"We hope she'll get tired," VanDerveer joked. "Maybe her knee's bothering her. She shouldn't do too much too early. That's really bad."
"She played more minutes than I expected to play her. But she hadn't played a basketball game since last April, so I thought she could afford the minutes," Summitt said with a smile.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the arena. CSS will have the television broadcast, and former Lady Vol Nikki McCray will provide color commentary.
Stanford, 8-0, is ranked No. 2 in the nation and brings a different team to Knoxville than the one that lost twice last season to the Lady Vols - in overtime in Stanford, Calif., and on a last-second shot in the NCAA tournament that sent Tennessee to the Final Four. That team was led by All-American Nicole Powell, who now plays in the WNBA.
"Just from watching film on them I think that Wiggins has brought a lot of energy, really strong guard play," Summitt said. "They ran everything through Powell last year. You knew it was going to be Powell and Co. This is a different look in that they appear to be a lot more team-oriented and more balanced in their attack and still committed to getting the ball inside. They're playing up and down, playing more zone than man. That's a different look for them. I think Wiggins and Smith have really brought a lot to their inside game.
"I think this is a better Stanford team than a year ago, take nothing away from Nicole Powell, a great, great player. But I think they relied on her a lot, and now they seem to be relying more on their inside game and their guard play. I think they're better. I really do."
Wiggins, a 5'11 guard from La Jolla, Calif., is playing point guard for Stanford this season. Another 5'11 freshman guard, Alexis Hornbuckle, who has started three games at point guard for No. 9-ranked Tennessee, 7-2, is very familiar with her game.
"I know Candice Wiggins will probably guard me or Sa'de," said Hornbuckle of Dunbar, W.Va., who encountered Wiggins in AAU ball. "I played against her before. She's a big ball of energy. I've never seen the girl get tired at any event that we played in. I'm just looking for a lot of pressure and a lot of intensity, probably the most pressure and intensity that we've faced all year so far."
The Lady Vols will be looking at a lot of zone defense if Stanford – which will pick up full court – plays to form from what they have shown so far this season. Joe Ciampi, who retired from Auburn after last season and now works as a consultant, has traveled to Stanford to show the staff the finer points of his zone defense that caused fits for SEC opponents. He also visited Knoxville in the off-season.
"Based on what I've seen on tape I think they're committed to running Ciampi's match-up," Summitt said. "Wiggins is the pirate."
VanDerveer said Wiggins had the Tennessee game "figuratively" circled on her calendar because she's a competitor.
"Candice brings a great competitive attitude. That's the No. 1 thing," VanDerveer said. "She's a very intelligent player, she's a very hard-working player, she's very coachable. She has great athleticism, speed and quickness. She can score. She works real hard. By far her strength is her competitive desire and that's something that our team really needs, her toughness, her fearlessness. Some players look forward to playing the easier teams, this is a game she's looking forward to.
"She's had this game circled on her calendar saying ‘I want to play against the best.' That's a good thing. I mean it figuratively. Some people start drooling, start stuttering, ‘Tennessee, what are we going to do?' And she's like excited. She's like ‘This is a challenge. I'm excited about this challenge.' In a positive way, I think, because of her competitiveness and knowing what a great program they have."
Wiggins will be joined in the backcourt by guard Kelley Suminski (5'9 senior, Chester, N.J.), who also can play point guard. Smith, a 6'3 junior from San Anselmo, Calif., who transferred from Duke, will be at center. The forwards are expected to be Sebnem Kimyacioglu (5'11 senior, Mountain View, Calif.) and T'Nae Thiel (6'1 senior, Weatherford, Texas). Senior guard Susan King Borchardt of Richfield, Minn., is expected to miss another week with a foot injury. Junior Kristen Newlin, a 6'5 forward/center from Riverton, Wyo., and senior forward Azella Perryman, a 6'1 forward from Anchorage, Alaska, are key reserves.
