Lady Vols get back to practice

The Lady Vols got back to practice Tuesday to begin preparations for the SEC Tournament, which begins Thursday in Nashville. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the team.

Tennessee doesn't yet know who its next opponent will be – the Lady Vols play Friday against the winner of Mississippi State-Vanderbilt – but it should be motivated to play either team.

Vandy poured in 93 points versus Tennessee in the regular season rematch in February, and the coaches watched another slow start – and went quickly to the bench – in the game against Mississippi State.

The team unleashed energy from the get-go in the regular season finale against Florida with all five seniors on the court for Senior Day.

"They left this court and won their last game on Pat Summitt's floor," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "Any win for them is a boost and to go out like that was huge.

"This has been a great group. They have just not been consistent. Do they have shades of greatness? Absolutely. We're just kind of all over the spectrum.

"They've got it in them. This is a new season. New season. No record."

They also did well enough for the coaches to consider leaving that lineup intact in Nashville.

"They got us off to a good start and this is their last go-around," Warlick said. "They set the tone."

It has been a much-maligned senior class and it sends a message that they can take control of how they ultimately are remembered, so there is validity to letting them write the postseason script on their careers.

At the same time, freshman point guard Ariel Massengale now holds the rookie record for assists – 137 and counting – and the coaches could decide they want her on the court for the opening tip. Sophomore guard Meighan Simmons also can be a high-energy player, especially when she uses her quickness on defense.

However, lethargic starts have plagued the team – Sunday was the eighth starting lineup combo of the season – and the coaches, while remaining flexible, are inclined to take advantage of the seniors' sense of urgency.

The lineup before Sunday wiped out Kentucky in a fast start, but it also started sluggishly against South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss and went 2-2 in those games, losing at home and winning on the road.

"I will say it's 90 percent to go," Warlick said. "And we can change it the day of (the game if needed)."

The lineup also could be changed quickly after tipoff, if need be.

"Exactly," said Warlick, who wasn't ready to declare that the five seniors would be the definite starting lineup, but the staff was clearly leaning in that direction.

If Vicki Baugh starts, it also means Shekinna Stricklen can move outside, where she is the most comfortable. Glory Johnson has said that she likes playing with Baugh because it opens up space inside.

However, Baugh can have issues with leg tightness and her availability – and effectiveness – is not always certain, so the coaches will have to be ready to make a quick change if needed. But if Baugh can go, it does give the Lady Vols legitimate size inside and while she doesn't have the physique of a classic center, she can provide a deterrent for drivers who get to the paint, and she is typically a glass cleaner on the boards.

The Lady Vols were at full strength for Tuesday's practice with junior Kamiko Williams back on the court. She missed Sunday's game under the program's concussion protocol after an incident late last week in practice.

The team will practice Wednesday in Knoxville and then leave Thursday for Nashville. Tennessee plays at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday at Bridgestone Arena as the two seed and earned a first round bye.

"Right now we're focusing on us," Warlick said. "We did a little bit of Vanderbilt and a little bit of Mississippi State."


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