If No. 5 Tennessee (15-3, 5-0) starts tonight's game against No. 19 Georgia (16-5, 5-2) the same way, the Lady Vols' SEC home game winning streak of 56 games would likely end. The game is at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena (ESPN2, Lady Vol Radio Network) and will be the first Lady Vol game broadcast from the arena on high definition television.
The Lady Bulldogs will challenge the Lady Vols with the quickest guards they've seen since the Rutgers game and a phenomenal post player in freshman Tasha Humphrey.
By Friday's practice Summitt wasn't thinking too much about South Carolina and was instead focused on defending Georgia.
But before she went to sleep last Thursday night – the team arrived in Knoxville about 11:30 p.m. – she watched the game again.
"I replayed that several times," Summitt said. "But I won't watch it again. I don't expect us to do that."
She did pull out some snippets of film to show her players before Friday's practice.
"We watched all of our turnovers and all of our defensive breakdowns in our one-on-one and then we watched all of our good offensive possessions so they got a taste of really ugly, very bad and good," Summitt said. "And ugly had more possessions than very bad and good. They saw it and then obviously we spent the bulk on practice on our defense."
The turnovers – Tennessee had 21, including eight by Shyra Ely – were "real ugly," Summitt said.
"Really it may have been a jump ball between turnovers and layups but really what happened was we turned it over – that was ugly – and it was uglier at the end. It was about the ugliest thing I'd seen because they scored layups."
Tennessee is entering the toughest stretch of its SEC schedule – Georgia here and at Florida this week and then an away game Feb. 10 against LSU with Ole Miss coming to Knoxville before that.
"I think we'll have a much better gauge after our game Monday night," Summitt said. "Georgia will challenge us with overall team speed and quickness and transition defense. They'll be the quickest perimeter game we've faced since Rutgers. I think we're good. I think some of our quicker players are getting beat more than some of our players who are not as athletic. We're getting beat off the dribble too much by some of our veteran players. Ely got beat the other night. She should be one-on-one really solid. So should (Loree) Moore, so should (Alexis) Hornbuckle. Sometimes we're not doing a good job of spacing. We spent the bulk of our practice on Friday working on our defense and obviously the bulk of our practice (Saturday) working on offense."
Summitt has decided to stick with the same lineup she used against South Carolina with Alexis Hornbuckle, Brittany Jackson and Shyra Ely on the perimeter and Tye'sha Fluker and Nicky Anosike inside.
Georgia is expected to start: Alexis Kendrick, 5'7 junior guard, 6.5 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game (Inglewood, Calif.); Katie Frye, 6'0 senior guard, 2.5 ppg, 1.3 rbg (Jasper, Ga.); Sherill Baker, 5'8 junior guard, 11.1 ppg, 4.7 rbg (Stone Mountain, Ga.); Rebecca Rowsey, 6'3 sophomore forward, 4.9 ppg, 5.4 rbg (Henderson, Tenn.); and Tasha Humphrey, 6'3 freshman forward, 18.7 ppg, 8.8 rbg (Gainesville, Ga.)
Tennessee has several key players off the bench including three who have started games this year in Loree Moore, Shanna Zolman and Sidney Spencer. Freshmen Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood also should see significant playing time if her aching knees allow it.
Sophomore guards Cori Chambers, 5'9, who averages 13.5 ppg, and Janese Hardrick, 5'6, who averages 8.2 ppg, bolster Georgia's bench. Other significant contributors are Megan Darrah, a 6'3 guard/forward and Jessica Pierce, a 6'2 forward.
"They've got balance, they've got depth, they've got speed, quickness, they've got good post play," Summitt said.
After Friday's practice Summitt – who said "I'm trying to keep it one game at a time myself" – had only seen film of Georgia playing Texas on Nov. 21. By Saturday's practice, she had watched significantly more tape, including the Jan. 27 game against Florida, a 20-point victory for Georgia, 81-61.
"I thought in the game against Florida – both teams played pretty well – they got the momentum late," Summitt said. "They do that. They're a 40-minute team. They picked up their intensity late in that game to open that. The score was not indicative of the type of game it was for 30 minutes."
The sluggish start against South Carolina – Summitt said the team "wanted to flip the switch when they got there" – isn't worrisome to the coach and may actually have helped her cause.
"It was probably a good thing," she said. "Coming off a game like that it got their attention. This team has some pride. One thing about this team they want to look good. They didn't look very good, and they saw it for themselves. The fact that they've got a TV game and it's Georgia I would be surprised if they didn't come ready to play."
Georgia has struggled with inconsistent play this season – the team was booted from its plush 3,600-square-foot locker room in early December and wasn't allowed back in until this weekend – but their performance against Florida was encouraging to their coach before taking on Tennessee.
