Lady Vols host Kentucky

The Lady Vols will be back in action Monday night and will try to bounce back against Kentucky. It also is Tennessee's "Play for Kay" game, and the Lady Vols will be wearing pink uniforms. Go inside for the pre-game story and video coverage.

Tonight's game has a couple of storylines beyond basketball as No. 13 Tennessee (17-7, 8-3) takes on No. 7 Kentucky (21-3, 10-1) at 7 p.m. Eastern (TV: ESPN2) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

It will be the first women's basketball game broadcast in 3D for those who have 3D televisions. It also is Tennessee's "Play for Kay" game with the Lady Vols donning pink uniforms to raise awareness for breast cancer and the Kay Yow Foundation.

Amid the emerging technology of sports programming and the ongoing battle against cancer, the Lady Vols are seeking some personal redemption.

They lost the Jan. 12 game against Kentucky by one point, 61-60, in Lexington, so the rematch has their attention. But beyond that game, the Lady Vols are still seeking their identity and some consistency to their play.

They had a chance to reenter the SEC race, but after the loss at Vanderbilt, the Lady Vols are now clinging to second place with five league games left that include two on the road later this week before closing out the regular season next week at home.

Seven overall losses with three defeats in the SEC are not how the Lady Vols envisioned the season unfolding.

"Oh, no," fifth-year player Vicki Baugh said.

The team has, however, shown that it can be resilient as it has dealt with everything from a former teammate nearly dying from a brain aneurysm to an assistant being diagnosed with breast cancer to the head coach revealing her diagnosis last summer of early onset dementia.

The team also has dealt with its share of disappointing losses and has shown the resolve to move forward and regroup.

"Dwelling on it will only make it worse so we just need to look within ourselves and just hold ourselves accountable," Baugh said.

Baugh has plenty to offer the team in terms of perspective. She won a national title as a freshman in 2008 and then saw her collegiate career truncated by three knee surgeries.

Her left hamstring can still lock up, which also shoots pain into her hip and back. That happened last Thursday against Vanderbilt – a game in which the Lady Vols needed post help – and Baugh labored to move and even headed once to the locker room for treatment.

"It's hard to play with that," Baugh said. "It's hard to jump. It's hard to move. And unfortunately it locked up at Vanderbilt. I tried to play through it.

"I am getting it worked on and once I can get it taken care of, it's fine for a while. I have been feeling all right today. Once it starts there (in the hamstring), it works its way up to my back, hip and just throws my whole body out of whack.

"It's unfortunate, but I went through a lot of surgeries and it happens. It's just a part of it."

Baugh was able to practice Sunday and is expected to be good to go Monday.

Perhaps the most puzzling trait of the team overall has been the disconnect from practice to games. The coaches and players have praised the preparation and execution and gone into games confident, only to watch it unravel when it counts.

"There is no excuse for it," Baugh said. "We are lost on a lot of things, and I don't know why because we handle them in practice as we should. I am not sure what is the problem with transferring our practice to our games."

Baugh, who has already earned a bachelor's degree and will add a master's to it this May, plans to be a coach, so she has gotten quite a tutorial in her five years on campus.

"I'm learning a lot big time about overcoming adversity," Baugh said. "It's hard when you look around and you see that this team has so much potential, and we should be competing with every team, and we haven't been.

"That's been the hardest part, and everyone has kind of been at a loss for words."

Baugh knows that the time for talking about what has to change has long passed and instead the players have to find the wherewithal within themselves to restore a season that started with lofty expectations.

"Now, we are just looking within ourselves and holding ourselves accountable and saying, ‘What do I need to get better at individually.' Work on that, and we're just going to take it a day at a time," Baugh said.

The next chance comes Monday when the Lady Vols try to square matters with the Wildcats.

"Every game is big from now on no matter what," Baugh said. "We have got to come ready to play and play 40 minutes, and we haven't done that yet.

"We are just taking it a game at a time, a practice at a time. We focused on today. I think we got better. And that's our goal is just to keep getting better every day.

"(Monday) is a very big game, but every game is a big game."

This team has absorbed more than its fair share of blows with none crueler than the news before the season started that Pat Summitt was battling a brain disease.

