Lady Vols work to fix offensive woes in practice

The Tennessee Lady Vols returned to the practice court Monday afternoon and worked on their half-court offense. The screens were solid, the cuts were crisp, the passes were accurate, and the shots fell from the perimeter and the paint. <p> In other words, the offensive execution looked nothing like it did Sunday against N.C. State in the Jimmy V Classic. Although Tennessee won 64-54, to go 2-0 on the season, coach Pat Summitt described the game as "kind of your worst nightmare."

"You get there, you don't have great leadership, and people start standing," Summitt said. "I'll just tell you point blank: Our guards have to take ownership, and our team has to take ownership. We took every opportunity today to let them see themselves."

The team watched every offensive possession on film before taking the court to practice.

"They come in here today, they take complete ownership of practice," Summitt said. "I've coached a lot of different teams for a lot of years. With this team they haven't always come to practice everyday and taken ownership. And then when they get in a game, it's not a natural process for them. It has to become a habit. That comes from your point guard and all of your veterans. …

"Obviously N.C. State brought a lot of intensity on the defensive end, and in all fairness to (senior guard) Loree (Moore), she's had a lot to learn. I've seen this happen at times. It's almost like she came down the floor, passed the ball and didn't get us in our offense. She knows that. I think it's going to be a great lesson for her and for our team."

Tennessee gets the chance to run its offense against live action when they host George Washington at home at 7 p.m. The Colonials are 2-0 after defeating Georgetown and East Carolina. Summitt hopes the sessions in the film room and at practice will transfer onto the court in tonight's game.

Summitt said the offense collapsed at times Sunday because the five players on the floor at any given time weren't on the same page.

Assistant coach Dean Lockwood said the lack of sync was because of a lack of attention to detail.

"We set the game back a little bit, especially in the first half," Lockwood said. "Discipline to us (means) doing what you have to do, doing it exactly the same way and doing it all the time. We needed to have that offensive discipline. This is an offense that does take some time."

"We had four people maybe in sync," Summitt said. "It doesn't matter if you're running motion or you're running four-out, one-in, you're running triangle, all five people must take ownership."

The focus of Monday's practice was getting the offense jump-started a lot faster.

"We're trying to work on getting into our sets a lot quicker. I thought they did a lot better," Summitt said after practice.

After seeing the game on film, Summitt said it wasn't as bad as she previously thought, and there were some moments that she liked.

"The bright spot was our two freshmen that played," Summitt said. "That was some of our best offense. I thought, Alexis, because of her aggressiveness, she got us into things. I was really pleased with Nicky Anosike, and hopefully (Sybil) Dosty will get her opportunity. I think it hurt her being out. And with Nicky playing the way she played I chose not to put her (Dosty) in."

Dosty missed six days after suffering a concussion in practice. The loss of reps in practice set her back, Summitt said, but she still figures in the player rotation.

Anosike was pleased with her defensive game but knows her offensive game is coming up short.

"I thought I brought a lot to the team defensively," she said. "I've just got to work on helping the team out offensively as much I do defensively."

Her coach isn't worried.

"She's a great listener, and she's a very smart player," Summitt said.

Tye'sha Fluker, a junior center, struggled against N.C. State and finished 1-8 from the floor. Fluker said Monday that she got frustrated with her early misses.

"After missing a few shots I was so onto myself and pressing so hard that it wasn't working for me when I got my wide-open shots and was actually sealing and getting good looks," Fluker said. "I was so frustrated with myself and trying so hard to make the shots that I was missing them."

Fluker's performance Sunday was in stark contrast to her recent play in practice, a fact that Summitt noted.

"She had a lot of great looks," Summitt said. "Tye's in a new role. I think it's not lack of effort. I think she has to learn to compete and be physical and be able to finish inside. I thought in some cases she rushed it; she put the ball on the floor. She almost had too much momentum. We kept going to her. She's so open. She's got a great touch, and she's been scoring in practice.

"But we have to remember she hasn't been in this role in college basketball. She's a starter; she's a go-to in the paint. Is that new? Absolutely. We're not writing her off, by no means. She's still a go-to for us. She's doing a lot of work and getting some great seals, and we're getting her the ball. We want to have a low-post presence, and she certainly gives us that."

N.C. State's Tiffany Stansbury scored 13 points and had two blocks. She was a physical presence in the paint, but Fluker said she wasn't surprised, because Stansbury played in accordance with the scouting report.

