Lady Vols at home tonight vs. ODU

Tennessee returns to the hardwood in a home game for the first time in more than three weeks this evening when Old Dominion comes to the arena. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the Lady Vols.

The last time the Lady Vols were gathered in a locker room after a game, Pat Summitt asked the players who gave it their all to stand up. Vicki Baugh didn't get on her feet.

A few players did – rightfully so in Baugh's estimation after the Stanford loss – but the 6'4 post player knew she wasn't among them, and she vowed at that point that it wouldn't happen again.

"I just took a lot of responsibility because I played horrible," Baugh said. "We talked about facing the brutal facts, and that was the fact of that game.

"I let my team know it won't happen again."

No. 7/8 Tennessee (7-3) takes the court Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern (TV: CSS) against Old Dominion (3-9) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Lady Vols last played in Knoxville on Dec. 4 in a win over Texas, so the fans will likely be glad to see them again. Tennessee will get right back on the road – the Lady Vols open SEC play on Sunday against Auburn – and will spend most of January away from home.

Of the 10 games in the first month of 2012, six are on the road, including Kentucky and Notre Dame, both of which are ranked above Tennessee in the polls. Of the eight games in February, five are at home, so it eventually balances out over the course of the last two months of the regular season.

One thing is certain for Tennessee: The Lady Vols need Baugh to be effective whether at home or on the road.

Baugh got into early foul trouble, which, at times, has sent her into a funk, and that was certainly the case against Stanford on Dec. 20. Baugh had more fouls at four than rebounds at three and logged just 16 minutes in the 97-80 defeat.

"I think the hardest part about it is knowing you didn't go out there and give it your all," Baugh said. "I got mentally frustrated with fouls and took myself out of the game.

"Pat asked us after the game who gave it their all, and I wasn't able to stand up, and that was embarrassing. That really bothered me. It kind of messed up my Christmas break because I was just emotionally wrecked.

"I enjoyed time with my family, but it hurt."

Baugh, who is from Sacramento, Calif., had a lot of family and friends in the stands who seldom get to see her play in person.

"That was even worse," Baugh said. "You're playing in front of your family not giving it your all. I rarely get to play in front of them. I was disappointed.

"It most definitely ate at me. I'll call it the worst game of my career."

The good news for Baugh is that she recognizes the problem, which is the first step to fixing it.

"When I get early fouls I take myself out of the game, physically and mentally," Baugh said. "I don't remember ever feeling comfortable. I was overthinking. I was upset. I wasn't aggressive. I was passive. I wasn't playing tough."

She also knows a December loss is not fatal and the team keeps going forward.

"Nowhere to go but up," Baugh said. "We know that we have a lot of work to do. If we want to win or compete at the level that we want to compete later on, we've got to get busy right now.

"It just made us realize we're not where we need to be. We're not where we thought we were. So we've got to put in the work. Our practices have been great, and if we could just transfer that to the games, we'll be in great shape."

The Lady Vols have practice opportunities this week. Next week, they have just one day after the Auburn game before Chattanooga arrives and then just one day after that before Georgia comes to town. The coaches are generally cautious about saving legs for game days, though Tuesday was a long and up-tempo practice, an indication that the to-do list is lengthy.

Basically, Baugh's conclusion was that the team needed the work.

"With us we have to grow up," Baugh said. "We have all seniors. I know we've been called a leader and I've been called a leader, but we had no leadership that game. And that was very frustrating.

"We're doing fine in practice. We talk. We're active. But it's because we know they (the coaches) can put us on the line (to run sprints). We have to be able to transfer that to games, and we have to be able to punish ourselves."

Baugh hit the target with that remark as the team has lacked a powerful on-court voice since the exit of the Big Three – Nicky Anosike, Alexis Hornbuckle and Candace Parker in 2008. The reasons are myriad – a freshman-laden team that next season with 11 underclassmen, injuries that thrust those players into roles they were not ready to shoulder and the lack of a regular point guard.

But Baugh is a fifth-year senior – though a little over a sophomore in terms of actual game experience – Shekinna Stricklen has started 114 consecutive games, and Glory Johnson has played in 115 career games with 92 starts. They could form their own Big Three.

Freshman point guard Ariel Massengale plugged a hole immediately but a concussion and dislocated finger have robbed her of court time, and she is just now back from the latter injury.

The next step for the team is to take over the court, as the Big Three did. That trio policed themselves and handled matters on the court, especially ones of accountability. A blown defensive assignment meant an earful from a teammate.

"We can't have the coaches telling us what to do," Baugh said.

