Lady Vols host Georgia this evening

Tennessee reenters conference play tonight when Georgia comes to Thompson-Boling Arena for the SEC home opener. Go inside with Inside Tennessee to get ready for the game.

Glory Johnson is just 17 rebounds away from 1,000 for her career, and she would prefer to reach the milestone at home.

Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick smiled and said the senior had the staff's endorsement to go ahead and set the mark Thursday.

"She has our permission to get 17 rebounds," Warlick said. "I think Glory is a result of a hard work and a big heart. That is what rebounding is. It's just effort.

"And Glory comes out and plays with effort and plays hard every night. You don't really have to worry about Glory. She always gives effort, and that is one thing that is so consistent about Glory."

No. 6/7 Tennessee (10-3, 1-0) takes on No. 16/15 Georgia (12-2, 1-0) tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern (TV: CSS) in Knoxville.

Johnson wasn't really aware of the approaching milestone until recently.

"I keep being reminded of it," Johnson said. "And it's something I for sure want to do at home. I would like the most fans to be there and my family to be there to see it."

Johnson is averaging 9.2 rebounds per game, so 17 would be a reach, but the 6'3 forward has been particularly motivated this season, and she has one eye on the calendar.

"When you realize you have one semester left at the University of Tennessee and from then on you don't know what you're going to be doing, where you're going to be at, who you're going to be playing for or if you're still going to be playing, it's my career," Johnson said.

When Johnson tallies the 17th board, she will join some elite career company – Lady Vols with at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. The list is limited to Sheila Frost (1985-89), Chamique Holdsclaw (1995-99) and Tamika Catchings (1997-01).

Johnson tallied 10 points in Tuesday's 90-47 win over Chattanooga, which put her over 1,300 for her career with 1,309, so she accomplished the 1,000-point half of the equation during her junior year.

Johnson has more on her mind than board play. The Lady Bulldogs were the last team to beat the Lady Vols in SEC play in a game at Athens on Jan. 21, 2010. Tennessee had its chances – and led in the second half – but Georgia prevailed 53-50.

Since then, counting the SEC tourneys in 2010 and 2011, the Lady Vols have won 34 consecutive league games overall and 24 SEC games in Knoxville. The last loss at home to a league school came in 2008 against LSU.

"We don't really think about it too much," Johnson said. "We just want to play whatever team we have, whatever day it is, play it day by day, play team by team, focus on one team at a time.

"Play as hard as you can against that one team and then focus on the next game."

Senior guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen also is aware of the ticking time.

"That's been on my mind since we started the season," Stricklen said. "That's it for five of us, and our goal is to get to a Final Four. Right now our goal is to get through this SEC. We want to go undefeated again."

Sophomore Meighan Simmons has yet to lose an SEC game. She was in high school in Cibolo, Texas, the last time Tennessee faltered in the league.

"I wasn't even aware of that," Simmons said. "Now that I know that's something to make us want to work hard when we get out there.

"I think we just have to be mentally ready. We can't let that streak get to us. We've just got to go out there and play Tennessee basketball."

Warlick said the staff wasn't even aware of the streak and narrows its focus to the next opponent.

"You can't worry about what you did (in past seasons) or applaud what you did," Warlick said. "It's all about Georgia coming it here Thursday.

"New game. New time. New players. That's how we will coach every game this year."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (7.7 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, 4.5 assists per game); Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10 (11.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 (15.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Alicia Manning, 6'1 senior guard/forward, No. 15 (5.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (13.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg).

