Lady Vols seek Final Four berth

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Lady Vols met with the media and practiced Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena. Go inside for full story and video coverage, including the latest dance craze - the Dean Lockwood.

Tennessee (27-8) takes on Baylor (37-0) on Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern (ESPN) in the Des Moines Regional with the winner earning a coveted berth in the Final Four.

Both teams reached this point a year ago and fell short - Tennessee to Notre Dame and Baylor to Texas A&M. The Lady Vol seniors are seeking their first Final Four and they have to somehow not let how much they want to reach it interfere with the effort it will take to get there.

For senior Glory Johnson it means zeroing in on basketball and the matchup, instead of the ramifications of the outcome.

"Just stay focused and take advantage of the scouting report that the coaches give us," Johnson said. "They give it to us with enough time to study it and know our personnel.

"Go into the game feeling comfortable, feeling relaxed and with confidence."

The Lady Vols are likely to alter the starting lineup for Monday's game with freshman Ariel Massengale and sophomore Meighan Simmons on the court for the opening tip.

Coach Pat Summitt has sometimes used the expression "be careful what you show me." Junior Kamiko Williams nodded and smiled in the locker room when Massengale and Simmons were asked about it.

It was explained to the youngsters that the defense they played Saturday - and in Simmons' case her board play, too - will now be expected every outing. When a player shows Summitt what she can do, the head coach now knows the player is indeed capable.

"Yep, yep," Williams said with a laugh as the youngsters got wide-eyed with increasing recognition of the impact that their performance would have on the staff's expectations going forward.

"Ohhhhhh," Massengale said.

Tennessee will need that same level of desire - defense and rebounding are as much about heart as footwork and position - from Simmons and Massengale if the Lady Vols are to reach a goal that has been lying just beneath the surface all season - get to Denver.

"Be consistent," Simmons said. "I have to be consistent. You can't show everything in one game and then come out the next game and not be able to do something better.

"I think it's just a matter of me being consistent and making sure I have that mindset to go out there and play and use these past games to say, ‘You know what? If I can do it then, why can't I do it again?'

"It's just a matter of showing the coaches that I can be consistent."

Massengale also ratcheted up her defense against Kansas. She had started her Lady Vol career playing well on the defensive end and then dipped as the season continued.

"It might have been fatigue; the college season is long," Massengale said. "The SEC is a tough conference to play in. There are some great guards in this conference.

"But it comes down to defense and boards. We go out there with that mindset of defensive mentality first and then that allows for everything else to fall into place."

The postseason has been about the seniors, but Johnson said the veterans have embraced the youngsters.

"We need the baby ones," Johnson said.

"Awwww," Massengale said.

"Just because we can't do it by ourselves," Johnson said. "That is what we have a team for. If they're willing to go to bat for us, then we are willing to work as hard as we can for them."

Tennessee enters the game as a clear underdog, a role the Lady Vols are not accustomed to playing in the NCAA postseason.

"We kind of like that underdog role, but we're very confident," Taber Spani said. "I don't think that we're going to act like underdogs."

The Lady Vols have had considerable NCAA success in the state of Iowa and are 7-1 in postseason games in the Hawkeye State. The current team is aware of the history.

"Debby Jennings (the longtime media relations chief) keeps a great record of everything," Spani said. "I think she probably memorizes every single fact in Lady Vol history, so we are aware of that, and it is pretty interesting."

Both teams feel considerable pressure to succeed, especially after coming up short at this same spot a year ago. Baylor went to a Final Four when Brittney Griner was a freshman. The only player to experience that for Tennessee is graduate Vicki Baugh, a fifth-year redshirt after two ACL surgeries.

"These young ladies, they haven't been to a Final Four," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "They lost in the first round as freshmen. I think, in addition to doing this for Pat Summitt, these five seniors have something to prove, not only for the Tennessee tradition but also for themselves.

"They are probably one of the hardest working teams we have had. They have been thrown a lot of curves and, for the most part, they have handled it.

