Lady Vols prepare for Ole Miss

The Lady Vols arrived Friday in Oxford to begin preparations for their second game in the Magnolia State. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the team.

The Lady Vols took advantage of their sister schools' athletic facilities Friday with a weights workout at Mississippi State in the morning, followed by an early evening basketball practice at Ole Miss.

In between the Lady Vols traveled by bus Friday to Oxford, Miss., where they will take on Ole Miss in the final road game of the regular season on Sunday at 2 p.m. Eastern (TV: SEC Network).

Tennessee elevated to a share of first place Thursday night with a 57-41 win over Mississippi State thanks to Alabama's upset of Kentucky.

"It gives us a chance to play for an SEC championship," Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said in a phone interview Friday with Inside Tennessee from Oxford. "It puts us back a little bit in the driver's seat, even though we're tied, if we take care of our business.

"That's all we can control anyway. At least it puts up back in position that we have a chance to finish out in first place."

The UT-MSU game was typical of matchups between the two programs – defensive-oriented and low scoring.

"Neither team shot very well," DeMoss said. "I thought our defense was pretty good. It was above average. Early on we just couldn't make shots and then we finally settled in.

"It was a grind. When neither team shoots above 40 percent it's not a real pretty game. Mississippi State plays good defense. We were excited to get out of there with a win."

It was the bench that allowed the Lady Vols to calm down on offense in the first half, led by junior Kamiko Williams, freshman Cierra Burdick and senior Vicki Baugh.

"Absolutely," DeMoss said. "Kamiko hit baskets when we were struggling to make shots. Cierra came in and did the same thing and rebounded well for us. I thought Vicki Baugh came in and did a good job off the bench.

"We just got a great effort from our bench play (Thursday) night."

Tennessee is not a deep team in terms of sheer numbers, but the quality of its bench is outstanding.

"We're blessed with quality depth," DeMoss said. "It hasn't always come through for us, but it is certainly nice to have and have options."

It is a somewhat different traveling experience for the team in that the players and coaches stayed in Mississippi between games. They held a practice Friday at Tad Smith Coliseum on the campus of Ole Miss and will hold another session Saturday.

With workouts, dinner plans and mandatory study periods, the player stick to a regular routine.

"They stay busy," DeMoss said. "It's really not that hard to keep them busy."

The last time the Lady Vols were in Oxford was Feb. 24, 2011, and the game was halted with a few minutes to play – Tennessee led 66-39 – because of inclement weather. Heavy rain forced its way through the air ducts and deposited itself on the court. After a delay, the conditions were declared unsafe for the players, and the game officially ended.

"It looks pretty nice here so hopefully it will stay that way," DeMoss said.

Friday was sunny and warm in Oxford, but Saturday called for rain and then cold temperatures on Sunday.

As usual, the goal for the Lady Vols will be to get the victory and get home.

"We would like to get a win. That would be the first thing we would like," DeMoss said with a laugh. "We would like to see a lot of energy. What we're building our team on now is our defense. And we would certainly like to shoot the ball a little bit better Sunday.

"Just the basic fundamentals that every coach wants to see – good energy, good execution on the offensive end and solid defense."

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