"I thought she got pushed out a few times, especially on the boards, but I'm not overly concerned," Summitt said of Fluker vs. Stansbury. "Again I just think she watches tape, she's very bright, she'll pick up on it. They're all committed to learning and getting better."

After watching the film, Summitt winced at the difference just three successful shots by Fluker would have made. That could have changed the complexion of the game, Summitt said, because Fluker would have been double-teamed, and the ball would have been kicked out to Tennessee's abundance of three-point shooters.

"That's one of the reasons I stayed with the offense and went inside to her. We can come back and watch it," said Summitt, explaining that the Lady Vols must establish low-post scoring this season.

After watching the film, Fluker felt a little better.

"I was happy to see that I was able to change the way I was posting up from first half to second half with getting open so that was a plus," Fluker said. "Defensively it's gotten better from our opening tip-off against Carson-Newman to this game on Sunday. I did some good things, but I have some things I still need to work on."

Fluker said she won't dwell on the N.C. State game, and Anosike predicted the team's offensive woes are over.

"You have to move on," Fluker said. "I can't hold on to it. I just have to learn from it. If I hold onto it, then there's just going to be another performance like that."

"We just blanked out kind of I guess … but it's not going to happen again," Anosike said.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Tennessee will use the same starting lineup as the first two games: Loree Moore, Shanna Zolman, Shyra Ely, Sidney Spencer and Tye'sha Fluker. Ely and Zolman are averaging double figures in scoring, 12.5 ppg and 12 ppg respectively. Ely also is averaging seven rebounds per game. Fluker is averaging 7.5 rebounds per game.

George Washington is expected to start two freshman guards, Kimberly Beck, 5'8, of Fairburn, Ga., and Sarah-Jo Lawrence, 5'11, of Rhoadesville, Va. The others are forwards Whitney Allen, 5'11 sophomore, Woodbridge, Va., and Anna Montanana, 6'1 senior, Valencia, Spain; and center Jessica Simmonds, 6'2 senior, South Orange, N.J.

"They are a team that throws you a lot of different looks, and they have certainly played us well," Summitt said. "When you play them early in the season, you have to be very prepared for a team that will give you a lot of different looks, particularly on the defensive end. They extend their full-court defense and typically in our league we don't see that a lot."

The Colonials were 22-8 last season. They were beaten in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by DePaul. Tennessee is 4-0 against George Washington and won last year's game in Washington, D.C., 65-51.

FREE THROWS: The Lady Vols are taking more reps in practice at the free-throw line, including one session in which Summitt coached Anosike as she shot. Anosike, who has struggled at the line in games (she was 3-10 against UT-C and 2-5 against N.C. State), is fairly consistent in practice.

"I have no problem with them in practice," Anosike said. "It's just I think about it way too much. You've just got to do what you know is right, and I think about it too much."

Summitt is sure Anosike will straighten out her free-throw percentage.

"She just has to develop her shooting skill," Summitt said. "But you know what? I'm confident she will. That's one thing about her. I'm confident she'll get it done."

STELLAR SENIOR: Summitt had significant praise for senior Brittany Jackson after both games Friday and Sunday for her work on the defensive end of the floor.

"I thought Brittany Jackson came in and played solid D," Summitt said after the win over UT-Chattanooga.

"I thought that was one of Brittany's best games. She just played a smart game, played aggressive, both ends. Her defensive containment was solid," Summitt said after the win over N.C. State.

Jackson, a forward from Cleveland, Tenn., has always been recognized for her offense, particularly her ability to hit from long range. But she showed versatility Sunday by trying to score off the dribble and tallied seven of her nine points from the free-throw line. If she continues to please Summitt with her defense, Jackson could have a breakout senior year on both ends of the floor.

UT-C GAME WRAP: In Summitt's post-game press conference after the 68-34 win over Chattanooga, she opened her remarks with an old standby. "My comment to the team after the game? Don't ever forget, when you go on the road, to pack your defense and your rebounds." Summitt said the offense wasn't in rhythm, but the defense – which held Chattanooga to 9 percent first-half shooting and 13.5 percent for the game – carried the team.

Summitt praised senior point guard Loree Moore for her opening game performance. "We're a different team when she's on the floor," she said.