Georgia Coach Andy Landers is expected to start: Jasmine James, 5'9 junior guard, No. 10 (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), hails from Memphis, Tenn., missed two games last month with a sprained knee, has 925 career points, preseason All-SEC First Team; Khaalidah Miller, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 1 (13.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg), hails from Atlanta, Ga., more than half of her field goals are three-pointers, has reached double figures in 10 games this season, also plays point guard behind James;Anne Marie Armstrong, 6'3 junior guard/forward, No. 3 (10.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg), hails from Norcross, Ga., tallied career-high 22 points this season against TCU, had career-high seven steals against Montana State, tallied career-high eight assists against Georgetown, also was a standout volleyball and track athlete in high school; Meredith Mitchell, 6'1 senior guard, No. 11 (7.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg), hails from Midfield, Ala., tallied career-high 21 points against Southern Cal, earned her bachelor's degree in December in management from Georgia's College of Business, the only senior on a team with eight juniors; and Jasmine Hassell, 6'2 junior forward, No. 12 (14.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), hails from Lebanon, Tenn., tallied 19 points in Georgia's SEC debut this season against Arkansas, posted career-high 24 points this season against Georgia Tech, selected to All-SEC Second Team in preseason, mother Gail played at Belmont from 1981-84 and was the program's all-time scoring leader at the time of her career with 1,814 points.

"We have the ability to be a very balanced team," Landers said. "They play unselfishly and share the ball. They all have the ability to score."

Two key players off the bench for Georgia are Erika Ford, a 5'9 guard from Alpharetta, Ga., and the SEC's reigning Freshman of the Week for her play against Furman and Arkansas; and Krista Donald, a 5'11 freshman from Lake, Miss., who grabbed 13 boards against Appalachian State. Ford has six starts on the season and Donald has one.

Ebony Jones, a 6'2 junior forward from Dallas, Texas, has been limited this season by knee and ankle injuries and has played sparingly.

"It's always a blast," Landers, a Tennessee native from nearby Louisville in Blount County, said about facing the Lady Vols. "I personally look forward to going to Knoxville and playing Tennessee.

"You know that you're always playing one of the most talented basketball teams in the country and a very well-coached basketball team, so it's a great challenge and a great atmosphere."

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

Offensively, Warlick expects a fairly fast-paced game.

"Georgia is up-tempo, athletic," Warlick said. "They've run the ball. They isolate certain people. They are playing really, really well right now offensively."

Jasmine Hassell, a junior forward, leads Georgia in scoring at 14.4 points per game.

"Hassell is having a great year inside," Warlick said. "Their perimeter players are shooting the three, and they are penetrating so that's a difficult defense for anybody.

"We're going to have to play an exceptional game to win."

Defensively, the Lady Bulldogs want to apply pressure.

"Very much," Warlick said. "They are going to put a tremendous amount of ball pressure on us, try to get us to turn it over.

"They are athletic. They're in the passing lanes. They're all up in us handling the ball, so we're going to have our work cut out for us for taking care of the ball and not turning it over."

KAMIKO ON THE COURT: Kamiko Williams still needs to get in game shape, but every minute she plays means a minute of rest for another perimeter player.

With Taber Spani out to rest a bone bruise in her left knee – Pat Summitt indicated Wednesday at the Tipoff Club that a return date was fluid – Shekinna Stricklen and Meighan Simmons have logged an abundance of minutes.

Spani is officially listed as day to day and is out for Thursday's game. Summitt said her return was "touch and go," and while there was no set date, Spani was expected back relatively soon.

Holly Warlick said there were no new issues with the knee. Spani just needed a break.

"I think rest is very important to her and essential," Warlick said.

Stricklen and Simmons both welcomed the relief, though Simmons noted Williams also needed to ease her way back.

"We don't want to put Miko in a position to where she's being overworked in the beginning because she is just now getting back," Simmons said. "But I feel like that is going to help us later on.

"I don't know if it shows up, but I have gotten a little bit tired here and there. But it's all about staying focused."

Both Simmons and Stricklen struggled with their outside shooting in the past two games – and the shots were sometimes short, a good indicator of fatigue.

"Really short," Stricklen said. "And that's something that doesn't happen often. … I need to be attacking the basket a lot more."

"It's a matter of staying focused and being able to keep our momentum going, keep the energy up no matter how tired we are, because I know the team is going to need us later on," Simmons said. "They're going to need everybody so we have to play through whatever we have to do to help the team."

Stricklen has acknowledged that her legs are feeling the effects of extended minutes.

"With Miko back it really will help, and it will be a lot better when we can get Taber back," Stricklen said. "Clearly, the last couple of games … I know a lot of people have been messaging me about my legs and stuff.

"It is just something that I am going to have to overcome. I am doing a lot more treatment."