"We're a more experienced team with five seniors," VanDerveer said. "We're looking to press more, we're playing more zone. We're playing a different style. This is kind of a more-relaxed team for whatever reason."
The team also is more balanced, as Summitt saw on tape. VanDerveer said this year's team has attempted 50 less 3-pointers at the same point in the season than last year's.
"Nicole played with the ball in her hands," VanDerveer said. "She created for other people very well. … It made for a tendency for other people to stand around. I think our post game is better, and I think our offense is better designed for this team. We're maybe looking to go inside a little more. We're a more balanced team."
Since Wiley-Gatewood played in Southern California, VanDerveer said she was readily aware of how good she was at a young age.
"I know Sa'de, and I know what a point guard can do for a team," she said. "As a freshman in high school, she had a great presence, is someone that makes other people better, really moves the ball very well. She can make a really big difference for them.
"Sa'de brings it together quickly That allows someone like Alexis Hornbuckle, who's another great high school player, to play her true position (on the wing). To me, as good as Gatewood is, as good as Hornbuckle is, the heart and soul of this team is Ely, Zolman and Jackson. I look at the plays they make, you've got to stop them."
Summitt did tinker with the lineup in the second half of Sunday's win over TCU when she started Brittany Jackson over Spencer. That was intended as a message to Spencer to shoot more. Did it work?
"Who knows?" Summitt said of the somewhat quirky Spencer. "That one I would be guessing. But I do think she understands she has to be more aggressive."
Against Stanford, Summitt expects the game to be more of a defensive battle.
"I think it's going to be a great game," she said. "I think both teams are going to be very committed defensively. There'll be more defense than offense, but I think both teams will come in here with a commitment to defense and rebounding."
For her part VanDerveer would like to swing the rivalry back into the win column for the Cardinal. Tennessee leads the series 16-4 and has won the last eight contests.
"I do believe it's a win-win for us when we play them. I wish it were a more-balanced rivalry," VanDerveer said. "Women's basketball is kind of strange in that there are like these superpowers in women's basketball. Tennessee is a superpower in women's basketball. We may not be able to compete with them year in and year out, but we're working as hard as we can do that.
"For the most part our games have been extremely competitive. Sometimes there's certain teams that maybe it becomes even a mental thing. I wouldn't want to admit that, but for all we do to beat Tennessee, and then Tennessee sort of has the same thing with Connecticut. It just might work on you a little bit mentally. The good thing is you change players so hopefully kids get more confident. It's very disappointing to play a great game, but I don't think that there's any shame in losing to Tennessee, nor is there any shame in losing to Stanford."
A defensive tussle bodes well for Wiley-Gatewood, who drew praise from Summitt in practice Monday for her help defense.
"She's constantly aware of the ball and her player," Summitt said. "They had the ball on one wing (Sunday) looking to attack the post. She was on this wing and next thing I know she's standing under the basket ready to help on the play. She sees things. She anticipates action. She sees, she anticipates, and she's there. She sees the ball, she sees the floor."
"I picked up our defense pretty fast," said Wiley-Gatewood, who has only practiced for about a week. "Really she just wants me to help the post. You've got to have heart to play defense."
As far as her offense, Wiley-Gatewood keeps her goals simple: "Get my team involved, create, get everybody open and hopefully by me creating will get my shot open also," she said.
The surge in guard play and the ability of Wiley-Gatewood and Hornbuckle to find the open shooter have brought a big smile to Zolman's face.
"It's a lot of fun playing with them, because I know if I just run the floor I'm going to get it," Zolman said. "Sa'de brings so much to this team with her passing ability, with her penetration and kick ability. It's just fun to play it. You saw how much energy they brought."
Zolman has spent most of this season either struggling to get open or shooting with a defender stuck to her. She now anticipates getting the ball when she's wide open, a scenario that caught her by surprise a few times against TCU.
"You're not used to it," Zolman said. You're not used to not having a hand in your face. They bring a lot to the team. It's going to be exciting."