UT-C's poor shooting percentage was due both to Tennessee's defense and the Lady Mocs missing wide-open shots. "They got some good looks, they set some great screens," Summitt said.

"I thought we got open looks, especially in the first half," said Katasha Brown, a junior forward for Chattanooga from Tazewell, Tenn. "We were just rushing shots. We did have open looks. They didn't fall tonight.

Chattanooga coach Wes Moore and Brown said the open shots didn't fall, and the rest of the shots were heavily contested by Tennessee.

"I felt like we couldn't really get into our offense," Brown said. "They basically controlled our offense defensively."

Moore, who likened coaching on the sideline to getting a root canal, said Tennessee's size, strength and athleticism wore down the Lady Mocs. "It's just so hard to get a clean look. You end up rushing or forcing shots. Against them you're going to have to continuously work for that 30-second possession, and we didn't do that tonight."

"From the get-go, our defense was crucial," said Shanna Zolman, a junior guard for the Lady Vols. "That was really key for us, just to know that we came out and really put the pressure and the heat on to try to disrupt their offense."

"Like Shanna said and what coach said, always have our defense, especially in away games where you never know what the atmosphere is going to be like," senior forward Shyra Ely said.

Summitt also singled out Ely for her defensive shutdown of Brown, who was 1-9 from the field and finished with five points, with three of them coming from the free-throw line.

"She's a great defender," said Brown, who added she had never had that much trouble getting an open look at the basket.

"We challenged her to play Brown and play her tough," Summitt said. "One aspect of Shyra's game that was unknown is how (was her defense) on the perimeter. She spent the first three years of her career defending in the paint. I think she will be a great defensive weapon for us."

"It was a new experience for me, but I think I did a pretty good job," Ely said. "It's a lot of work. I'm getting used to it. I still have a ways to go, but I'm coming along."

The challenges continue, especially in the SEC, where Ely will have to guard LSU's Seimone Augustus.

WHERE WAS DEAN?: Dean Lockwood almost missed his first official tip-off as an assistant coach for the Lady Vols. Lockwood was nowhere to be seen during player introductions. While the lights were dimmed to announce UT-C's starters by spotlight, Lockwood ducked into the arena and scooted to Tennessee's bench. He made it to his seat just as the ball was tipped.

"I was on a recruiting trip and got caught in some unbelievable traffic," Lockwood said. "For a stretch I was going 8 miles per hour for probably seven to 10 miles. I called and said, ‘It's going to be tight.' It was fortunate that I made it just as the ball was going up."

Lockwood weaved in and out of cars and parked "haphazardly" outside the arena, he said. He's not the superstitious sort, but Lockwood – citing the defensive effort against UT-C – said he'd consider using that late-arriving approach again.

REHAB ROW: Injured freshmen Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and Candace Parker both continue to rehab on the sidelines. They also are participating in walk-throughs after practice to learn the offensive sets. Summitt took the six freshmen to the RBC Center in Raleigh on Sunday for a shoot-around by themselves. (Alex Fuller, who is still on crutches and will redshirt this season, watches from the sidelines.)

"We left the veterans in the hotel," Summitt said. "Gatewood gets out there and hits 14 straight shots before she misses."

Wiley-Gatewood will be reexamined in December to determine if the tendon in her left patella has healed. A painful case of patellar tendonitis sidelined her as soon as practice started in mid-October.

Parker still has some minor swelling around the top of the knee, which prevents her from being cleared to take the floor. There is not yet a timetable on her return, but she appears to be inching closer to the court. Parker is not supposed to leaver her feet when she shoots, but did a few times Monday, prompting Summitt to yell reminders not to.

"When she gets a green light I just want her to be ready to step into practice," Summitt said. "We want them understanding everything, not starting from scratch. They're pretty good in the game, too. They see things. I told them all I want you watching everything."

WOMEN'S HOOPS: Summitt watched the final eight minutes of the UConn-North Carolina game, which was won by the Tar Heels, 71-65, in the first match-up of the Jimmy V Classic. "My impressions of all four teams is that it's early," Summitt said. "A lot of turnovers by all four teams, uncharacteristic of Connecticut, yet they're breaking in new guards, and that's one of the hardest things to do. I was impressed with their frontline. They are physical. There's no standing on the court with those players. North Carolina, I thought they had really good movement. Again, like us, they turned the ball over, but they didn't stand. We won that award. If there was a standing award it belonged to Tennessee. I should say the spectator award."

