"It's a little bit different, but they're a team that's dangerous," coach Pat Summitt said. "Not being in the top 25 is certainly a different look. Like everyone, they'll be up to play Tennessee."
"It's a road game and a tough place to play," she added. "This means a lot to us and them. It's two teams wanting to win."
"Playing Tennessee always gives you a good indication of where you are as a team," Louisiana Tech head coach Kurt Budke says on the team's Web site. "They are a great measuring stick. They have the greatest coach in the country and some of the greatest talent."
Both teams are struggling to score in the post. Louisiana Tech had to come back from a double-digit deficit to defeat Alcorn State, 62-61, on Monday.
"It's ironic that we're both dealing with something that used to be a strength, but now we're searching to get some consistency," Summitt said. "We have two young freshmen and then we have Fluker who has yet to step up and play big for us consistently."
Junior Tye'sha Fluker wasn't a starter until this season. Freshman Nicky Anosike has started once in her place, but Anosike's offensive game is still in the incubator. Dosty had a breakout game against DePaul, but is not ready to start, especially on the road in Ruston.
"She plays to her strength," Summitt said of Dosty. "I'm watching our post game, and she's the one post player that is committed to scoring on the block. That's like her front porch. She goes and stands on the front porch and says, ‘Give me the ball.' We're constantly trying to get the other post players to do that."
In film sessions, Fluker and Anosike "saw the effectiveness of Sybil's play," Summitt said. "Because of that I think they understand we need low-post presence. Someone's going to give it to us. If I were them, and I wanted my name called I would show coach that everyday in practice. I thought Fluker showed that" at practice Monday.
Louisiana Tech is expected to start three guards, junior Tasha Crain (5'7, Kingsland, Ark), sophomore Shan Moore (5'10, Minden, La.) and senior Lakiste Barkus (5'6, Long Beach, Calif.) and two sophomores in the post, Ty Moore (6'2, Shreveport, La.), and Tamika Kursh (6'1, Ft. Smith, Ark.).
Ty Moore has a 1-year-old daughter name Ta'jah. Senior guard Erica Taylor, who is married to pro boxer Jermain Taylor, is out for the first half of the season because of pregnancy. She intends to return to the court in January. The baby is due any day.
"I'm very excited, I'm nervous and I'm happy," Taylor says on the team's Web site, www.latechsports.com. "Jermain and I are both very happy. I do want to return (to the court in time for conference play). I'm determined to do that."
The Lady Vols left Knoxville on Tuesday afternoon for Louisiana and were going to practice at the Thomas Assembly Center before tonight's game. The game will be telecast by CSS at 7:30 EST. Commentary will be done by former Lady Techsters coach Leon Barmore with Bob Kesling providing play-by-play. The first 5,000 fans (capacity is 8,000) will receive spirit towels at the door.
"I would say there's a good chance if she has good preparation down there that she could be our first off the bench," Summitt said of Dosty following Monday's practice. "Dom was (against DePaul), but obviously she took care of that today in practice. She's not an option."
Dominique Redding was tossed off the court for lack of competitiveness in defensive drills. Each rotation of players had to get two defensive stops against the practice team before they could leave the court.
"They were having to get two stops to get off. They got frustrated with her. That's good. It's good when your teammates call you out instead of the coaches," Summitt said. "The thing with Dominique she has to learn to bring it every day. With her, she has some great days and then she gives in to fatigue. Today was a great example of that."
Summitt had Redding remain in the gym, where she ran sprints and later joined the practice players in a full-court scrimmage.
Redding's practice habits are frustrating for Summitt, because Redding brings one attribute that Summitt is seeking, and that is offensive aggressiveness.
Summitt wants Spencer to shoot more, and "rode her pretty hard at halftime" against DePaul, she said. Spencer had one point at halftime and finished the game with 11.
"You've got Spencer shooting a great percentage but not shooting enough," Summitt said. "But as I told her, it's just a matter of time. If I decide to go with Dominique, I don't have to worry about telling her to shoot. If Dominique's going to be more aggressive than Spencer, then Spencer will switch jobs with her. If Parker's healthy it might inspire Spencer to shoot more because Parker will put the ball up. That's what I told her.
"Right now we need you taking a lot more shots, and you're not taking on the responsibility. So you want me to give it to someone else? And she said, ‘I will take on the responsibility.' So we're going to see."
Freshman forward Candace Parker has been out since having knee surgery in September. She will see the team orthopedist within the next two weeks, but Summitt has said it is unlikely she would return to the court in December.