"I keep saying their best basketball is yet to come. Let's hope it comes on Monday night and keeps getting better."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (7.5 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, 5.3 assists per game), has 12 assists in three NCAA tourney games; Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10 (11.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg), averaging 18.3 ppg in 2012 NCAA tourney, has four steals and just one turnover; Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 (15.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg), averaging 8.0 rebounds in three tourney games, has tallied 10 assists and four blocks; Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (14.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg), averaging 13.3 boards in tourney games, has logged 105 minutes in three games, the only Lady Vol to reach triple digits; and Vicki Baugh, 6'4 redshirt senior forward, No. 21 (7.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), has increased scoring and rebounding in tourney to 9.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg.

Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey is expected to start: Odyssey Sims, 5'8 sophomore point guard, No. 0 (14.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.3 apg), hails from Irving, Texas, averages 19.8 ppg against ranked opponents, went 14-15 from the line in first matchup with Tennessee; Kimetria Hayden, 6'0 junior guard, No. 1 (9.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg), hails from Dallas, Texas, reached double digits in 15 games this season, tallied eight points against Tennessee; Jordan Madden, 6'0 junior guard, No. 3 (4.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg), hails from Lepanto, Ark., has tallied 103 assists this season, had 11 points, seven boards against Tennessee; Destiny Williams, 6'1 redshirt junior forward, No. 10 (10.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg), hails from Benton Harbor, Mich., has reached double figures in boards in 18 games this season, had six rebounds against Tennessee; and Brittney Griner, 6'8 junior post, No. 42 (23.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.2 blocks per game), hails from Houston, Texas, claimed Big 12 career blocks record this season with 583, is 80 shy of tying the NCAA all-time record for swats currently held by now-graduated Louella Tomlinson (663) of St. Mary's in California, tallied 26 points, seven blocks against Tennessee.

Two keys players off the bench for Baylor are Brooklyn Pope, a 6'1 redshirt junior forward from Fort Worth, Texas, who averaged 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds; and Terran Condrey, a 5'7 senior guard from Eufaula, Ala., who averages 4.3 points, 2.9 boards and 2.3 assists.

Baylor's starters, except for Griner who logged 32 minutes, each played less than 30 minutes in the 83-68 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, so Mulkey, who was peeved about Georgia Tech starters being in the game late, said her team should be rested.

"We were able to get the kids off the floor," Mulkey said.

Tennessee had to hold off Kansas, 84-73, on Saturday, and Johnson went the distance. Simmons and Massengale played the entire second half in addition to logging first-half minutes; Baugh, despite her leg tightness, logged 32 minutes; and Stricklen, who was treated for leg cramps, played 33.

"I don't think fatigue or anything from the previous game will have anything to do with (Monday) night's game - not for us, not for Tennessee," Mulkey said.

"Now, if fatigue sets in, it will be because of what's taking place on that floor between two outstanding basketball teams."

SCOUTING REPORT: Holly Warlick handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Baylor game, but it was also a staff-wide effort, as usual, for a regional final.

Dean Lockwood handled specific personnel matchups and pinch hit for Warlick, who was busy with press conference and radio obligations, for the scouting report.

Offensively, Baylor wants the ball to get inside to Brittney Griner.

"They're going to get the ball in to Brittney and then Odyssey Sims is going to be able to attack you off the drive and hit threes," Lockwood said. "Their game stems from their inside attack."

Defensively, the Lady Bears are likely to show man.

"A lot of man," Lockwood said.

The presence of Griner allows the perimeter players to apply pressure because she can clean up mistakes if someone gets to the paint.

"You've got Brittney, who is a one-person roving zone in there," Lockwood said. "She is constantly on patrol, helping in the paint. She is not going to extend and go out too far, but she is always going to be a threat to block or alter a shot.

"Their perimeter defense has gotten better in terms of being able to go out and pressure more, so I think we are going to have to deal with that."

Keys for Tennessee: "In this game you have to make jump shots," Lockwood said. "It's no secret. We've got to make some jump shots against Baylor.

"And then from a defensive standpoint, Brittney is going to get shots and she's going to score some points, but I think you have to make it as difficult as possible.