Tennessee assistant coach Dean Lockwood noted the sense of optimism, especially among the post players who have struggled to be productive this season but who have made progress over the last three games.
"Anytime scoring can become easier, and you have players on the team who make scoring easier I think everybody walks around with a little extra bounce in this step and a little wider smile on their face," Lockwood said. "They were recipients of great plays, great passes. Your big thing there is keeping your hands up, being ready, expecting that the ball is always going to be dropped on you."
Although it's only December and a non-conference game, both programs want a win, especially since neither team plays again until after Christmas.
"Obviously I told them today I wanted to enjoy the holidays," Summitt said after practice Monday. "First and foremost I wanted them to enjoy their time at home over the holidays."
"Like coach said we want to go home on Christmas break happy," Hornbuckle said. "We want her to be happy on Christmas break so when we come back it's not that bad. You just want to end on a good note. We've been building, progressing, keep going forward."
LOCKWOOD'S LOOK: UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood prepared a scouting report on Stanford. Here's his pre-game take:
"Stanford's a team that plays very smart basketball, they're a very savvy team. They've got a lot of experienced upperclassmen, who have been through the wars. They know how to operate. They are physically a strong team.
"In Wiggins, you've got a player who can hurt you from any place on the court. She's a great finisher. She can drive and get to the paint. She can also shoot. They have a good inside game with Smith and Thiel and Newlin. They're playing two of those kids more often than not. Suminski is a kid who can make shots from any angle from the arc so you've got to guard her.
"I think they're smart. I think they're strong. And I also think they don't beat themselves. You've got to beat them and take away some of the things they do. We have to assert our pressure, our physicality. We have to assert our transition game. If we can do that I think we can take this Stanford team and make them less formidable. But if we allow them to come in and play catch as I call it on offense, take the shots they want, and we're not taking away transition points or paint points, it's a long night for the Volunteers."
Lockwood also broke down what he's looking for from UT's three centers – Fluker, Sybil Dosty and Nicky Anosike.
"We have to do a good job of limiting paint touches. (Against TCU and its single star in the middle Sandora Irvin), we called the paint the no-catch zone. That's got to be the limited-to-no-catch zone against Stanford. They may not have a single player as great as that in terms of her overall game, but let me tell you the three players I just mentioned, Brooke Smith in particular, can really hurt you if you let her just set up shop and get the ball. We have to do a good job defensively in not letting them have the ball right in the paint. We've got to force them out.
"Second thing we've got to limit offensive rebounds for them. We can't let them have second opportunities.
"The third is we have to be efficient with what we're doing. We're not getting great production right now, but it's certainly better than it's been. If we can be efficient with our touches, then we can exert pressure on their defense. If we're not a legitimate threat then that's going to hurt our perimeter people even more."
INJURY REPORT: Lady Vol freshman forward Candace Parker had an MRI done and X-rays taken of her left knee Monday. Team orthopedist Dr. William Youmans will examine the results today before the Stanford game and render a decision – cleared to practice or more rehab. The issues are knee strength and swelling.
"She said she feels great. It's amazing," Summitt said. "She's just been relentless in her rehab. The thing about her she's just fearless. We're going to have to ease her into this.
"She's real excited that Sa'de's back. I said, ‘You are?' And she said, ‘Yeah, I can't wait to play with her.' People enjoy playing with unselfish guards."
Parker had to be chased off the court Monday and into the whirlpool. She was shooting jump shots and playing a low-key game of one-on-one with junior center Tye'sha Fluker after practice. She wanted to play longer but acquiesced to orders from Jenny Moshak, the assistant athletic director for sports medicine, to head to the locker room.
"I would rather have someone I have to pull the reins on any day," Moshak said.
Meanwhile, senior guard Loree Moore continues to recover from a tonsillectomy Dec. 10. She was courtside at practice Monday for about half of the session.
"She has her good days and her bad days," Moshak said. "One day she's able to push some calories and some food, and the next day it's back to liquids again. It's just kind of a roller coaster at this point."