"We've been playing well. We want to sustain that. We want to get a ‘W.' I think it's all of the above," coach Andy Landers said. "You want to see how well you can play in this environment. You want to see if you build on the road success you had a week ago (at Mississippi State). It's kind of the continuation of a growth process, I guess."
Tennessee is very familiar with the growth process, especially with two freshmen in the lineup in Hornbuckle and Anosike. Neither started off well against South Carolina. Anosike had defensive lapses – she is starting primarily because of the energy she brings on defense – and Hornbuckle was scoreless after only playing 11 minutes.
"We didn't come to the gym mentally ready to play the level of basketball we want to play," Summitt said. "They didn't get off the bus that way. Anosike was bad. She didn't come ready to defend. Our two freshmen just weren't ready."
Summitt was encouraged by the play of freshman Wiley-Gatewood, who logged 17 minutes. She didn't score, but she had six rebounds, and most importantly to Summitt, she had only two turnovers.
"I thought she did the best job of taking care of the basketball," Summitt said. "I thought she did the best job of pushing tempo and creating for other people. What she did in transition, behind the back pass. It was a beautiful pass. She created some good looks for other people. I didn't think we were getting the same from our other guard play."
Despite Hornbuckle's sub-par performance against South Carolina, Summitt will still start her over the senior Moore at the point position.
"I thought our two freshmen looked like freshmen in the beginning of that game," Summitt said Saturday after practice. "That's probably a little complacency on their part. I'm going to leave her in the lineup. I wasn't sure until today. In the last two days no one else was better."
Despite losing her starting position, Moore is circumspect and trying to make sure her disappointment doesn't hurt the team.
"It's been interesting, my role, my high expectations as a point guard and leader on this team. It's been a struggle for me," Moore said. "I try not to pay too much attention to it if I'm in or I'm out, coming off the bench.
"I just try to make sure I stay focused and do the things I'm supposed to do like keeping that leadership role that I'm supposed to be in at all times no matter what's going on. Positive energy and making sure our team's up and ready to go for the games. Those are my main focuses and not worrying too much about if I'm starting here or if I'm not. That's just going to mess me all up and what I'm here to do."
She also has assumed a big sister role to Hornbuckle and Wiley-Gatewood.
"I try to help them out a lot," Moore said. Summitt "wants to speed up their process at the point guard position and get them ready for next year. I'm trying to get them now so they don't make the same mistakes and have to carry on down the line. I'm trying to teach them early so they can prepare themselves throughout this season so they can be ready for next season. I've been in the position. I know what she expects out of your point guard. I'm trying to make it a little bit easier for them.
"They're casual players like I was when I first got here, and I'm trying to break that early. They still have it. Sa'de is a really laidback person, and same with Alexis. They're more flashy-type players. You've got to know when and when you can't do those things so I'm trying to teach them now. I try to keep them under my wing as much as possible to keep them out of trouble."
Fellow senior Ely is leading the team by averaging 13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Ely, who moved to the perimeter this season after three years at the high post, has played in every game this season and started all but one. She scored 16 points against South Carolina, which more than made up for her eight turnovers in the long run.
"When we start struggling she starts trying to do too much," Summitt said. "I thought in the second half she had some really great offensive plays and decisions. The charging fouls I beg to differ. I liked her aggressiveness, and I really felt like she got there at least twice. I just thought watching her – the way she comes in – she does a good job of going up and under and around. I thought a couple of those were obviously in my opinion not Shyra's fault. I go back and look at her turnovers I thought she was playing too fast, trying to do too much."
"I just have to be a lot more careful," Ely said. "During the course of the game I'm just trying to play, and sometimes you get turnovers. I look back and just trying to get things going and create. That's basketball. I'll look at film, learn what I need to do better and hopefully it won't happen again. I wasn't pleased with my rebounding at all. It's something I take pride in."
Ely will log time at both the perimeter and post positions during games. During Friday's defensive-oriented practice, Ely spent more time with the post players.
"I do play both. For the most part it depends on where she needs me," Ely said. "I like playing the post because I think it gives me a better opportunity to rebound. I like the guard play, too. I'm a post at heart. That's my bread and butter."
Hornbuckle will be looking to bounce back from a poor showing against South Carolina.
"Coach wasn't satisfied with my intensity," Hornbuckle said. "I just kind of took it as a learning experience and come fired up for Georgia."
The freshman guard will have added incentive because she'll be playing against Humphrey, a childhood friend and fellow freshman for Georgia.
