Barbara Baugh, who was at practice Tuesday wearing a No. 21 pin, was last in Tennessee when her granddaughter had her second ACL surgery – and she saw a Lady Vols game during that 2009 trip – but she will get to see Vicki Baugh play on "The Summitt" floor for the first time Thursday.
Baugh's grandparents will remain in town this week and will be present for Sunday's Senior Day game against Florida, too.
"This is their first game where I will be playing in a game," Baugh said. "I am just excited that they are here. I am showing them Knoxville. They love it."
Baugh seems to have turned a corner this month – she played well in back-to-back games on the road and seemed more comfortable on the court.
"I am definitely more confident," Baugh said.
Baugh indicated – but didn't elaborate – that some matters off the court that were unrelated to basketball had been taxing for her but were now resolved.
"I am over those, but I am feeling good now and ready to help my team in any way that I can," Baugh said. "That is my focus. I am glad it showed in the past couple of games.
"My whole body is different when I am comfortable on the court and confident on the court."
A confident and comfortable Baugh bodes well for Tennessee with postseason starting next week with the SEC Tournament.
"We have yet to play our best basketball," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "We can be a lot better. We can reach deeper."
It starts with, simply enough it would seem, the team's output of energy.
"Our number one thing is our energy level that we approach the start of every game," Lockwood said. "We've had some good second halves and really put to the pedal to the metal. But number one is energy level. I call it the sense of urgency that everything is important.
"It's kind of like a firehouse when the bell rings. They're not wild but there's a sense of purpose. Those guys know that in seven seconds I've got to be down a pole, geared up and on a truck when somebody's life is on the line.
"That is kind of what we're looking for. We want a sense of urgency that every possession is important. Every little thing that happens we attach value to it."
Tennessee had energy to spare when it hosted Kentucky last week, and the result was a 91-54 romp. The first time the Lady Vols played Arkansas they followed the scouting report to a T and posted a 69-38 win on Jan. 8 in Fayetteville.
The Lady Vols will need the same focus, as Arkansas is a vastly improved team since that first matchup and has won nine of its last 10 games.
"It was a tough game last time," Arkansas Coach Tom Collen said. "The team felt a lot of pressure then but we have grown and improved so much since that time.
"We have a lot of confidence but we know that Knoxville is a tough place to play and win, but we are eager to go in and redeem ourselves and play well."
Lockwood expects a stiff test from the Razorbacks, who have been building a resume for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks are in a four-team tie for third place in the SEC with Georgia, LSU and South Carolina.
"They're a much improved team," Lockwood said. "Lyndsay Harris is scoring more for them. They have inserted her into the starting lineup. Where they struggled at times is perimeter shooting. She gives them that.
"Calli Berna has settled into her role. (C'eira) Ricketts is still terrific. Ricketts is one of the best multipurpose players in the conference.
"Sarah Watkins is not at all flashy, but she is very, very steady and then Ashley Daniels has picked up her scoring since we played them."
The Lady Vol coaches want to see their team open the game with a sense of purpose fueled by high-octane energy.
"That is the umbrella under which it all comes," Lockwood said.
The coaches, noting the erratic starts from game to game, have tried different approaches but nothing has clicked yet.
"We've hammered; we've backed off a little bit," Lockwood said. "We're searching for the magical note. We're playing all the keys, hitting them lightly, hitting them firmly and we haven't hit that magical note. We have tried different approaches."
The players have had success so they have enough catalogued experiences to know what works and what doesn't.
"Hopefully this team embraces that," Lockwood said. "Those experiences are in the books. The kids can put in a DVD and watch that.
"Why can't we get to that more consistently? That is the thing that has baffled us at times as a staff."
Lockwood also knows that the coaches ultimately have to rely on the players once the ball is tipped.
"They're the ones with the jersey and the sneakers on," Lockwood said. "The great teams are approaching games with intensity and sense of urgency."
One player on Tennessee's team has firsthand experience with postseason success. Baugh is the only one who has been to a Final Four, played in a championship game and won a national title.
"We have to approach it knowing that we have to earn everything," Baugh said. "Nothing is going to be given to us just because we have Tennessee across our chest. We have to come together."
Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (7.6 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, 5.3 assists per game); Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10 (11.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Taber Spani, 6'1 junior guard/forward, No. 13 (8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 (15.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (13.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
Simmons left practice Wednesday near the end of the session after injuring her right hand while on defense in a drill. She watched the end of practice from the sideline with a bag of ice wrapped around her hand.
Arkansas Coach Tom Collen is expected to start: C'eira Ricketts, 5'9 senior guard, No. 22 (11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), hails from Louisville, Ky., posted 18 points in last game against Mississippi State; Lyndsay Harris, 5'9 senior guard, No. 33 (9.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg), hails from Hoover, Ala., connected on five treys in last game; Dominique Robinson, 6'0 redshirt sophomore forward, No. 21 (7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), hails from Baton Rouge, La., six points, five boards in last game; Ashley Daniels, 6'2 senior forward, No. 12 (8.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg), hails from Coldwater, Miss., grabbed 16 boards in last game; and Sarah Watkins, 6'3 junior post, No. 4 (10.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg), hails from Germantown, Tenn., tallied 12 points in last game.
SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Arkansas game. Here is his assessment.
Offensively, the Razorbacks are similar to how they were in the first matchup but a lot more efficient as they reeled off the win streak.
"They're setting a lot of ball screens, a lot of four-out, one-ins," Lockwood said. "They have some simple sets that they execute very well. I think that is one of the things that has made them good. They do five or six things over and over, and they do them so well, and they have different options off of them.
"They haven't overloaded. (Former Wisconsin Basketball Coach) Dick Bennett used to say, ‘You've got to dumb up in coaching sometimes.' They have done a good job of keeping it simple, and their players have gotten really good at the stuff they are doing."
Defensively, the Lady Vols should expect to see some variety.
"They're mixing," Lockwood said. "They doing man and zone depending on who they're playing. They do a lot of man. They go 2-3 and 3-2 zone.
When Keira Peak enters the game, the Lady Vols should expect ball pressure.
"Their guards will pick up," Lockwood said. "They are capable of putting good pressure on you with certain lineups."
Keys for Tennessee: "We want to get some transition points," Lockwood said. "We want to be able to make the game an up-and-down game and attack them and don't let them feel like they're attacking us with their pressure.
"We want to get the ball inside. We played inside-out in game one.
"And then for us defensively, we cannot let this team have a lot of open spaces, especially in transition or in the half-court, where they try to spread you out and drive and get to the paint.
"We've got to keep them closer to the arc with contested shots and not let them have layups or pull-ups or drive and kicks to open players. That will kill us."
SEC PLAY: All 12 SEC teams are in action Thursday. The other matchups are: Alabama at Auburn; Mississippi State at Florida; Ole Miss at Georgia; South Carolina at Kentucky; and Vanderbilt at LSU.
ODDS AND ENDS
Tennessee leads the series with Arkansas, 23-1. The Lady Vols are 11-0 against the Razorbacks in Knoxville. Arkansas' lone win in the series, 77-75, came in Fayetteville on Dec. 29, 1996. Tennessee has won 18 consecutive games since then. … Tennessee is 6-0 in games played on February 23. The last win on this date came against Auburn, 81-56, in 2006. The first win on February 23 was against Martha Washington, 29-26, in 1923.
Lady Vols practice