Lady Vols prepare for Vanderbilt

The Lady Vols got back to practice Tuesday after a day off and began preparations for the upcoming game against Vanderbilt. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the team.

Tennessee held another defense-oriented practice Tuesday to try to address the fact that opponents' hot players have overheated against the Lady Vols.

"We tried to make sure they didn't touch the basketball," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said of the practice drills to simulate the opposing offensive player whose touches should be limited.

The players who have lit up the Lady Vols have come from assorted positions, but they have often been guards.

A player who can be deployed in that defensive stopper role is Glory Johnson, but the downside of bringing the 6'3 forward out of the paint is that it can adversely affect her rebounding and leave the Lady Vols vulnerable in the post.

"We worked on Glory doing it," Warlick said. "That is an option for us."

The gradual return of junior guard Kamiko Williams to game speed also will aid in the coaches' search for a stopper. Williams was hustled into Sunday's game after Auburn's Camille Glymph got loose early for a three-pointer in the second half, and she didn't hit another one with Williams applying sticky defense.

Johnson also is needed in the paint if the opposing team has a physical post player. That means the guards usually have to hold down the perimeter defense, and it's been an ongoing issue all season.

"If Vicki (Baugh) is in and she is playing well and can stop (the opposing post player or players), then we would take the chance of moving (Johnson) out," Warlick said. "But if we don't have a big that is not locking down somebody in the middle, then it's a lot to (risk)."

There is no doubt about Johnson's ability to do so, but the coaches have to weigh what they lose elsewhere on the court, namely post defense and boards. They also are aware of foul trouble becoming an issue. The loss to South Carolina is partly attributable to Johnson being parked on the bench because of whistles.

It was a role that former Lady Vol Nicky Anosike embraced.

"She wanted that," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "Nicky was one of those who, ‘OK, where are we getting hurt? Let me be the one.' She would be the one that would go charge the machine gun nest.

"That is Nicky: ‘If we're taking fire, who's doing it? And if no one else is taking them out, I'll be the one and take a couple of volunteers.' "

It is also a role that Johnson is ready to accept if she gets turned loose.

"I think she does," Lockwood said. "She's become more and more of that. If a year ago you asked me that question I would have hesitated. I think she's got that now.

"Glory has got that edge to her in a good way, that nice aggression. Good defenders, you've got to want to compete. You've got to love to get in the pit."

Johnson also has the physical skills to match the desire.

"As far as the combination of strength, speed, explosion and stamina, you rarely get that (in one player)," Lockwood said.

Anosike had the muscle and staying power, but Johnson has sprinter's speed and a high jumper's hops, too.

"Glory is unbelievable," Lockwood said. "I don't know that I have coached an athlete here like Glory Johnson. Glory is just special.

"Her body strength, her core strength is very good. She is powerful. She's got a first and second step that she can cut you off. She's cat-like in quickness, and she also has got straight-away speed.

"That combination is a very gifted athlete and a very imposing defender. If (the archangel) Gabriel sat down and said, ‘We're going to draw up a prototype body for a defensive player,' right there, Glory Johnson."

Defense was on the itinerary Tuesday at Pratt Pavilion, along with getting ready for the Commodores. The in-state rivals play Thursday in Nashville at 9 p.m. Eastern (TV: CSS).

"We did a combination of us and Vanderbilt prep," Lockwood said. "We did a lot of defensive stuff, breaking down actions that we're going to have to defend.

"We did some offensive execution stuff to clean up some of the things we were doing. We got some shots in. We got some game shots that we think we're going to get. And we also worked on some pressing, and we worked on attacking zone."

The team will practice Wednesday in Knoxville and then depart for Nashville.

"It was 60-40 today us," Lockwood said Tuesday. "That's going to change (Wednesday) to the other way. We'll do a lot of Vanderbilt prep. We'll still do us. We always do us."

The Lady Vols are coming off an 82-61 win over Auburn and the coaches saw things to like and matters to address afterwards.

"Number one thing that we liked was the way that we had the energy in our press and our trapping," Lockwood said. "Loved, loved, loved the energy.

"We've had a hard time with pressing this year at times because we feel at times our kids have not sold out. Pressing is something that you have to just completely sell out to do.

"You can't half-press and be indecisive. You have to commit. Our whole team you had bodies flying around. Our traps were good. I was really pleased to see that."

Briana Bass provided a boost off the bench and the crowd got energized watching the pint-sized guard pressure the ball.

"Bree was dynamic," Lockwood said. "Bree was the best as far as following the game plan and scouting report and personnel. She got in the game and every time she would force a kid left. Not three out of five, not four out of five, eight out of 10.

"Every single time a kid got the ball, Bree Bass was forcing her left. She did the best job of any player of tuning in to the scouting report.

"I told Holly that makes me trust that kid even more. I would have no hesitation putting her in and saying, ‘Go get the guards. You've got three or four minutes. You just go harass the heck of some guard.' I would love that."

As far as the offensive end, the coaches are still decrying missed layups.

"It is very, very frustrating," Lockwood said. "Because we work on it in practice. It's focus. We really believe it's focus.

"We go to Vanderbilt we can't do that and win. When Kentucky comes in here, you can't beat Kentucky doing that."

"That is my number one. Make layups."


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