The Lady Vols, who will depart Saturday for the Plains, play Auburn on Sunday, Chattanooga on Tuesday and Georgia on Thursday. That means the days before the games will be for specific preparation, not general practice.
The coaches had already scouted the outlook for the first week of the 2012 New Year and opted to use the last week of 2011 to run a mini-training camp on the court while they had plenty of practice time.
With classes not resuming until Jan. 11, the players can focus solely on basketball, and, probably most important to them, sleep later in the mornings.
Friday's practice session was a continuation of the boot camp theme, which began Monday evening when the players reported back to campus after the Christmas break.
"We went back to training camp," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "We had not been able to do that because you're on the road, you're practicing (for opponents)."
The Lady Vols had a game to break up the practice sessions – Wednesday's 90-37 romp over Old Dominion – but the rest of the week, including Friday, was primarily devoted to Tennessee.
"We're cleaning up our stuff," Lockwood said.
Junior guard Taber Spani continued to watch from the sideline this week. She is resting a sore left knee and is officially listed as day to day. She briefly practiced Monday after the holiday break, but has been held out since then and missed the ODU game after starting the first 10 games of the season.
The latter part of Friday's session was used to start specific preparation for Auburn, and that will continue when the Lady Vols practice on the road.
"We got some of Auburn in," Lockwood said. "We guarded Auburn's man action. We watched tape on some of their zone offensive action.
"We wanted to guard defensive one-on-one closeout action, because we are going to guard a lot of driving. One-on-one defense is going to be very important."
This week also was the last chance for multiple days of rigorous practice because after the SEC season starts, the coaches get back into a routine of game preparation, travel days and off days as required by NCAA rules when school is in session.
"You don't get this back," Lockwood said.
The next chance for another camp approach will come in March after the SEC tourney and before the NCAA postseason begins.
"Going back to values, basic values," Lockwood said. "What this program is built on. We want them to embrace the fact that they can be good defensively. They've got some toughness in them."
The team will travel Saturday by charter flight to the state of Alabama and is likely to hold a light court session at some point before Sunday's game (3 p.m. Eastern, TV: CSS) at Auburn Arena.
"We're going to clean up our stuff for the Auburn game," Lockwood said.
The tapering process started in the last half of Friday's practice, because the staff is aware there are three games over five days starting with Auburn.
"We're kind of getting to what we just came through pre-Christmas," Lockwood said. "We looked at that when we sat down to plan. This time was so pivotal for us to utilize it and reemphasize core values and some basic, simple concepts that need to be reinforced.
"Because when we get in that stretch you're basically going to be in game prep. You can get maybe a little portion of a practice in, but you can't have a total practice. You can't kill kids' legs. We're going to have to be smart during that stretch.
"But I do think, again, we don't want any signs of not playing Tennessee defense and rebounding the way that Tennessee rebounds.
"These last few days we went back to that."