"We do have her back, and we want the best for Pat at all times," Baugh said. "We're going through a lot of adversity, and we just have to overcome it.

"We're going through something that we never had to face before. With that said, we just have to be strong. We are learning new things every day.

"We always want the best for Pat and we are trying to go out there and represent the best that we can, but unfortunately it doesn't fall our way all the time. We just have to grow up and get more leadership on the team."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (8.1 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 5.3 assists per game); Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10 (11.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg); Taber Spani, 6'1 junior guard/forward, No. 13 (9.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 (14.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (13.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg).

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell is expected to start: Amber Smith, 5'6 senior guard, No. 24 (5.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg); A'dia Mathies, 5'9 junior guard, No. 1 (15.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5'8 sophomore guard, No. 32 (7.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Bria Goss, 5'10 freshman guard, No. 13 (11.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg); and Brittany Henderson, 6'2 junior forward, No. 40 (3.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg).

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

Lockwood doesn't expect to see much new from the Wildcats.

"Why would you," he said. "Other than the LSU game you are undefeated in the league and you are playing pretty good basketball. There is no need for them to change a whole lot."

Offensively, A'dia Mathies will have the attention of the Lady Vols after her 34-point performance in Lexington, though her output has dipped since that game.

"One of the things I think our players realize by now is you get everyone's best shot," said Lockwood, who noted Mathies was a dynamic and explosive player. "She is definitely a priority, no doubt."

The Wildcats will be yet another challenge for the Lady Vols because they put the ball on the floor and get to the paint.

"They play in transition; they will try to take us off the dribble," Lockwood said. "Who wouldn't watch our team play and not try to take us off the dribble right now?

"They are very good on the offensive boards and they are good at getting second and third shots. They'll run some sets offensively for players, but they are getting stuff in transition, beating you off the drive, and they are very good at attacking the offensive boards."

Defensively, Lockwood expects a repeat of the aggressive man-to-man style the Wildcats showed in the first game with perhaps a tweak or two.

"Against LSU I think I saw about three possessions of 2-3 zone that they did to maybe throw in a wrinkle, but they're man to man, they're still doing their pressing," Lockwood said.

MITCHELL'S TAKE

Matthew Mitchell on Monday's game: "We had a great game with them here at Memorial. Obviously, we were real fortunate to come out on top in that one. We learned a lot from that game, and we are working hard to try to make some corrections that didn't go well in that game and just get as prepared as we can for what we know will be a very, very tough challenge for our team.

"We are excited about it, we are looking forward to it and we will see what happens on Monday."

Mitchell on Tennessee's loss to Vandy: "I watched the game from a preparation standpoint and a coaching standpoint. We watched it as a staff live, but we were rewinding it and breaking it down as the game went on.

"At the end, I was just trying to think of some things that we could do well against them, some things that we are going to have to do well against them.

"I think anyone would be lying if they were to say that was not a good development for us. I mean, you want as much separation as you can have. I was watching the game trying to get ready for it, and I think we need to go down there and be prepared to win and go down there and try to do the best we can to win."

More Mitchell quotes can be read: HERE.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Kentucky, 48-8. The Lady Vols are 21-2 in Knoxville against the Wildcats. Kentucky last won on the road in 1985, a 76-72 victory in overtime. … Tennessee is 8-1 in games played on February 13. The last win on this date came against Vanderbilt, 65-57, in 2011. The first win on February 13 was against Carson-Newman, 63-44, in 1969. The lone loss on this date was to UNC-Greensboro, 81-79 in overtime, in 1976. … The Tennessee-Kentucky game will serve as the Lady Vols' "Play 4 Kay" game, formerly known as the Pink Zone, an initiative of the WBCA to promote breast cancer awareness. Tennessee's theme is: "Think Pink. Bleed Orange." Some 12,000 T-shirts will be draped over seats in the arena in a pink-and-white checkerboard that will spell out "Lady Vols" on one side and "Live Pink" on the other. Former Lady Vol Daedra Charles-Furlow, who is now the team's director of character development, is a breast cancer survivor. Former Lady Vol Melissa McCray Dukes, who played from 1985 to 1989 and was a starting guard on two national title teams, died Dec. 27, 2010, after a lengthy battle with the disease.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Pat Summitt

Ariel Massengale

Taber Spani


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