"I haven't played against her since I was 10 or 11," Hornbuckle said. "She stayed with me over the summer for AAU. We played together. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a fun match-up. I like watching her play. It's going to have to come down to let the best team win. It gets me fired up. Whoever wins we're going to brag to each other. We're going to pick each other up after that. I want her to play well, and I wish our team to play well."
Despite the addition of Humphrey, Summitt thinks last year's post play was stronger for Georgia.
"Their inside game is not quite where it was a year ago," she said. "I thought (Christi) Thomas really held them together. I think anytime you blend in new young players that are going to play big roles … like for us we struggled a little bit."
That doesn't mean Summitt isn't concerned about Humphrey.
"When she gets in her zone she's Baby Charles Barkley with three-point range, post up, fall away," Summitt said. "I watched her out in Portland when we were recruiting her she put on a show and is as confident as any freshman I've ever seen."
It's Georgia guards that also concern Summitt, especially after the performance against the Gamecocks, and remembering back to the loss against Rutgers, which did in Tennessee with its quickness at the guard spots.
"My first thought after the game (against South Carolina) the weakest aspect of our game was turning the ball over and not getting back in transition," Summitt said. "That's obviously what Georgia would exploit even in greater fashion because of their speed and quickness. Obviously we're better prepared to play against the speed and quickness that Rutgers brought – that Georgia will bring – now that Moore is back and Gatewood is better. Hornbuckle is more seasoned."
Summitt saw one other bright spot against South Carolina – the play of Spencer. Her only points came from the foul line – she was 0-4 from the field – but she had six rebounds, one block, one assist and one steal.
"She got good looks," Summitt said. "She played really sound defense."
After Friday's practice the players who gave up dribble drives against South Carolina had to run sprints. Spencer stood on the sideline alone because she didn't give up any in 24 minutes of play.
"She had six boards. She's been playing a lot of minutes and had (only) one rebound," Summitt said. "She's a shooter. She suffering a little bit there, but I'm not worried about that."
Spencer will need to bring that same level of intensity to the floor against Georgia. Summitt also will be looking for rebounders to stop the Lady Bulldogs from scoring on second-chance points. Despite Georgia's struggles some this season – they have lost on the road in the SEC to LSU and Kentucky – Summitt knows the team will be a formidable opponent.
"They're always a dangerous team" she said. "People might say they're struggling, but nobody really wants to play them in the postseason would they? It's like us. They might say we're struggling, but do you want to play Tennessee? Do you want to play Georgia? And when Tennessee and Georgia play … that's the last SEC opponent to beat us so they obviously have reasons to be confident coming in and playing us."
THE RIVALS: Longtime Lady Vol fans don't point to Vanderbilt or to UConn as their most-hated rival; they point to Georgia. And the Lady Bulldogs fans probably point right back. Tennessee is the only SEC team to have an all-time winning record against Georgia and leads the series, 31-14.
The last two games were thrillers. Georgia won at the SEC Tournament 68-66 in overtime after Janese Hardrick scored with tenths of a second left. In the regular season meeting in Athens last season, Brittany Jackson hit two free throws with a half-second left to secure a 70-67 Tennessee win.
The two teams have met for a national title in 1996; the NCAA semifinals in 1995; the Elite Eight in 1983 and 1984; for the SEC regular season championship in 1996 and 2000; and for the SEC Tournament title in 1992 and 1999.
"I've said on a number of occasions, I don't know of any two programs who have played for as many different marbles as Tennessee and Georgia," Lady Bulldogs coach Andy Landers said.
Monday night will be the 46th meeting between the two teams and their two longtime coaches in Landers (26th year) and Pat Summitt (31st year).
"Within the league you have teams that you have bigger games with," Summitt said. "The rivalry is a little bit more intense, and that's usually based on how competitive the games have been. Georgia is one of those teams that I think we have that. We have that for them, and I'm sure they'll have it for us.
"I was listening to the (Georgia-Florida) broadcast, and (former Georgia player) Christi Thomas was doing the broadcast and toward the end she starting talking about those orange uniforms. That's because of the level of play of both programs."
The presence of Landers and Summitt adds a sub-plot, but Summitt thinks that angle of the rivalry has diminished.
"I don't feel the same way maybe I did at one time when the recruiting was so intense," Summitt said. "I'll leave it at that. I don't think it's like it used to be. I just think that we got into a lot of intense recruiting situations, and I think that just intensified the game. For whatever reason I don't feel it has come down to that being a factor. Certainly hasn't been on my part."
Landers also is from Tennessee. He went to Friendsville High School in Blount County, and his wife, Pam Landers, is from nearby Louisville, Tenn.
"He's done a great job," Summitt said. "Obviously he's from Tennessee, got Tennessee players on his roster. Rowsey this year is doing a real good job. It'll be very intense and competitive for 40 minutes. I think it will come down more to execution. They'll know us, and we'll know them."
