Lady Vols host Tigers today

The Lady Vols return to the court Sunday for a rematch with Auburn in the SEC. Go inside with Inside Tennessee to get ready for the game.

Glory Johnson knows what it will take to fix what ails the Lady Vols – a collection of players on the court who get upset if they get beat on defense and have the wherewithal to change it.

No. 8 Tennessee (16-6, 7-2) gets its next chance on the court against Auburn (11-12, 3-7) on Sunday at 2 p.m. Eastern (TV: SEC Network) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Johnson was seething after Thursday's loss to South Carolina – she called out the team as a whole in the post-game press conference – and her mood didn't improve much until the next day at practice.

"It took me not sleeping and talking about it with my teammates and I just let it all out that night and kind of got over it," said Johnson, who also stewed over her missed layup late in the game. "Now, it's back to work. It took me a full day and night to kind of get over it.

"It's back to work. You can't dwell on it."

South Carolina was intent on taking down the Lady Vols and played that way for 40 minutes. Teams have identified Tennessee's weaknesses on defense and go right at them.

"I think they look at us like we're beatable," Johnson said. "At our weakest points we are beatable and we've seen that, and we've kind of shown other teams the weakness of ours."

"If everyone is not on the same page and everyone is not playing their ‘A' game, then our team is definitely beatable."

That is a brutally honest statement, but a refreshingly honest one, too. Acknowledgment of flaws is the first step to correcting the weaknesses.

"There is vulnerability," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "The name of this game is you've got to get stops at one end and you've got to go down and score at the other end.

"And if you don't do that consistently you've got problems that magnify at all levels."

The Lady Vols also are in the midst of a season in which their head coach, Pat Summitt, is coaching while dealing with early onset dementia. She has modified her style to lessen stress and allowed her assistants to handle a lot of the in-game shouting.

This senior class, through all of its ups and downs, has consistently responded to one thing – the sheer force of Summitt's will and her ability to snap a player to attention.

"I do," Johnson said with a smile when asked if she missed Summitt yelling at her. "It's something that we do miss. And she's still there. Don't get me wrong. It still happens, just not as often.

"We know that there are certain things that we are doing wrong, and we try to hold each other accountable, but it's not the same thing if Pat is holding you accountable.

"When Pat says it, that's the end of the story. That's it. If she says it, you've got to do it."

Fellow senior Vicki Baugh said it is an adjustment that she has been able to make.

"You make new adjustments every year," Baugh said. "You have a new team, new coaches. What Pat is going through, we definitely had to adjust.

"The assistants have always been highly involved so that doesn't seem much different to me. We just need to keep improving on a daily basis."

Johnson's extended conversation included convening her classmates.

"I talked to a lot of the seniors," she said. "This is our last chance. We have to go to work. Everyone has to pick up their game, including myself."

The season-long trend of one opposing player lighting up the Lady Vols will have to be halted if Johnson and the seniors are going to capitalize on their last chance.

"Whoever is guarding them needs to make sure they are locking them down," Johnson said.

The senior forward also thinks the issues can be corrected on the court.

"It's fixable," Johnson said. "It's the mentality that people have to have individually. The coaches can't do it. Players that do have it can't instill it in other players. You can either follow our lead and jump on the train or you cannot care for the rest of the season."

Johnson said other correctable issues are individual gym work outside of practice and a renewed determination on defense.

"When everyone cares that they're getting scored on and everyone cares that they're not playing good defense and everyone cares that they're missing layups, free throws, when it bothers them, I think that's when we will get on the same page," Johnson said.

The coaches sent the message about the South Carolina game at Friday's practice.

"It's got to be a priority for them," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "We've had our moments when we've played outstanding defense. It's the consistency that we don't have.

"When we get consistent with it and make it a priority then we're a better team."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (8.2 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, 5.3 assists per game); Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10 (10.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg); Cierra Burdick, 6'2 freshman forward, No. 11 (4.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 ( 15.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (13.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg).

Probable remains the keyword for Tennessee's starting lineup, as the coaches are trying to find the correct combo of five who can begin the game on both ends to their satisfaction.

"Lackluster effort and not playing inspired and with great energy is a very puzzling thing to us," Dean Lockwood said. "We've done the spectrum. We've kept it even keel. We've done little motivational things. We've hyped it up a little bit. We've kind of downplayed it.

"Honestly, at the end of the day, if you've got to do that every time out, something is wrong anyway. It's been a real enigma to us. By nature they have been a lower-energy group, physical and mental. Those two things work in sync when you're competing and I think that's been a real challenge."