That includes cold whirlpools, something Stricklen despises but which she is now seeking to take daily plunges.

"I literally hate getting in cold whirlpools, but that is something I have been doing every single day," Stricklen said. "I hate them real bad so for me to get in there really shows that I am really hurting in my legs."

Warlick said Stricklen and Simmons need to keep shooting the basketball.

"Everybody is tired," Warlick said. "It's just about stepping up and forgetting what you've done and worrying about what's ahead of you."

Glory Johnson plays in the paint – she has been the workhorse through all the post injuries – but she welcomed the midseason addition to the perimeter.

"I am really excited to have Kamiko out there on the floor," Johnson said. "She can help a lot. Miko likes to push the ball, and I like to run so it's another person who can run with me in transition."

Williams logged 16 minutes against Chattanooga and tallied four assists, three boards, two points and two steals. She realized afterwards that game shape is a lot different than rehab conditioning.

"I am a little tired," Williams said Wednesday. "I've got to get back in shape. It was a shock to me. I went down (the court) three or four times and I had to realize the coaches aren't going to say, ‘OK, wait!' and then talk for 20 minutes. I have got to get back in shape. That's a must.

"I did an hour of cardio every day and I said, ‘JMo, all those hours I put in and I am dying already?' And (Jenny Moshak) was like, ‘Well, just imagine if you didn't do it. It would be twice as bad.'

"So, yeah, there is nothing that can simulate basketball games."

She intends to increase her cardio workouts and get in extra sprint sessions after practice.

"I feel like a freshman kind of body-wise," Williams said. "I know what it took to get here, then I lost it, now I've got to get it back, so I have got to put in positive work."

Williams missed the first 12 games of the season. There are 16 regular season games remaining, plus the SEC and NCAA tourneys, so she has plenty of opportunities to contribute to the team in 2012.

"Just bring my midrange game and my defense and help as much as I can," Williams said. "Obviously, I have to get back in the flow of things, but once I get there just bring what I can do and hopefully we can get to Denver."

Williams had the vantage point of the bench to start the season, and she learned a lot from listening to the coaches and watching what they were seeing.

"A lot," Williams said. "The coaches really weren't just talking to be talking. A lot of stuff they were saying I actually saw. When I was playing, I didn't see it. I thought, ‘They might be tripping. Maybe it's not the truth.'

"But just sitting there watching I was like, ‘Wow, they're for real. We really do need to work on defense. We really don't box out every time or go to the boards every time.' Coming back I know where we need to pick up something so if I start, maybe everybody else will follow.

"I have learned a lot talking to the coaches, watching film, watching them play and just giving advice. Maybe I should start following my own now. I needed it. I really did."

Williams said she's not thinking about her knee, but she has been told to play on balance and land on two legs.

"I do need to be aware of it a little bit more than what I am," Williams said.

Williams had a new hairstyle Tuesday – which should have been a clue that she had been cleared to play – and she intends to stick with it, though she might add some color.

She doesn't intend to do anything too unusual as she heard about former Lady Vols Nikki Caldwell and Daedra Charles-Furlow shaving their numbers in their hair before a Final Four, which caused Summitt to erupt.

"I already had hair stories with Coach D," Williams said. "I am not going to do anything too crazy, but I might come up with something."

BLOCK PARTY: The Lady Vols had nine blocks against Chattanooga, including a pair from Glory Johnson and Meighan Simmons that were highlight-reel worthy.

Johnson's came in the first half when a Lady Vol defender leaned the wrong way and the cutter went backdoor. The Lady Moc had an open layup until Johnson swooped over from the opposite baseline and sent the ball over Tennessee's bench.

Simmons' came in the second half and put a halt to a series of sloppy play. The Lady Moc had a breakaway layup, but Simmons sprinted past her teammates and emphatically sent the shot offering out of bounds.

"Our energy was just going up and down throughout the game," Simmons said. "Me trying to hustle back, I was like, ‘We need to do something that will help the team get the momentum back.'

"I sprinted my little behind back down and I ended up blocking her shot."