Summitt also watched the last 10 minutes of the Georgia-Texas game, in which the Lady Bulldogs came back from 15 points down and beat the Lady Longhorns, 78-64, in Athens, Ga. Freshman Tasha Humphrey scored 27 points and had eight rebounds. "Tasha Humphrey just took over," Summitt said. "She's a Charles Barkley player."

ODDS AND ENDS: Attendance in Chattanooga was 10,051, the largest to ever see a women's basketball game at McKenzie Arena, and the 10th largest in school history, men or women. The crowd was all the more impressive considering the weather. A cold rain fell throughout the evening, and fans were lined up outside the arena doors huddled under umbrellas. The Lady Vols were booed as they took the court in pre-game warmups, a greeting that was somewhat of a surprise, considering the game was in East Tennessee. Summitt, however, wasn't booed. …. Former Lady Vol Kelli Casteel-Cook was seriously injured when she fell after a homemade swing broke. She suffered a broken back, though fortunately she had feeling in her extremities, and was scheduled for surgery Monday. Casteel-Cook, who is from Maryville, played for Tennessee from 1988 through 1992.

QUOTE BOX

"Well I'm never pleased." -Tennessee coach Pat Summitt when asked if she was pleased with the team's opening game effort against UT-Chattanooga. She said it smiling.

"But I am pleased that this team has bought into the defense and board play and that we are explosive as we are in transition. We'll take it and move on." -Summitt, expanding on her answer.

"She's having to learn how to come off the bench. She hadn't had to come off the bench. A lot of times great players that played at a certain level in high school that have always started now they are coming off the bench, and they always feel like they have to go in and prove themselves in the first four possessions as opposed to I told her: ‘Just get into the flow of the game.' She tried to force the action. She's going to be a great player. It's going to take a little time." -Summitt on the play of freshman guard Alexis Hornbuckle after the UT-C game.

"I wasn't really satisfied with my first real game. I was nervous, and it showed in the first half. In the second half, I kind of stepped it up." -Hornbuckle, after the game. She had three blocks, including one for the highlight reel in the second half. Teammate Nicky Anosike went for the steal and missed. Her player had a clear drive to the basket when Hornbuckle materialized on the baseline and stuffed the shot.

"Actually I did. My favorite one was the last block I had. I saw it coming. I was hoping I didn't get another foul. That's just my game, just help defense. I love to help." -Hornbuckle when asked that even if she didn't like her overall game, she had to like the blocks.

"Kristen Spann looks to be wide open, looks like an easy layup, and Hornbuckle comes flying from across the lane and was able to bat it away. You have so small of a window to get off a shot against them. You tend to rush it, because you know it's coming."- Chattanooga coach Wes Moore.

"Coach said that's a look she'd love to see as long as I can quit turning the ball over." -Hornbuckle on combining with senior Loree Moore to pressure opposing ball-handlers.

"I'm not used to that. I don't think any of us freshmen were. It was different, but it was fun." -UT-C freshman point guard Laura Hall, who played for Oliver Springs High School in East Tennessee.

"It really felt to me like they were." -Chattanooga junior Katasha Brown, when asked if Tennessee was better defensively this year than last year.

"I wasn't really that nervous surprisingly. I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck coming into this game. I was really pumped up. None of our shots were falling obviously so we took it to the hole and drew some fouls." -Chattanooga freshman forward Kristen Spann of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Spann scored six points, all from the free-throw line.

"It will definitely prepare us. Playing a team as good as Tennessee has got to prepare you for something." -Spann on the benefit of playing the Lady Vols.

"This is a little tighter schedule than I like. We're having to shorten the practices." -Summitt on this week's schedule, which includes games against George Washington on Tuesday at home, at Texas on Thursday and against Temple on Sunday at home.

"I'd love to be back here for a regional. I'd love it. Fans are great. I think it's a great environment for basketball. I'd love to come here, but we've got a lot to take care of on our part to put ourselves in a favorable position to get here." -Summitt on possibly returning to Chattanooga in March. McKenzie Arena is one of four host sites for regional action in the NCAA tournament.

"Heck, yeah. Yeah. You have to have that confidence. It's preseason polls I know, but we're No. 1 and until someone knocks us off, we still will be No. 1." -Lady Vol guard Shanna Zolman when asked if she thought Tennessee was the No. 1 team in the country.


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