The youngest player on the team will help in that regard because Massengale is preternaturally suited to play point guard.

Massengale's first exhibition game in November was the first time to scrimmage with her new teammates because she missed three weeks with a concussion. Massengale missed two weeks in December with the finger injury, had one short practice the day before the Stanford game and then played in the second half.

She credited Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine, and Heather Mason, the strength and conditioning coach, with getting her ready so soon.

"It was just my hand," Massengale said. "My legs worked fine so I was able to do my conditioning."

That accounts for the physical part of the game, but it is Massengale's mental aptitude and calming effect on the team that are missed when she is on the sideline.

"When it came to the basketball part I was able to dribble with my right hand," Massengale said. "Always stay ready."

Massengale dislocated the middle finger on her left hand in a practice session the day before the team left for New York and a big date against DePaul in Madison Square Garden. She made the trip, and went to Rutgers, too, but a large cast protected her left arm and hand, and Massengale could only watch from the sideline.

"It hurt because I was really looking forward to getting out there and playing in Madison Square Garden," Massengale said. "Everything happens for a reason so I am just trying to take the good out of the situation."

One silver lining could be that Meighan Simmons had to play extended minutes in Massengale's absence and after struggling against DePaul, the sophomore finally shed her shooting slump and played with her freshman-year swagger.

Massengale was scheduled for a regular checkup to assess the healing process – the fingers are still taped – but she has been cleared to practice and play.

She used the bench time to learn more about her teammates.

"It helps a lot, knowing your teammates and seeing their tendencies and what they like to do, so just learning more about them," Massengale said. "Also learning what the coaches see from the sidelines."

The staff will be happy to see Massengale back on the court.

"I think it gives us more depth," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "When we went out on our long road trip we were worried about depth.

"She adds another dimension to our rotation. She brings us confidence. We're a better team with Massengale and it gets Meighan back to her true position. It's a positive."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (6.1 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game); Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10 (10.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.0 apg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 (16.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg); Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (13.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg); and Vicki Baugh, 6'4 redshirt senior forward/center, No. 21 (8.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg).

Old Dominion Coach Karen Barefoot is expected to start: Ashley Betz-White, 5'4 freshman guard, No. 11 (9.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), hails from Mechanicsburg, Pa., tallied 20 points in win over Alabama; Jo Niquia Guilford, 5'10 junior guard, No. 23 (5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), hails from Portsmouth, Va., tallied seven points, three boards versus Tennessee last season, grabbed 14 boards this season against George Washington; Jackie Cook, 6'0 junior guard, No. 14 (5.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg), hails from Hinckley, Ohio, tallied career-high 17 points against George Mason, had four points, three boards against Tennessee, mother Donna played basketball at Cincinnati, father Chris played football at Indiana, brother Connor will play football at Michigan State; Shakeva Richards, 6'2 sophomore forward, No. 53 (7.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg), hails from Griffin, Ga., scored career high 18 points against Louisiana Tech; and Tia Lewis, 6'3 senior center/forward, No. 44 (18.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg), hails from Poulan, Ga., had six points, 10 boards against Tennessee, has tallied five double-doubles this season, posted 24 points against Louisiana Tech and 27 points against Alabama, only returning starter from last season, selected to All-CAA team, is averaging nearly 24 points in last three games.

A key player off the bench is Mairi Buchan, a 6'2 redshirt junior center from Stirlingshire, Scotland, who has averaged 8.7 points over the last three games.

This is Barefoot's first season at ODU after a successful stint at Elon University. Barefoot was an assistant at Old Dominion from 2005 to 2008. Her overall head coaching record is 209-143. Barefoot, who is from Newport News, Va., took over a team at Elon that had finished 12-20 and went 20-13 in her final season after three years there.

Barefoot played collegiately at Christopher Newport, in nearby Newport News, and was the first player in NCAA history, male or female, to score over 2,000 points and tally 1,000 assists. Courtney Vandersloot became the second player to accomplish the career feat, which she did last season at Gonzaga.

INJURY REPORT: Junior Taber Spani, who injured her left knee in the Virginia game last month, was held out of practice Tuesday and won't play Wednesday.

"She's sore," Jenny Moshak said. "When she's out there in pain – and Taber's pain level is very high – it's my job to pull her."

Moshak ruled that Spani should sit out Wednesday's game, but said her official status is day to day, and she could be back very soon.

Spani has started all 10 games this season and led the team with 24 made treys at a clip of 48 percent from the field.

Junior Kamiko Williams participated in all of Tuesday's practice, even the contact portions, as part of her ongoing evaluation.

"Miko is picking it up," Moshak said. "We're advancing as we go."

