Lady Vols prepare for South Carolina

Holly Warlick chats with media Sunday

Holly Warlick met with the media before Monday’s big SEC matchup with South Carolina. Go inside with InsideTennessee for the latest on the Lady Vols.

A winter storm was bearing down Sunday evening on East Tennessee. A strong front of a different type will be in town Monday when South Carolina – and its tremendous size in the frontcourt – takes the floor at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tipoff between Tennessee (15-9, 6-5) and South Carolina (23-1, 11-0) is set for 7:01 p.m. (ESPN2). The wintry mix of snow and sleet is forecast to turn into rain by Monday afternoon. The game Monday evening should be a heated contest between one team trying to keep its SEC record unblemished and another team seeking a strong finish in league play.

Highlights from the media session:

Alexa Middleton (foot injury) is day-to-day. She underwent treatment Sunday and did some shooting.

Bashaara Graves is likely to return to the starting lineup with Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared in the frontcourt. Graves had been limited this month by a foot injury, but had a solid game against Vanderbilt. Graves was moving well in practice Sunday.

With the return of Graves, that means the three-guard starting lineup, which was fairly effective for Tennessee, won’t open Monday’s game. Given the Gamecocks’ size, that lineup would be dwarfed.

Andraya Carter has a calming effect on the team so look for her on the court to open the game. That means either Te’a Cooper or Jordan Reynolds will come off the bench. Cooper has been playing very well of late so odds are the freshman will start. Regardless, all three guards will log significant minutes.

Nared’s game has improved in accordance with her staying under control. She has eliminated the drives to the basket that ended with odd-looking and off-balance shots and replaced them with pull-up jumpers.

“When Jaime is aggressive and attacks the basket and plays under control, she is pretty darn good,” Warlick said. “I love what she is doing right now. When Jaime plays on balance, she is going to hit the majority of her shots.”

Thursday’s finish at Vanderbilt after the lead was trimmed to six points in the fourth quarter was a big step for the team.  The staff shortened the bench at Vanderbilt and may do the same Monday. It will depend on how the game unfolds.

The last two practices also have been excellent in terms of focus and execution. Freshman Meme Jackson had her best practice of the season this weekend. Sophomore Kortney Dunbar is much needed offensively and is working on getting on the boards at the four spot.

The goal is to win out the regular season – and make sure the players focus only on the next game.

The staff shortened the bench at Vanderbilt and may do the same Monday. It will depend on how the game unfolds.

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