"The things that will hurt you is when she gets the easy turn-and-score or you don't block her out or if you let her go to her go-to move, that hurts you. You have to make it a little bit harder for her to operate. Take her a little bit out of her comfort zone.

"Make her take tough shots. She's going to get shots. And you can't let Odyssey go off and let other people have comfortable looks. You still have to do a good job on those other folks."

INSIDE TENNESSEE NOTEBOOK

POSTS ON BOARD: Forwards Vicki Baugh and Glory Johnson played well in the first game against Baylor this season, a 76-67 loss in Knoxville, and combined for 26 points and 21 boards.

Freshman forward Isabelle Harrison knows she has to be ready to help in relief. Harrison was 0-6 from the field in the first matchup but grabbed seven rebounds.

"We know the role we have to play coming into the game," Harrison said.

Harrison said she saw Brittney Griner's two-handed dunk on television and noticed that even some Tennessee fans stood up and clapped Saturday.

"I saw that," Harrison said with a smile.

For a first-year player especially, it is better to have been on the court against a team rather than relying just on film study for a scouting report.

"It most definitely helps," Harrison said. "We know how we need to prepare for her. And not just Brittney, their guards, and their whole bench."

Baugh said the focus for the team is Tennessee.

"We make it about us, and not just us adjusting to Baylor," Baugh said. "Yes, they are a good basketball team but we are, too.

"We played 35 minutes (in Knoxville). We didn't play the full 40 minutes. In order for us to be successful against a great Baylor basketball team we have to play for 40 minutes."

COACH BREE: When she's not on the court, senior guard Briana Bass is very vocal on the bench. She plays the part of coach and motivator.

"I think over the years, not being able to play as much and trying to find my way on this team and how I could contribute, I came up with encouragement and trying to be like a coach."

Kamiko Williams is a physically gifted 5'11 guard who doesn't always play to her capability. Bass doesn't mince words with the junior and will call her out if she sees lazy effort in games or practice.

"(Saturday) in the game Holly was getting Miko ready," Bass said. "I told Miko that she needed to be focused here in the mind and that we really needed her and we needed her heart.

"She went in there and played her butt off."

TABER'S KNEE: Taber Spani intended to play Monday, but she is limited after tweaking her already ailing left knee while planting and shifting on defense in the win over Kansas.

Spani said she felt her knee shift and then had trouble running down court Saturday. She had to pull herself from the game and didn't return.

Spani was dressed Sunday in her practice gear and shoes and intended to give it a go.

Spani spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning getting treatment.

When asked if she expected to be able to play, Spani emphatically said, "Yes."

"It is very frustrating, but it's all about the team right now," she said. "It's all about everybody is going to have to give everything that they have in whatever capacity they can for us to win.

"Whether that is somebody out there scoring or rebounding or somebody on the bench yelling their heart out, it is going to have to be everybody's best."

RABBIT TALES: The coaches have wanted the team to focus solely on the next game so they used a rabbit analogy to underscore the message.

"That's one of the things that has been driving us in this tournament is taking it one game at a time," Vicki Baugh said. "We talked about you can chase two rabbits if you're hunting but chances are you won't catch one of them.

"But if you just focus on one rabbit at a time, then you can get that rabbit. One of the things that we have on our scouting report is catching the rabbit. And we have been catching one rabbit at a time."

Baugh is also a tender-hearted soul so if she literally caught a rabbit in a hunt, she would take the creature home and care for it, not prepare the bunny as food.

"I'll catch the rabbit, but then I'll feed the rabbit," Baugh said. "It will be my pet. I won't hurt the rabbit. No way."

GET GLORY'S BACK: Glory Johnson is the second-best rebounder in Lady Vol program history - she has 1,204 boards with the legendary Chamique Holdsclaw the only one ahead of her with 1,295.

She needs the guards to do their part, too, because if the perimeter players don't box out, then Johnson has to fend off the opposing post and the guard darting in who was unchecked.

