Lady Vols get back to practice

The Lady Vols got back to practice Wednesday to begin preparations for the Sweet 16 in Oklahoma City. Go inside with InsideTennessee for the latest on the team.

As the Lady Vols emerged from behind the thick curtains separating the court area from the back areas of Thompson-Boling Arena, they heard music that clearly pleased them.

Isabelle Harrison danced her way to the court, and Meighan Simmons showed off her moves as soon as she stepped past the curtain.

The entire team is still dancing in the NCAA tourney with a Sweet 16 matchup against Oklahoma. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m. Eastern (TV: ESPN2) on Sunday in Oklahoma City at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Top overall seed Baylor also is in the regional and will play Louisville in Sunday's second game at approximately 7 p.m. Eastern. The winners play Tuesday at 9 p.m. Eastern for a slot in the Final Four in New Orleans.

Practice began, as always with stretching and warm-ups and then a team huddle at center court. A crew from CBS circled the huddle and then hovered around the court as part of an upcoming feature on Pat Summitt, who watched the proceedings from the sideline, as has been typical for her all season. Former Lady Vol Alberta Auguste was in town and sat by Summitt during practice.

Summitt, who attended every home game except one because of other obligations with her foundation, has rarely traveled this season, and she won't make the trip west. Holly Warlick, who secured two NCAA tourney wins as a head coach at home, will lead the team in Oklahoma in her first Sweet 16 at the helm.

The Lady Vols will take the court Thursday then depart Friday for Oklahoma City with media interviews and practice scheduled for Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Warlick was asked during media interviews Wednesday if a Sweet 16 berth was considered a success, regardless of the outcome in the regional. While acknowledging the accomplishment, Warlick made it clear that the team wasn't content to just be there. She also is keeping the focus on the next opponent, as she has done all season.

"I am glad we are in our next game," Warlick said. "That is how we have kept it."

The players also aren't ready for the season to end.

"I have a lot of faith in myself and what this team can do," Simmons said.

The rigors of the SEC can help a team prepare for postseason, and Simmons noted physicality and game tempo will be critical. The Lady Vols want a fast pace Sunday.

The SEC went 11-3 overall in the first two rounds of the tourney – 7-0 in the first and 4-3 in the second – with Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and LSU making it safely to the Sweet 16. It could have been six league teams, but Texas A&M faltered on its home court to Nebraska and South Carolina couldn't close out the game against Kansas. Vanderbilt made it to the second round but got waxed on UConn's home court.

"I think the conference is strong," Warlick said. "It's one of the best conferences in the country. To have four in the top 16 it speaks for itself.

"I am happy for all of them. It is what we have been saying. It is just an extremely tough conference."

The venue is likely to have the feel of a road game for Tennessee instead of a neutral site, but orange-clad fans are still expected in Big 12 territory.

"Our fans are phenomenal," Simmons said. "It gives us another awareness to go out there and play hard and represent what's on our chest and what's on our back. Go out there and stay focused."

Simmons and sophomore Cierra Burdick have acted like women's basketball fans this week. Tennessee is on spring break so they watched the other games late into Tuesday evening without worries about homework or classes the next day.

"I was literally glued to the TV," Simmons said. "I was watching every team. I was watching how they handled ball pressure and things like that.

"Anything is possible with faith in each other, faith in the system and faith in what we can do."

VIDEO COVERAGE

Lady Vols basketball practice

Meighan Simmons

Kamiko Williams

Holly Warlick


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