Williams' performance and reaction to full-scale practices will be assessed and that will determine the next step.

"Correct," Moshak said. "She's got permission to pick it up. She's got to play her way into shape a little bit."

SCOUTING REPORT: Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Old Dominion game. Here is her assessment.

Offensively, the Lady Monarchs will want to push tempo.

"They run the ball," Warlick said. "They do a lot of high-low stuff. They have a real good kid inside, (Tia) Lewis. They're going to isolate Lewis inside.

"They are playing hard. They like to penetrate. They run a lot off their defense. They're going to have to turn us over to get easy baskets."

Defensively, ODU uses a combination of looks.

"Zone and man," Warlick said. "We've seen a man-to-man, we've seen a 3-2 and we've seen a 2-3. They press. They run a 1-2-2 press. They run a 2-2-1 press. I think she is going to mix it up."

The Lady Monarchs are overmatched, at least on paper in this game, and the Lady Vols will need to focus on the game plan, not the scoreboard.

"We've got to worry about us," Warlick said. "It's about us. We can't look at the opponent. We've got to get better. It doesn't matter who we're playing. They can be 3-9 or they can be 9-0.

"We've got to worry about us. We've got to do the things that we're good at, and we need to do things that we need to get better at."

Warlick has a long history with Old Dominion and played against the Lady Monarchs when she was the Lady Vols point guard from 1976 to 1980. The tenure of ODU's longtime coach, Wendy Larry, ended after last season, and this game completes the latest contract of a series that began in 1977.

"It's different," Warlick said. "I know Karen has ties with Old Dominion, and she's done a great job, and she did a great job at Elon. It is different. Wendy is a part of that tradition and built that program so it's a little different not seeing her on the sideline."

With two new SEC teams coming on board in Missouri and Texas A&M, the non-conference schedule will have to be adjusted, and it would seem that ODU is likely to fall off the Lady Vols' slate.

"It's not etched in stone," Warlick said. "We played when I played. We were the two big rivalries of that time. It will be different not playing them."

COACH CASTED: Mickie DeMoss is the second assistant coach this season to end up with her arm/hand in a cast.

Holly Warlick broke her left hand after a mishap getting off the university plane in October after SEC Media Day – a bag strap caught on the rail of the exit stairs at the same time her shoe stuck on the step – and she injured herself trying to break the fall.

On Dec. 19, DeMoss was walking to dinner with the staff in California when it was noticed that a long shoestring was untied.

"I said, ‘I'll get it when I get to the restaurant," DeMoss said, pointing out a distance of about 10 yards. "I took one more step, and Pat steps on my shoestring from the back."

DeMoss fell forward, and broke the radius bone in her right arm, a typical fracture when trying to break a fall, and also injured the pinky finger, which remains somewhat askew, on her left hand. It had been broken in the past but was just bruised this time.

Pat Summitt was listening nearby during the DeMoss interview and came over to apologize yet again.

"No, it was my fault because my shoestrings were untied," DeMoss said. "But really if she didn't want me around, she could have at least just told me. She didn't have to put me down."

That brought laughter from Summitt.

"It's not a good year for Lady Vol assistant basketball coaches," DeMoss said. "Stay away from us."

Dean Lockwood might want to be extra careful this season.

ON TAP Five other SEC teams are in action Wednesday in the following matchups: Mississippi Valley State at Arkansas; Samford at Florida; Furman at Georgia; Kentucky at Middle Tennessee; and South Carolina at Drexel.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Old Dominion, 35-9. The Lady Vols are 16-3 in Knoxville and last lost to the Lady Monarchs at home in 1982, a 78-72 defeat in overtime. Tennessee has won 15 consecutive games in the series with the closest contest coming Dec. 18, 2008, in Norfolk – it was the only game Shekinna Stricklen has missed since arriving on campus; the then-freshman had a stomach illness – when the Lady Vols posted a hard-fought 81-76 win behind the sharp-shooting of Angie Bjorklund. The winning streak began in 1997 after ODU beat Tennessee in the regular season that year, and the rematch in March was for the national title in Cincinnati. … Tennessee is 6-1 in games played on December 28. The last win on this date was against Temple, 75-50, in 2005. The first win on December 28 was against Delta State, 67-63, in 1978. The lone loss on this date was to Texas, 70-60, in 2003. … Old Dominion was picked to finish fifth this season in the Colonial Athletic Association. Delaware, led by Elena Delle Donne, was picked first in a vote of the coaches followed by VCU, James Madison and Hofstra.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Tuesday practice clips

Pat Summitt


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