So what happened?
"They just didn't compete," Pat Summitt said point-blank after practice ended Thursday.
Was Tennessee that bad or is Rutgers that good?
"Rutgers was very, very good, and we did not compete," Summitt said. "It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing when you put on that uniform, and you face adversity, and you don't compete."
Summitt, who said she was so mad at one point during the game that she couldn't speak, did praise some players for responding in the second half after a miserable first 20 minutes. Shyra Ely finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds. Nicky Anosike played the bulk of the second half at the center position and had 12 points and nine rebounds. Brittany Jackson started the second half and had seven points, three rebounds and two steals. She didn't shoot well, neither did Alexis Hornbuckle, but both players continued to attack the basket.
"We had some bright spots," Summitt said. "I thought Nicky Anosike, and I thought Brittany Jackson competed hard. I thought Shyra stepped up in the second half. Those are probably the three most-competitive players that we had in that game."
Will the lineup change against ODU on Sunday when Tennessee travels to Norfolk, Va.?
"Oh definitely going to change the lineup," Summitt said.
She hasn't decided yet what the changes will be – that will come after Friday's practice and watching tape - but she knows the criteria.
"Energy, passion, competitiveness, being more vocal, more animated about what's happening," Summitt said. "We just need a change. We need something different. We need some energy, someone who's going to step up and bring the intensity and the competitiveness. That's what I'm not seeing with all five starters, that we step out there and we're ready."
The performance was somewhat of surprise because Tennessee had "three really good practices" prior to the game, Summitt said. However, the 2004-05 edition of the Lady Vols has practiced well all season.
"When the game starts, it's a player's game," Summitt said. "The coaches can control practice. We have great practices because they know there're consequences if they don't do what they're supposed to do. We stop, we may make them run, we may make them repeat the action over and over and over. But we're in control. Game starts, players are in control. And there was a glaring lack of leadership in that game."
Given the size difference, it would seem that Tennessee could have dominated the paint. At the start of the game, Sidney Spencer and Tye'sha Fluker both scored inside, but then it stopped. What happened?
"We started out going inside," Summitt said. "We didn't go back inside. They did a nice job on us defending the post. We just didn't create passing lanes. You've got to create passing lanes inside."
Why can't Tennessee knock down more three-point shots (1-9 against Rutgers) with such sharpshooters as Shanna Zolman and Jackson?
"Brittany got off (11) shots. Zolman got off four," Summitt said. "I think there're times when the offense can assist shooters in getting open. Sometimes shooters just have to get themselves open. I don't think we're doing a great job of getting open. I don't think that we're as aggressive as we need to be."
Why is that?
"Only thing I can tell you right now is we don't seem to be in a good place offensively as far as playing together," Summitt said. "Sometimes they look like they're confused. Sometimes they look like they're strangers."
Is that partly because a freshman, Hornbuckle, was thrust into running the point after senior Loree Moore had to have a tonsillectomy?
"She had a lot of pressure on her," Summitt said. "She's a freshman. I give her the benefit of the doubt on the offensive end. She just didn't compete defensively."
Summitt has said she will coach the game but she won't coach effort.
"I'm not going to," Summitt said. "I think you have to have the desire to compete. It's about me wanting to stop the person in front of me and on offense me wanting to beat the person who's defending me. From my perspective right now we're not all what I call fierce game competitors. But we need to be."
During the Rutgers game, the television camera focused several times on Summitt on the bench, where she looked unnaturally calm.
"That's what everybody said. I was so mad I couldn't speak," Summitt said. "I was just very concerned about what I was watching. As a coach you can rant and rave, but eventually I think the players have to understand that so much of what happens when the game starts is what they make happen, good or bad. I think sometimes if you're relying on a coach to bring all the emotion, it's short term. We're trying to work long term and long range, long term in the game, long range in the season. It has to come from the team. I've had other teams like this. They weren't very successful."
What do you expect to see against ODU?
"To be honest with you I have no idea," Summitt said. "It's Jekyll and Hyde. Which team is going to show up?"
The return of a senior leader might help, especially if she's healthy. Moore had to have her tonsils removed after suffering from chronic sinus and throat problems that interfered with her breathing and disrupted her sleep. At one practice a few days before the surgery she hyperventilated after running sprints and needed medical assistance.
Moore has a follow-up doctor's appointment on Jan. 3 and is expected to be cleared to practice later that day. If she gets in game shape – and she was doing conditioning work on the sideline Thursday – she is likely to play against UConn on Jan. 8.
"She's had some very hard bike workouts that she tolerated very well," said Jenny Moshak, associate athletic director for sports medicine.
Freshman forward Candace Parker, who had knee surgery in September, had her first practice of the season Sunday. But she experienced some knee swelling – aggravated in part by having to fly to New Jersey on Sunday and then to Knoxville on Thursday – so she was limited to sideline conditioning, shooting, a full-court layup drill and one half-court drill with the post players on Thursday afternoon.
In the post drill, the players seal off the defender in the low post and then go in for a layup. When Parker got the ball, she elevated before she shot, and her hand touched the backboard after she released the ball. She also dropped the ball in once with two hands, with her wrists level with the rim.
"It's hard for me to look at her," Summitt said wistfully, since Parker can't play yet. "She's got a presence."
Anyway Parker plays against ODU?
"I wouldn't think so," Summitt said.
Another player possibly out for the ODU game is freshman center Sybil Dosty, who came down awkwardly and injured her left foot at practice Thursday. She will be held out of practice Friday, said Jenny Moshak, associate athletics director for sports medicine, and will be limited to rest, ice, treatment and free throw shooting.
Dosty has had problems with the foot with tenderness in the tendons on the top of her foot, and that has already limited her minutes in games.
"When we have had hard practices, the foot gets sore," Moshak said.
X-rays indicated there were no broken bones, but the foot is still tender, and Dosty reported feeling a "sharp shooting pain," Moshak said. Dosty missed several days of practice earlier this season when she suffered a concussion in practice.
Also injured at Thursday's practice was Jackson, who turned her right ankle after landing on someone else's foot. Jackson went down in pain, and had to be helped to the sideline. She had the ankle re-taped and returned to the court.
"Brittany's a tough kid," Moshak said. "The ankle brace saved her from something bad."
She has an ankle sprain and will receive treatment, but will be able to practice Friday.
Moshak said the swelling that Parker experienced will keep her comeback measured in small increments.
"She had two hard practices. She swelled. We held her back," Moshak said. "She warmed up for the (Rutgers) game. She's not going to play yet."
The swelling had decreased somewhat by Thursday – though flying will worsen it – so Parker was limited again. If the swelling is gone by Friday, she will practice.
"We're taking it day by day," Moshak said.
Parker won't play in a game until she can complete at least week of practice without swelling. That would make her doubtful against UConn with the earliest possible return the Jan. 13 home game against Arkansas. Tennessee doesn't want to insert Parker into a game or two if she's not able to complete the season and then burn a year of eligibility.