Lady Vols return to practice court

The Lady Vols got back to practice Wednesday and met with the media to talk about the Texas road swing that will follow a two-week break for exams. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the team.

Cierra Burdick was a tad sleepy Wednesday morning. It wasn't because of a 10 a.m. start to practice or a late night of studying with exams about to get underway. It was an untimely fire alarm at her campus apartment building that forced an evacuation at 2:30 a.m.

"We were outside for half an hour," Burdick said of what turned out to be a medical call and not a fire.

The sophomore forward was also a tad under the weather, but Burdick gamely handled the media interview in entertaining fashion and then gutted out an effective practice session.

She was asked about fellow sophomore Ariel Massengale, who seems to have recovered from an Achilles tendon injury and moved back into the starting lineup on Nov. 28 after being limited to start the season.

Massengale is once again showing the steady play at point guard that she flashed as a freshman with the added benefit of being in better condition and having a season of experience. She has 27 assists to 14 turnovers and is hitting 35.3 percent of her three ball attempts while averaging 8.3 points a game.

"She is our floor commander," Burdick said. "We call her Mama Massengale. She is a bossy, bossy, bossy person. It's good. If we didn't have a bossy point guard, how much of a point guard would they truly be?"

Massengale shares an apartment with Burdick and fellow sophomore Isabelle Harrison and her need to direct teammates apparently crosses court lines.

"She'll try to boss us around," Burdick said. "Izzy and I are like, ‘OK, mom.' Izzy and I are clearly way bigger than her, so she can only do so much.

"Sometimes I will be really hungry. I get hungry around midnight so I will go in there to get something to eat and here comes Rel popping out of her room and will be like, ‘C, I told you the kitchen was closed.' I am like, ‘I am hungry.' And she is like, ‘No, get out of the kitchen. It's closed.' "

"Little bossy butt," Burdick said as Massengale crossed the court out of earshot. "But it's all out of love."

Tennessee is coming off a 102-57 decimation of North Carolina and now has two weeks off between games with Texas on tap next on Dec. 16, followed by Baylor on Dec. 18. Both games are on the road, and then the Lady Vols return to Knoxville to face Stanford on Dec. 22 before taking a break for Christmas.

Burdick, who is from Charlotte, N.C., tallied 15 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, a block and a steal against the Tar Heels last Sunday.

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell had a friendly conversation with Burdick before tipoff when she came out to warm up.

"I almost went there; I almost committed there," Burdick said. "I walked over there and she was like, ‘There's my girl,' and I said, ‘Hey, coach, how are you?' She looked at my shooting shirt and she pointed to the blue and she was like, ‘Well, at least we got a little Carolina blue on you.' "

Tennessee will need Burdick and Massengale to both be on their games when the team travels to the Lone Star State. Massengale's resurgence is well timed as freshman guard Andraya Carter, who started five games this season, has injured her right shoulder in three of the past four games.

Coach Holly Warlick said Carter was day to day and while she was allowed to take the court Wednesday outfitted in her shoulder brace, Carter was held out of all contact drills.

The two-week break is well timed for Tennessee, as practice this week can be shorter in duration, and players can get some rest. Senior guard/forward Taber Spani was held out Wednesday in what was termed a "maintenance day" and received treatment for her lower back.

Massengale was full go at a time that Tennessee really needs her, as sophomore guard Jasmine Phillips remain held out of team sessions to focus on academics.

"Rel is a very consistent player," Burdick said. "She was battling with some injuries earlier, and that kind of messed her up (to open the season). I am glad to have her back.

"She is obviously our floor commander, and we need that out of her. She keeps the offense and the defense flowing well."


Wednesday practice clips

Isabelle Harrison

Meighan Simmons

Holly Warlick

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