Lady Vols get back to practice

The Lady Vols got back to practice to prepare for another band of Tigers, this time at LSU. Go inside with InsideTennessee for the latest on the team and practice video clips.

The Lady Vols were off Monday, but the majority of the team spent the day in the training room trying to get well for two games this week – at LSU on Thursday and then hosting Ole Miss on Sunday for Tennessee's first home game in the month of February.

By Tuesday, eight players were on the practice court at Pratt Pavilion with three assigned to rehab.

Andraya Carter demonstrated that she has used her down time to work on her left hand as she drained free throws and midrange jumpers with her off hand. The freshman is done for the season because of right shoulder surgery in December.

Post Isabelle Harrison shed her crutches for some sideline rehab work. The sophomore had a torn meniscus repaired in her left knee last Friday and could be back this season, but that has not been determined yet.

Guard Kamiko Williams pulled off a walking boot and worked on her sprained right ankle with Jenny Moshak. The senior got injured early in the second half against Missouri on Sunday and is doubtful for Thursday's game.

Cierra Burdick, who is a candidate to move into the starting lineup, worked with the posts Tuesday and estimated her right hand is about 80 percent. She broke it New Year's Eve while working on defense on her own and getting it caught in jersey material. Burdick just returned to the court last week.

With Williams, Harrison and Carter sidelined and Burdick barely back, first-year head coach Holly Warlick has endured an unprecedented run of attrition by injury.

"I know it's part of the game, but when you have three starters that are out with injuries, I just don't have an answer for that," Warlick said. "I'm thinking, I hope we have five people to compete."

Warlick did not, however, blame the loss to Missouri on injuries. Tennessee handled Mizzou with ease at home a month ago. But the Tigers executed their offense – it is predicated on multiple screens – with ease at their arena and they shocked the SEC with the 80-63 win over Tennessee.

"We were getting hit with too many screens and really not sticking to our defensive principles," Burdick said. "We got a little bit too complacent and maybe a little bit too confident."

The exact opposite happened during the 84-39 win in Knoxville – the Lady Vols followed shooters through those screens and communicated on defense. Both were largely absent in the defeat.

"When you play the way we did and have a loss like we did, we just didn't play the way we should have," Warlick said. "Now we're just trying to get refocused."

Burdick noted that the Lady Vols have been in this role before this season – bouncing back from a tough loss, and she recalled the season opener against Chattanooga and then the response at Georgia Tech.

"We just have to bounce back," Burdick continued. "We have to do all the maintenance work that we can to make sure we are preserving our bodies."

With that in mind, Warlick allowed that she would have to modify practice to preserve the healthy bodies left to play. It is a difficult balance to both prepare a team adequately and try to hold back players to avoid any additional mishaps.

The assistant coaches broke the players into groups Tuesday with Dean Lockwood working with Burdick, Bashaara Graves and Nia Moore in the paint; Kyra Elzy taking Taber Spani, Jasmine Jones and Jasmine Phillips to work on cutting, screening, posting up and shooting; and Jolette Law putting Meighan Simmons and Ariel Massengale through an assortment of dribbling drills to tighten their handles, especially in traffic.

With seven regular season games left, the Lady Vols are limping towards the finish line. They do have a bye next week so after Sunday's game with Ole Miss, Tennessee will have a week between games and can get some much needed rest.

Still, Tennessee remains in first place in the league in a tie with Texas A&M, which beat LSU on Monday and comes to Knoxville on Feb. 28.

Spani noted that the Lady Vols still control where they are in the SEC standings.

"We understand that what lies before us is hopefully an SEC trophy at the end of this – that's what we're after," Spani said.


Lady Vols basketball practice

Cierra Burdick

Taber Spani

Holly Warlick

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