Last Sunday, Tennessee fell behind DePaul by 15 and was still trailing by nine at the half. The Lady Vols went on to win, 78-63. Summitt will be looking for that same fighting spirit against Louisiana Tech.
"They're going to have to fight," Summitt said. "They said at halftime, ‘We're not losing this game.' "
Zolman and Brittany Jackson should be happy to see the Lady Techsters. Jackson has averaged 13.5 points against them and Zolman, 13. Spencer leads the rebounding stat against Louisiana Tech with six per game.
The shooters would benefit from more breakout performances by the post players.
"If we had great inside numbers, then people have to play us straight-up," Summitt said. They couldn't key on our shooters."
Lockwood is hoping that Dosty's numbers are a harbinger of more to come from her and the other centers.
"It's great to see some success from kids that work hard and get rewarded," Lockwood said. "I think she did a great job of keeping her job very simple. Sybil has skills. Sybil definitely has skills. It's great to see her come in and light us right away."
As far as Fluker, "she has to find a way to carry over what she's doing in the practice setting into a game setting," Lockwood said. "It's just relaxing and just going and being a player. Sometimes you can do the paralysis by analysis. Tye has to find a way to play as hard in a game as practice. We've got to get her to compete and play with that same intensity level.
"Tye is learning a lot what it means to move from the second-chair violin, figuratively, to the first-chair violin. Last year all the pressure was on Ashley (Robinson). Ashley took the heat. Now Ashley's gone and here's Tye who is the Ashley in this group. So I think she's learning a lot about the old saying about to whom much is given much will be required."
Anosike played seven minutes and snared three rebounds against DePaul. She also had a huge block at the end of the first half. More importantly, she hit both of her free throws. Anosike leads the team in free throw attempts but has made only 46.2 percent (12-26).
"Nicky is active. She generates a lot of action when she's in the game. She makes things happen," Lockwood said. "Nicky is going to be playing basketball for us. There're going to be games where we need Nicky's defense, we need her rebounding, we need her toughness. So she will be in the mix."
The centers know Lockwood will be watching. They also know how much he is behind them and wants them to do well.
"Dean's great," Dosty said. "He always so positive and so energetic. Even when we aren't playing well he's always there to pump us back up. He's just a great guy."
SHANNA'S SHOOTING: Junior guard Shanna Zolman is being hounded by defenders this season and has struggled to get open looks at the basket. She is shooting 31 percent from the floor (23-74).
"I just think that Shanna has to get herself open, and when they are keying on her become a better playmaker," Summitt said. "Brittany has really played well off the dribble. They just have to know they are marked players, and they're going to have to handle that."
"It's just a matter of getting myself open," Zolman said, "whether it's using a screen or changing my speeds and using different cuts to get open and back-dooring. Obviously they're denying me hard so the back doors are a real key. If I get a couple of them, then they'll back up. I'll be able to get the ball easier."
Zolman scored one point against DePaul from the free throw line, but Summitt cited her leadership on the floor and her contributions to get shots for her teammates. Zolman played some at the point guard position because Loree Moore is out for up to a month after undergoing a tonsillectomy on Friday.
"I knew early on that my offense wasn't going," Zolman said. "I knew with the absence of Loree I needed to step up even more as a leader and being more vocal, doing the little things for the team."
Although the attention can be flattering for a player – DePaul coach Doug Bruno moved his best defender to Zolman – it is also frustrating.
"That's how I've been guarded my whole life," Zolman said. "It's teaching me to move better without the ball, and that's something I really need to improve on, moving without the ball, not standing, getting myself open and not depending on screens to get myself open. It is flattering in a way that I do draw one of the best defenders, but again as a team we step up. If I'm denied, if I'm not having a great night, somebody else steps up. If they're not having a great night I'll try to step up."
SHANNA'S STREAK: Zolman tied the Lady Vol record for consecutive free throws with 45, a streak that dated back to January of last season. She shares the record with former Lady Vol Tiffany Woosley. Zolman hit the front end of a one-and-one, but missed the second one.
"I didn't even know," Zolman said. "Nobody told me until after the game. They said, ‘Are you trying to kill us or what? You just tied the record and then you missed!' I had no idea going into it whatsoever.
"To tell the truth, obviously that's not a goal of mine (to set a record). I just want to make my free throws. It almost is nice to get a miss here or there because it keeps the pressure off. Whenever you miss, you can hear everybody in the crowd. I could just hear the air go out of the arena" Sunday in the DePaul game.
"I'll just start a new one next game. We'll go from there."