Johnson delivered specific instructions Saturday to Meighan Simmons to make sure she boxed out her player.

"I did," Johnson said, while Simmons listened in and smiled. "I tell her every day to get on the boards."

Apparently Johnson was a tad more emphatic Saturday, and Simmons responded with four rebounds. Simmons also boxed out, which helps the post players immensely, not just with not allowing the guards to slip underneath them - they will sometimes foul but officials tend not to call it and instead side with the smaller player over the big - but because the posts need help with long rebounds that start fast breaks.

"The long rebounds, we're all in the paint, so it's up to the guards to get it," Johnson said. "And if the guards don't get it, they're already running down the floor, and we're behind them.

"It's really hard if the guards don't rebound. It makes it 10 times harder on us."

It is also why Shekinna Stricklen will play extended minutes, even if she is struggling with her shot. Stricklen will consistently get on the glass.

Simmons responded Saturday.

"I think she was tired of me yelling at her," Johnson said, while Simmons burst out with laughter. "It worked."

Former Lady Vol Alex Fuller used to tell teammates, "Just find somebody and hit 'em."

"Yep, and it works," Johnson said. "As long as their man doesn't get the rebound it's OK. But if your man is crashing the board and getting the rebound, it's bad."

POISED AND PATIENT: Ariel Massengale and Meighan Simmons will be counted on Monday in the backcourt against Baylor.

In the first game, the two combined to shoot 2-22. Each made one shot, Simmons on 12 attempts, Massengale on 10.

Both have played well off the bench for Tennessee over seven games of all-senior lineup, but they are likely to be on the court for the opening tip in the Elite Eight game.

"It's just a matter of being very patient," Simmons said. "When I come in the game off the bench I am always patient. I've been on the bench being able to see what everyone else is doing.

"Whether I start or not I just have to have the mindset to go out there and stayed poised and patient."

Massengale learned during her stint of watching games how important the start was to the team.

"You have to have a good start," Massengale said. "Play with energy. You have to start off pushing the ball and getting in transition because that is when this team is at their best."

BEST QUOTE: That of Lady Vols senior forward Alicia Manning. The Tennessee players have been asked repeatedly about Pat Summitt's future and have handled it well.

"Basically, we just try to stay in the present," Manning said. "Whatever Coach Summitt decides to do after this, we support her. We have had her back this whole season.

"She is such a great person and is going to leave her legacy whether it is this year, next year, five years down the road, 10 years down the road."

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee is 2-3 all-time against Baylor. The Lady Vols last won in a regular season matchup Nov. 15, 2009, and have lost the last three games - the Sweet 16 on March 27, 2010, and regular season games Dec. 14, 2010, and Nov. 27, 2011. Tennessee won the first matchup between the programs, a Sweet 16 game March 28, 2004. This will be the Lady Vols' 25th Elite Eight. They are 18-6 in those games. … Tennessee is 4-2 in games played on March 26. The last win on this date came against Ohio State, 85-75, in 2011. The first win on March 26 was against Immaculata, 91-71, in 1977. The two losses on this date were to Louisiana Tech, 69-46, in 1982; and Western Kentucky, 75-70, in 1992. The other two wins were against Virginia, 84-76, in 1988; and Rutgers, 76-69, in 2006.

PRESS STUFF: Links for press conference transcripts provided by the host site school. University of Northern Iowa, and videos, provided by the NCAA, are below.

Click on the school name to view or read.

TENNESSEE VIDEO

BAYLOR VIDEO

TENNESSEE TRANSCRIPT

BAYLOR TRANSCRIPT

INSIDE TENNESSEE PHOTOS

Shots from Des Moines on Sunday can be viewed:

HERE ON FACEBOOK

INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE

Holly Warlick

Shekinna Stricklen

Alicia Manning, Taber Spani

Ariel Massengale

Vicki Baugh

Meighan Simmons

Kamiko Williams

Glory Johnson, Izzy Harrison

Briana Bass, Cierra Burdick

Dean Lockwood

Briana Bass, Izzy Harrison and the Dean Dance


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