done."
Pat Summitt also like the "unknown" of a new opponent because her players would be hearing something new.
"We've got to go to work and figure it all out," Summitt said.
COMMON OPPONENT: Tennessee and Marquette have just one common foe in Georgetown. The Lady Vols lost to the Hoyas, 69-58, in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 27, 2010, and the Golden Eagles beat their Big East sister, 75-73, in double overtime on Jan. 8.
When coaches scout in postseason, they always seek recent games to get a better idea of what a team is doing now on both sides of the ball. Marquette Coach Terri Mitchell said film from the Tennessee-Georgetown game would fall in the same category.
"It's too long ago," Mitchell said. "You make it familiar to your players, but it would be like someone pulling out what we did non-conference. That's not the team you are right now. It's just familiar. It makes our players understand – that was a team we beat; they beat Tennessee, but it was very long ago. And they know that.
"They are just excited about playing and what they have ahead of them. I feel very prepared by the films I have watched, my staff has watched. We don't go back to then; we do the more recent history."
Although the Tennessee-Georgetown game was four months ago, Vicki Baugh said the fact Marquette beat the Hoyas was noted.
"Oh, most definitely," Baugh said. "And now that it's tournament time you know every team is ready to step up. Who will come ready to play in the tournament? We need to be able to play 40 minutes and establish a post game early."
Glory Johnson, who had a stat line of 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven turnovers, in that game, said, "I think we've grown a lot from that game. We know that it shouldn't have been lost, and our defense was very bad. We talked, we've worked on it, and we've worked on it and worked on it. We're all at a different level playing-wise."
Alicia Manning agreed with Baugh that the win was worth nothing.
"It shows that they've been doing stuff and beating top teams," Manning said. "We really need to focus. But we would prepare the same way (regardless of past outcomes)."
NET GAIN: The one benefit, as it were, of Tennessee's loss to Georgetown was that it moved Shekinna Stricklen away from full-time point guard duty.
The 6'2 junior/forward guard can still take reps at the point – she also will post up as a power forward – but primary ball-handling responsibilities to start the game shifted to freshman Meighan Simmons.
Stricklen accepted the role of point guard for a little over three years, but it was stressful for her, and her relief was palpable when she was able to play more off the ball. She had seven turnovers against Georgetown.
"I look back at that game, it was a bad game, but I am happy I am off the point guard," Stricklen said.
It did mean that the ball was put in the hands of a rookie, who, like Stricklen, is not a point guard. Simmons has handled the role as best she can, but, like Stricklen, she will likely be happy when someone else takes it full time.
Kamiko Williams provides backup – though she also is more comfortable on the wing – as does true point guard Lauren Avant, who has been injured on and off this season, and junior Briana Bass. Ariel Massengale, a top point guard recruit, is on the way for the 2011-12 season to join the mix.
But in the meantime, combo guards are on the floor for tipoff for Tennessee.
Although the game tape is old, Georgetown's style of play – aggressive and trapping guards – was noted and teams with the personnel to repeat it will take the same approach with Tennessee. That means Simmons will be an early target.
"Come out calm, being patient, not trying to take too many early shots, start inside-out, moving the ball around and bringing everybody together," Simmons said. "It's a mental thing."
Even Pat Summitt conceded that the loss to Georgetown ultimately was beneficial because it forced Simmons and Williams to get ready at point guard.
"I think it was good," Summitt said. "Just realizing, not that she will never run the point, but that she could play multiple positions for us. That was the main thing."
The second part of sticking with the decision was entrusting the vital position to a freshman and developing enough faith in Simmons.
"I eventually got it," Summitt said.
BJORKLUND'S BEST SHOT: During Angie Bjorklund's freshman year, she came off the bench in the NCAA postseason because of struggles with her shot after a long season.
Four years later, the senior is scorching the nets – she has hit 20 of her last 23 three-point attempts – and after having to take a month off because of a right foot injury and coming off the bench, she returned to the starting lineup in the NCAA Tournament.
In four postseason games – three in Nashville in the SEC tourney and the first round win over Stetson – Bjorklund is shooting 65.5 percent (19-29). Her shot attempts would be higher, expect for the fact that she is averaging just 21.7 minutes per game as she has been eased onto the court after the injury.
"Her body has changed, especially from a freshman to now her being a senior," Pat Summitt said. "She's always been the player that wanted to get in extra shots. Hopefully, now she's good to go to have a lot more reps. She had a little setback there for awhile with her foot but she's doing great.
"She can knock down shots and the deep-ball. When people come out on her, she does a good job of getting by and having the short game. She distributes the ball very well."
The Lady Vol game notes contained the following stats about Bjorklund:
In 13 games at home this season – Bjorklund missed three games on "The Summitt" because of her foot injury senior – she has connected on 50.4 percent (64-127) of her shots from the floor, 48.2 percent (40-83) from behind the arc and 85.7 percent (12-14) from the free throw line.
Bjorklund's return has boosted her team, too. In her six-game absence, Tennessee averaged 72.3 points per game while allowing 55.2. Only two players averaged double-figures – Shekinna Stricklen at 16.5 ppg and Glory Johnson with 13.2 ppg. The team's shooting percentage was 45.1 percent.
Since Bjorklund returned for the Feb. 21 game against Georgia, Johnson has led the team in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (10.4). Three other players are in double figures – Stricklen (14.4 ppg), Meighan Simmons (11.0 ppg) and Bjorklund (10.6 ppg).
Tennessee averaged 83.7 points and allowed 53.6. As a team the Lady Vols are shooting 51.5 percent from the field. Bjorklund connected on 59.1 percent (26-44) from the field (26-44) overall and 77.8 percent (21-27) from behind the arc.
Marquette Coach Terri Mitchell said Bjorklund was a major emphasis in the team's scouting report.
"You just can't give her any space," Mitchell said. "She's that good; she doesn't need room – it's catch and shoot. You can see confidence is an amazing thing with a shooter when they are feeling it. They have so much depth and so many scorers, but when you think about her – I prefer the option of not letting her touch.
"Now, we're not a denial team. But I told our players, ‘If she's anywhere in your area, you get tighter to her. You can't give her two steps; you're one step away from her.' So that's a definite focus thing."
Monday evening will be Bjorklund's last shot to launch shots on "The Summitt" in a college basketball game.
"I don't think I'll think about it until it's over," Bjorklund said. "I think once I'm in a game, and we need to win and tournament time like this, one and done, that is all I am thinking about.
"After all we've been through and all we've worked for, we're going to be completely focused, completely ready for this game."
ODDS AND ENDS
Tennessee leads the series with Marquette, 1-0. The lone matchup was an 83-68 win on Nov. 23, 1996, at the Howard Bank Classic in Burlington, Vt. … Tennessee is 8-0 on March 21. The last win on this date was against George Washington, 66-53, in 2006. The first win on March 21 was against South Carolina, 75-72, in 1980. … The Lady Vols Media Relations office oversees an in-game blog during games. One visitor during the Stetson game Saturday logged in from Afghanistan. It was Master Sergeant Vincent Williams, the father of sophomore guard Kamiko Williams, who was checking on the game while deployed overseas for the U.S. Army. Williams is in the fourth brigade combat team of the 801st BSB (Brigade Support Battalion). He made a surprise trip home at the end of February for a 15-day leave and was able to see his daughter play in person. The blog is archived here.
Seniors Sydney Smallbone and Angie Bjorklund talk about what they will miss most about playing at Thompson-Boling Arena.