Lady Vols get back to practice

Tennessee got back on the practice court Friday and will depart Saturday for a road game at Arkansas. The coaches wanted an efficient session, and they got it at Pratt Pavilion. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the Lady Vols.

The Lady Vols spent less than two hours total in the film room and on the court the day after the 80-51 win over Georgia, as the coaches wanted to review the game played, begin preparations for the upcoming one against Arkansas and work on some Tennessee-specific concepts, while balancing the need to keep the team fresh for its fourth game in eight days.

"We did our defensive warm-up, and we did defensive breakdowns of Arkansas stuff," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood. "That was about our first 22 minutes of practice.

"Then, we went into some of our stuff – just execution of stuff. Clean up some of our stuff. We got some shooting done."

The coaches set an itinerary to get done and get off the court, and they met it with minutes to spare.

"Our goal was to be done in an hour and 20 minutes," Lockwood said. "I think we were here an hour and 13 actually on the floor. And we up in the film room for about 20 minutes.

"We want more mental time because they're not in class right now. And our goal here is save the legs, short, quick, stuff and get ready for Arkansas."

The team will depart Saturday for Fayetteville and hold a practice session on the road before Sunday's 3:30 p.m. Eastern (TV: ESPNU) tipoff against Arkansas in the third league game of 2012.

Tennessee has opened the SEC with wins over Auburn on the road and Georgia at home. Both games were close at halftime with the Lady Vols seizing control in the second half. That was especially the case against Georgia – Tennessee outscored the Lady Bulldogs 44-24 after the break.

There was a lot for the coaches to like in the post-game evaluation.

"For coaches – and it sounds trite or cliché-ish – but it starts with effort level," Lockwood said. "You can't win if you don't have great effort level. The effort level that was on that court was good, and we were able to sustain it.

"The second thing is our rebounding. I am a big percentage guy. We got 50 percent of our offensive rebounds. Georgia got 21 percent. Anytime there's more than a 25 percent separation, that's dominant.

"I thought we were very dominant with our offensive rebounding and keeping them off the backboard. So I loved that. You can be in games and win games with rebounding."

The coaches also applauded the balanced scoring – four starters reached double figures led by senior Glory Johnson with 22 points and freshman Ariel Massengale with 19, and Vicki Baugh tallied eight points and 10 boards off the bench.

"If we get that every night, this team has a chance to become an elite team," Lockwood said.

As far as the areas where the coaches are seeking improvement, "we showed it up there," Lockwood said, referring to the film room.

"We gave up the middle of the floor too many times. We showed that on tape. We were dominant rebounding. We were not dominant defensively.

"For us to be a dominant half-court defensive team, we've got to do a better job of controlling the middle – not letting middle catches come in and not allowing middle drives. Anytime the foot or the ball touches the paint that constitutes a middle drive."

And while Lockwood applauded the board play, he noted that the box-outs still needed to improve in terms of making contact.

"We're good at going to get the ball," Lockwood said. "We've got to block people out."

The coaches also lamented the missed layups.

"Our finishing offensively, we've got to do a better job finishing," Lockwood said. "That was very disappointing for us. Layups. Point-blank layups."

Massengale would have had a double-double – she had nine assists – had a few teammates finished the play after a perfectly delivered pass. The freshman also let her teammates hear about it in friendly fashion.

"Good! Good!" Lockwood said. "I was that way as a point guard, and I love that. And it's good-natured. You're saying to guys, ‘I'll give you the ball. I love getting out and running, and I'll give you the ball. But if I am going to do that, I want you to get something done with it.' "

Massengale's transition from high school to college point guard has been rather seamless, and Lockwood said there were two primary reasons – Tennessee's need and Massengale's ability.

"Ariel is special," Lockwood said. "I think it's a combination of two things: When opportunity meets readiness and preparation.

"She's got a feel for the game that you can't teach. All of us would love to say, ‘Oh, we watched tape with Ariel and we tell her to do this.' She just has a feel for the game. She is just special."

Massengale got her assists by finding shooters, penetrating and dishing, bringing the double team to her and then splitting it with a bounce pass to the paint and wrapping a pass around a defender to Johnson at what looked like a 90 degree angle before she crashed to the court.

"It's unbelievable, the angles that the ball would come in," Lockwood said.

Massengale has done this despite missing most of preseason with a concussion and two weeks in December with a severely dislocated finger.

"She's done very well for herself and we're thrilled to have her back healthy," Lockwood said. "Everybody breathes easier when you have a true point guard."

Massengale also has shown a willingness to get in the ear of senior Shekinna Stricklen if a makeable shot misses the mark.

"She stays on me," Stricklen said with a smile. "She has been riding me. She is like, ‘What is going on?' I am like, ‘I know Rel.' She doesn't like it at all. She's been riding me the last couple of games really hard. … especially if you miss a layup.

"I told her she's going to get close to 20 assists one game. She's going to get it."

The good-natured chatter goes both ways if Massengale whiffs on a layup.

"We do it to her, too," Stricklen said. "It's a great thing."

Lockwood, a point guard at Spring Arbor College in Michigan, just smiles when told of the assorted on-court exchanges.

"I love it!" Lockwood said. "That is just spirit. It's competitive and it breeds expectation. I love that. That's great. Great leadership."

And no player on the court is happier about Massengale's presence than Stricklen, who is free to roam the perimeter without point guard duties. She also is impressed with the first-year player's willingness to take charge.

"She sees the court well," Stricklen said. "People are playing off of her and her three is hitting, and they get up on her, and she can take them. Teams really don't know what to expect from her.

"She is a true point guard, and that's something this team has been looking for for a few years."


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