Lockwood said the coaches will change the lineup as needed until one group seizes control.

"We're trying to find five, six, seven competitors," Lockwood said. "All of these words and phrases we are using, it comes down to being a competitor all the time for 40 minutes.

"It doesn't mean you're not going to make mistakes or not get beat. But we're looking for competitors. Great energy people who are competitors."

Taber Spani is on the mend, and she can help tremendously on the offensive end. Kamiko Williams also is making her way back, and she can be a lockdown defender, plus she can generate points with her play-making ability. Getting minutes for those two going forward is a priority, and it hoped that by the end of the month both will be up to speed.

Auburn Coach Nell Fortner is expected to start: Najat Ouardad, 5'1 junior guard, No. 3 (2.8 ppg, 3.0 apg), hails from Orleans, France; Camille Glymph, 5'10 sophomore guard, No. 22 (9.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg), hails from Greenville, S.C.; Tyrese Tanner, 6'1 sophomore guard/forward, No. 32 (10.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg), hails from Birmingham, Ala.; Blanche Alverson, 6'3 junior forward, No. 14 (9.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg), hails from Andalusia, Ala.; and Chantel Hilliard, 6'2 senior forward, No. 23 (6.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg), hails from Biloxi, Miss.

"I'm sure they will be hungry to not give up another home loss," Fortner said. "I tell you, we are playing well right now and we are going to go in there and battle as hard as we can."

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Auburn game. Here is his assessment.

Offensively, Lockwood has seen a style similar to what the Lady Vols faced Jan. 1 in the SEC opener, a 73-52 win for Tennessee.

"They have a few new sets in," Lockwood said. "A lot of (four one, one in), ball screening, handoffs. They've got sets to free shooters. But who they are going to has not changed a whole lot."

Auburn also is likely to have a slightly different starting lineup than Tennessee last saw.

"They are starting (Tyrese) Tanner and (Najat) Ouardad for (Morgan) Jennings and (Parrisha) Simmons," Lockwood said.

Defensively, the Lady Vols saw man and zone schemes and expect the same.

"Mix, some zone pressing into some zone, some man to man," Lockwood said. "They vary it up. I think they will switch on us a little bit."

BRUTAL TRUTH: The team's season-long book club sessions have examined what makes good companies become great companies.

The lesson this week was "Confront the Brutal Truth." The coaches queued up the game film from Thursday's 64-60 loss to South Carolina.

"We showed film clips," Dean Lockwood said. "We look at some defensive things. We missed 11 layups in that game and we're talking layup, backboard. We watched all 11 of those and we looked at some of the missed defensive assignments.

"And just the sense of urgency with which we played defense – our help-side defense, our blocking out or lack thereof. It was a day to confront the truth."

The coaches also are confronting the fact that it's February and they are still seeking consistency and having to shuffle the starting lineup to try to get the team off to a better start.

"If you've got to talk about those things in February you've got a lot more problems than can you make layups or can you get stops at the other end of the floor," Lockwood said.

"They are capable of it. They've shown that they have it, but the consistency with which we display it has not been there and that is what is frustrating to all of us."

SEC PLAY: Eight other SEC teams are in action today. The other matchups are: Georgia at Alabama; Ole Miss at Florida; Kentucky at LSU; and Vanderbilt at Mississippi State. Arkansas and South Carolina are idle.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Auburn, 35-10. The Lady Vols are 16-2 in Knoxville against the Tigers. Auburn last won in Knoxville in 1988 when the Tigers were ranked No. 3 in the country. … Tennessee is 11-2 in games played on February 5. The last win on this date came against Georgia, 73-43, in 2009. That also was Pat Summitt's 1000th career win. The first win on February 5 was against Knoxville YWCA, 52-16, in 1926. The two losses on this date were to Ole Miss, 68-54, in 1986; and Connecticut, 81-67, in 2004. … Tennessee shoots about the same on the road as it does at home – 43.4 percent versus 43.6 percent away from the arena. Senior Vicki Baugh connects on 63.9 percent of her shots at home. Meighan Simmons has struggled the most at home this season. The sophomore is shooting 29.6 percent from the field compared to 46.2 percent on "The Summitt" last season in her freshman campaign. … Glory Johnson and Taber Spani were selected to the District 3 Capital One Academic All-District Basketball Team. Johnson and Spani both were named to the First Team after being Second Team members last season in the district. Johnson earned her undergraduate degree in three years and now has a 3.6 GPA in graduate school in communication studies. Spani, a junior, has a 3.91 GPA and is majoring in communication studies. Both players are now eligible for the Capital One Academic All-America Team ballot.


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