LOCKWOOD STILL OK: Two assistant coaches have sustained broken bones this season. Holly Warlick stumbled off a private plane when her shoe caught on a step and a bag strap got entangled on the rope of the rail, and Mickie DeMoss tumbled to the sidewalk while strolling to dinner in Palo Alto.

Warlick has shed her cast; DeMoss still has hers.

In the closing seconds of Tuesday's game against Chattanooga, freshman forward Cierra Burdick sprinted to the sideline to save a long rebound, and went right into the bench. Lockwood caught her and both were unscathed.

"He made sure I didn't go anywhere," Burdick said. "He hugged me pretty tight. I didn't mean to go crashing into him. He was happy for that."

At least Burdick missed Warlick and DeMoss.

"I don't know how I managed to do that," Burdick said. "Usually I am the klutz and would probably hit both of them."

Shekinna Stricklen laughed and said the team wasn't trying to put Lockwood on rehab row, too.

"No, they're just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Stricklen said. "That's just how our coaches are. But you see that Mickie and Holly are hurt and they'll still be out there with us in practice throwing the ball. So that just shows that our coaches are tough, so we need to be tough."

Stricklen was smiling throughout her remarks, and the mishaps have been a source of amusement.

Pat Summitt, Dean Lockwood and Holly Warlick were at the Big Orange Tipoff Club (see video below) and laughed about the incidents.

ABBY ROAD: Former Lady Vol Abby Conklin, whose epic clashes with Pat Summitt were part of the 1996 HBO documentary on the Lady Vols program, was a surprise visitor to the locker room before Tuesday's game.

The two shared a warm embrace, and Conklin also attended Summitt's speech on Wednesday to the Tipoff Club at Calhoun's where Summitt acknowledged the former player.

Conklin had been to her hometown in Charleston, Indiana, to visit with her parents. Conklin's mother is battling advanced colon cancer.

She made the trip south to see Summitt and the current staff – Holly Warlick and Mickie DeMoss were assistants during her playing days from 1993 to 1997 – and will return to Indiana for an extended visit before heading back to San Francisco, where Conklin recently bought a business, A-52 Signs and Graphics.

Conklin's last coaching stint was at San Francisco – the Lady Vols played there in 2009 – when former Lady Vol Tanya Haave was the head coach. Haave is now coaching in her home state of Colorado, and Conklin decided to stay in the Bay Area.

"I figured I could sneak down here and see Pat," Conklin said. "I was never close to her as a player, but she is someone that I respect tremendously and as you get further away from being in the program you really see the impact that she had on your life."

Conklin recently touched bases with former Lady Vol teammate Misty Greene (1995-98), who she had not talked to in years, and who is now a junior high school coach and teacher near Raleigh, N.C. The topic, of course, was Summitt.

"Misty talked about the magnitude and the impact," Conklin said. "She said, ‘I wouldn't be the woman that I am now without Pat Summitt.'

"It makes you grateful for having been able to play with her."

SEC PLAY: All 12 SEC schools are in action tonight. The other matchups are: Arkansas at Kentucky; Auburn at Alabama; Florida at Ole Miss; LSU at Mississippi State; and Vanderbilt at South Carolina.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Georgia, 42-15. The Lady Vols record at home against the Lady Bulldogs is 17-4. Georgia last won in Knoxville a little over 15 years ago, a 94-93 overtime win on Dec. 8, 1996. Pat Summitt earned her 1,000th win against Georgia, 73-43, in Knoxville on Feb. 5, 2009. It was announced after that game that the floor at the arena would be named "The Summitt." Tennessee is 14-2 in SEC home openers. … Tennessee is 4-3 in games played on January 5. The last win on this date was against Notre Dame, 87-63, in 2008. The first win on January 5 came against Delta State, 94-74, in 1978. The three losses on this date were to Minsk (Belarus), 84-82, in an exhibition game in 1992; and twice to Connecticut, 72-57, in 1997, and 86-72 in 2002.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Pat Summitt talks Wednesday to the Tipoff Club

Lady Vol practice clips from Wednesday

Inside Tennessee was at SEC Media Day last October and asked player representatives from the other 11 SEC schools some offbeat questions.

Here are the responses of Georgia's Jasmine Hassell.


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