Tennessee usually plays it SEC games on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons, but the Georgia game was moved to Monday to accommodate television. Summitt is thankful for a 7 p.m. tipoff instead of 7:30 or 8 p.m. That allows her to make it home to spend some time with her husband, R.B., and their 14-year-old son, Tyler.
"I told R.B. it makes all the difference in the world," Summitt said. "I actually got to see Tyler before he went to sleep. I prefer a Sunday afternoon, but I think the fact our weeknight games are at 7, it still allows families to come with kids around the area."
REDDING ON THE ROAD: UT sophomore Dominique Redding missed the last two road games against Auburn and South Carolina, because Summitt didn't want her to miss any class. Redding's travel status has been restored, and she will accompany the team to Florida. Redding is from Clearwater, Fla.
"She's going to go with us," Summitt said.
Redding had two good days of practice Friday and Saturday, and could be an asset against Georgia because of her ability to shoot from outside. She also is an 86 percent free throw shooter.
"When she missed the last road game she came back and had a real good practice," Summitt said. "She's playing right now much more aggressive, much more inspired. Sometimes you don't know how much you love something until it's taken away from you. I told her unless something happens between now and Wednesday, she's on the plane."
SCOUTING REPORT: Tennessee's players didn't pay enough attention to the defensive scouting report against South Carolina, and it showed.
"We did not use our scouting report. Holly scouted them and did a great job," Summitt said. "Play scouting report defense. You know what they're going to do. The game is your test."
They failed that test, but most times this season the team has passed.
"I think this team is a better team at using scouting reports even than last year's team," Summitt said. "Now last year's team was outstanding in post-season. But game in and game out you go into a scouting session with this group and you ask them about personnel, they've read their reports."
During the break between fall and spring semesters when the players weren't in class, Summitt had them prepare scouting reports.
"It may have something to do with them scouting," she said. "I think now they understand preparation and what advantages can be gained, as we call it their ‘cheat sheet.' "
Warlick also scouted the Georgia game. Here's her assessment: "I just think they're a very athletic team. We can't give them easy baskets so we've got to take care of the ball. We can't give them a chance to score in the transition game. They've got super quick guards that can shoot the three, can penetrate, makes them difficult to be able to defend when you can do all aspects of the game. Tasha Humphrey, she's leading the team in rebounding, scoring. She's just having a great year. We've got to guard her by committee, try to limit her touches."
Warlick wants UT's players to pay better attention this time to her scouting report.
"I hope. You can simulate what they do on tape, but until you see it …. They're super quick, they're well coached," she said. "They're great on-the-ball defenders. We can't give them second-chance points. They're physical rebounders. They defend well. They play well as a team. Humphrey is doing a lot for them. They're centering their offense around her, but that doesn't take away from anybody else's ability. They've lost some games I don't think they should have lost. I think they're an outstanding team."
Assistant coach Dean Lockwood coaches the post players and has had film sessions with them about Humphrey.
"She's a great offensive player. She's a very, very skilled player," Lockwood said. "She can score in the post. She can score from mid-range, and now you've got somebody who can go out and hit threes. That's a lot. And a post player who can do that makes it that much more difficult defensively."
He has a two-pronged game plan.
"First and foremost, she cannot be allowed to set up where she wants to set up," Lockwood said. "We have to compete for position. We have to – what I call a foot fight – be very active with our feet and not let her just have a spot. We can't go play behind her and then react when she gets the ball. We have to be proactive. There are two kinds of way you can defend somebody. You can let them catch it and be reactive or you can be proactive and try to dictate where they set up. With her we definitely want to take the proactive route. I think that's No. 1.
"No. 2, we want to occupy her on defense. We want to have to make her guard stuff. We want to make conditioning a factor in terms of we've got to keep her occupied and active at the other end of the floor so that's she having to work. If we can do those two things, that's a start."
He knows Humphrey will get looks at the basket, but he wants to control how good they are.
"She's going to get shots," Lockwood said. "We have to make the quality of those shots very low. On a scale of one to 10, if she's taking sevens, eights and nines, we're in trouble. But if she's taking fours and fives, maybe a few sixes but then some twos and threes, we're in good shape."
He found no "glaring" weaknesses in her game so instead focused on what she doesn't do as well.
"The main thing with her you have to make her do things that she's not quite as comfortable doing," Lockwood said. "So we want her out on the floor with pressure versus being out of the floor where she has a catch-and-shoot three and an easy comfort rhythm shot. We don't want to play behind her when she's in the box. More than anything rather than try to pick out a single weakness what we're tried to do is pick out some things she likes to do less and hopefully we can made her do those."