Summitt still mulling lineup for tonight's game

At the end of practice, Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt still hadn't decided on a starting lineup against Duke <p> She has a few hours to make up her mind. The Blue Devils will be in Knoxville this evening to take on the Lady Vols in a televised match-up at Thompson-Boling Arena. <p> "I don't know yet," Summitt said a few minutes after practice wrapped up Wednesday.

"I've got the following people on my list: Moore, Zolman, Jackson, Ely, Spencer and Fluker. That's my list. There're a couple either-ors."

Moore and Zolman would be backcourt mates Loree Moore and Shanna Zolman. Those two would seem to be definite starters for the 7:30 p.m. game against Duke (ESPN2 and the Lady Vol Radio Network). As for the other three, Summitt is deciding whether or not to go with a stronger offensive lineup – Shyra Ely at the 4 (power forward), Brittany Jackson at the 3 (small forward) and Sidney Spencer at the 5 (center) – or a stronger defensive stance – Ely at the 3, Spencer at the 4 and Tye'sha Fluker at the 5.

Duke brings size to Knoxville in 6'7 Alison Bales at center and 6'3 junior Mistie Williams at power forward and talent in 6-foot player-of-the-year candidate Monique Currie at the small forward position. If Ely starts for the Lady Vols she will guard Currie. If Jackson starts, it's her job.

"If I go with Ely in the lineup and put her on Currie, then she'll run the 3 for us offensively. It is big," Summitt said of Duke's frontcourt lineup. "I'm thinking match-up on Currie. I'm also thinking match-up inside with Bales and Williams. We need some size on those two. So obviously Fluker and Spencer would give us more size, and Ely then would play Currie. If you want to start with more size and probably a little stronger presence on Currie as far as matching up size and athleticism, then certainly you would think Ely."

A smaller lineup – which would include Jackson – could provide Tennessee with a stronger offensive look.

Summitt conceded that falling behind No. 10-ranked Duke early, such as the Lady Vols did against Temple on Sunday, could have disastrous results for No. 4-ranked Tennessee. That would indicate she is leaning toward the defensive stalwarts.

"I'm going to watch a little more tape," Summitt said. "I'll figure it out between now and (Thursday)."

The team watched tape after practice, but it wasn't game film. It was a montage of celebrations and last-second victories pulled off by last year's squad. Former player Tasha Butts, the team's leader last year who now serves as a graduate assistant on Summitt's staff, put together the film.

Moore, who was lost for the season in January after tearing up her knee against Duke, said the video fired her up.

"I felt excited about it," Moore said. "I wanted to get out there and get going. It's amazing when you do feel that energy."

Moore maintained that her season-ending knee injury was buried in the far recesses of her mind and had not affected her play this season. "It's over. I'm not thinking about that," Moore said.

When it happened, however, she was crestfallen.

"I knew I was injured. All I remember is saying, ‘No, no, no. Not right now,' " Moore said. "The main thing I was thinking is I didn't want my teammates to see it."

The senior guard from Lakewood, Calif., is now thinking about the direction of this year's team and, more specifically, her role in its course, especially in practice.

"It starts through me basically, my intensity from the beginning of practice to the end of practice," Moore said.

"I always have to be pushing tempo, getting after the ball, constantly talking on the floor. When I take a possession off or when I don't speak up … it affects our team badly. I have no room for error. I have to come in every single day and get better and help my teammates out."

Summitt was displeased at practice Wednesday to say the least. She tossed out sophomore Dominique Redding after "a series of events," Summitt said. The final straw, which followed a warning to take care of the ball, came after Redding passed it across the court and directly to a practice player.

"Let me just say this. I warned her several times," Summitt said.

The coach is trying to rattle her team, as evidenced by her lineup change after a poor performance against Texas. In the Temple game, Jackson and Nicky Anosike replaced Fluker and Ely. Fluker accepted the demotion with aplomb.

"I played myself out of it," Fluker said. "I wasn't there for my team in the Texas game so I totally understand coach's decision. When given the opportunity in the Temple game, I just tried to get it back, be there for my team as far as whatever I could do to help.

"And then after Temple, these last two practices (Monday and Wednesday), just pushing myself trying to work on the things I haven't been great at like defense and focusing on setting better screens to get my teammates open and finishing my shots and just having the confidence."

Summitt was impressed with Fluker's reaction. Don't be surprised if Fluker is back in the starting lineup tonight against Duke.

"She's has some very good practices. She's had a strong presence offensively and defensively," Summitt said. "As I said earlier she's just in a whole different role with the most responsibility ever in her career."

Fluker, a 6'5 center from Pasadena, Calif., made her first career start this season against UT-Chattanooga.

"It's almost like be careful what you wish for," Summitt said. "I think she wanted that role but now that she's in that role, and I think early on having just experienced it for the first time at this level she struggled. But I do think she's had very good practices, and I think she wants that role. … She's going to be a go-to player for us. I have the confidence that she can do that."

Summitt does have options at the center position in two freshmen, Anosike and Sybil Dosty.

"Obviously Nicky and Sybil both are going to factor in and play," Summitt said. "Obviously Sybil's coming off, in my opinion, a good performance not only against Temple but also against Texas. She was one of the bright spots in our frontline game."

Summitt agreed that the team's offensive struggles have hampered their defensive intensity.

"That is something I've seen year in and year out," Summitt said. "When you're struggling offensively it tends to take a lot of energy out of your defense. You go back on defense worried about what just happened on offense. Let's face it. Defense is hard work."

Fluker admitted the season so far has been frustrating, but she has embraced her fellow centers. She also realizes her shortcomings so far have been self-induced.

"We have each other's back," Fluker said. "I went up to Nicky and said, ‘Baby, I've got your back.' It's that's teamwork, that togetherness. We have each other. We're the three 5s on the team. I'm not making shots, but I have Nicky and Sibyl telling me, ‘Keep your head in the game. You got it.' I can only return the favor. That's my family. Those are my sisters in the paint.

"It's what I worked so hard for and something I really wanted. What I want and what's being shown are different things."

The discrepancy in what is expected and what is seen is puzzling even to the team.

"We're trying to figure ourselves out," Moore said. " … We're not doing the little things that can help us out as a team. It has been a surprise. A lot of people come up to me asking, ‘What's going on?' You just don't have an answer for it."

After the game tonight, Tennessee won't have another game until Dec. 12 when it hosts DePaul. Nobody wants to be around Summitt if the Lady Vols put up a poor performance against Duke.

"No. Not when she's mad," Moore said. "I think we need to go ahead and handle our business and play with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart and pride."


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