Pat Summitt to change starters for Sunday's game

Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt is shaking up her starting lineup again as she tries to find the combination of five players who will get Tennessee off to a competitive start. <p> After watching the first four minutes of both halves in the 68-58 loss to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge on Thursday evening, Summitt decided to scramble the players on the perimeter.

The new lineup for Tennessee (18-4, 8-1) will see its first action Sunday when SEC rival Vanderbilt (17-5, 6-3) comes to Knoxville for a 3 p.m. game (espn2, Lady Vol Radio Network) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The post players will be the same with junior Tye'sha Fluker and freshman Nicky Anosike inside the paint, and senior Loree Moore will remain at the point position. But junior Shanna Zolman, who had been coming off the bench, will start at the wing, or two, position, and freshman Alexis Hornbuckle will play at the small forward, or three, position.

"Just looking at how we played and just trying to get a team on the floor that will play together on the offensive end a little better," Pat Summitt said when asked why she decided on that particular lineup. "I just thought our quick shooting and our one-on-one action really disrupted us. Hopefully this team will get us off to a better start. We just looked at the first four minutes of each half. It's not what we want to do."

Summitt has been seeking a starting lineup all season that will score fast and take care of the basketball. She has tinkered sometimes due to injury and sometimes due to ineffectiveness. Once the player rotation begins, the starters take on less significance, Summitt has said, but she wants the first five to set the tone. She didn't like how the game started against LSU.

"We go down and turn the ball over the first possession," Summitt said. "We don't go inside for about seven possessions. It's not how we want to start a game, and I haven't been happy. I thought it was glaring in a game against a team like LSU. We haven't been pleased with how we started games. We'll give it a different look. See what happens."

Hornbuckle has played in all 22 games this season and has started in 10 of them.

"To us it really doesn't matter who starts. It's how you start it off," Hornbuckle said. "It's not quantity, it's quality. You can play 30 minutes and play horrible, or you can play 10 and be the difference-maker in the game. I think that's what Pat stresses is get in there and do what you can do, play to your strengths and give back to your teammates."

The lineup shuffle moves Shyra Ely to the unfamiliar role of coming off the bench. The senior forward has started 21 of UT's 22 games. She will play at both the small and power forward positions Sunday.

"She'll play three or four," Summitt said. "She has to take care of the basketball at the three. Last night it just wasn't efficient play from that position on her behalf. She needs to be mindful of how she can be the most-effective player by playing great defense, sprinting the floor, getting on the glass at both ends. She's a player that, yes, can penetrate and hit the pull-up but I think just realizing her strengths – the speed and the quickness and the athleticism and playing to her strengths – playing with composure on offense."

It was Zolman's efficient play against LSU – she has scored 70 points off the bench in Tennessee's last three games – that earned her a starting nod. Summitt wants to get her even more minutes.

"Absolutely," Summitt said. "She's the most-efficient player on our team right now. I wanted to get her in the game early. I thought about starting her (against LSU). That lineup last night convinced me that I needed to make a change."

Zolman, who has started 11 of the 22 games this season, said her mindset doesn't change. Zolman replaces senior Brittany Jackson, who has started 12 games this season.

"Being back in the starting lineup, yeah it's great, but I just try to keep playing the way I'm playing," Zolman said. "Try to keep leading the team, just get the team back together how we can play. Bringing back the Tennessee way of playing basketball. Once we do that, hopefully we'll be back on track."

The players were disappointed after the loss to LSU – the seniors had only lost one SEC regular season game in their careers, and it snapped a 42-game consecutive winning streak in regular season conference play – but not distraught.

The players watched film for about an hour before practice Friday.

"We were all disappointed and frustrated, but it wasn't one of those where your head's down and you're just down on each other. It was more like: Take this as a learning experience," Hornbuckle said. "We saw that we needed to fight. We saw people that didn't fight the whole time they were in there. We saw people give up on possessions. We took it as we have a job to do, and we didn't come in and do it. We need at least six, seven consistent players who are going to do that on a regular basis. So that's why today in practice even though we were going through sets you saw people going 110 percent. We need that. You've got to practice how you play."

Tennessee didn't give up, but the Lady Vols also didn't seize momentum when they could have at halftime. Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood hit a three-pointer as time expired in the first half, and Tennessee took a 28-27 lead into the locker room.

"I think we had them on our heels coming out of halftime in the second half. The momentum was definitely toward us. We didn't use that to our advantage," Hornbuckle said. "We allowed them to get us back on our heels. They took it and ran with it. They capitalized, and we didn't. We ended up fighting to the very end."

"We kind of jumped on them, but they had us playing on our heels the whole game basically," Moore said. "There was, at times, where we felt like we were right at them, pushing them and playing the way we know how to play. But then at times we just didn't keep it going. They took advantage of our mistakes as far as letting Temeka (Johnson) getting in the open court in transition and opening things up for her teammates and (Scholanda) Hoston open looks and finding Seimone (Augustus) when she was open.

"Another thing that hurt us as well is they got putbacks. They got offensive boards, key boards, that give other possessions to restart their offense. I don't think it was their initial offensive sets that hurt us the most, but it was those two key areas as far as transition and their offensive putbacks. We focused on preparing ourselves for this game, and we just didn't take what the coaches gave us."

After the team plays poorly, Summitt generally has the team's full attention. A loss is even more jolting, and Moore said there was a lesson to be learned.

"In a way this game was teaching us a lesson, and it's something that the coaches have been telling us throughout the season that those two things have been our biggest problem as far as picking up people in transition and keeping people off the boards that are good offensive rebounding teams," Moore said. "We know that now, and we recognize that. I think that's the biggest thing that we can actually see that, and we can talk among ourselves as a team: ‘OK this is what we really need to focus on. These are the things that we really need to do from here on out, and be committed to it.' They key thing today was discipline."

They have heard the naysayers, Moore said, and those who lament the loss and begin to doubt whether or not Tennessee can win big this year.

"No matter what happened in that game, we are disappointed, but we learned from it, and we stayed positive," Moore said. This is like a trial – adversity, all the stuff that's gone on, people doubting us even more, people saying all these things. We have broken the record (of 42 straight conference wins); we have let down the tradition of the Tennessee style of basketball. That's something that does bother us. We don't want to let that happen anymore. We can't change it, but we can only improve and make it better and set a new statement for us as this team right now and show everybody that we can compete, and we can play this style of basketball that Tennessee has brought for years. That's something we are looking forward to. We're trying to stay positive and get closer together and tighter together as of now."

FOUL BALL: Tennessee went to the line only 10 times against LSU - four trips in the first half and six in the second. The officials whistled seven fouls against the Lady Tigers in 40 minutes of play, a staggeringly low number in such a physical conference as the SEC. Tennessee committed 18 fouls in the game, with several coming at the end to stop the clock.

Summitt said after the game that she wanted to view the tape and see what happened.

"First two times we went inside we got fouled. No call. Clearly we got fouled," Summitt said Friday. "And then I think our post people, for whatever reason, got timid. They weren't aggressive. They weren't sealing inside. But it took them a long time to get those touches, because we didn't get the ball inside. Now we're a jump-shooting team. We're jump-shooting the basketball, and it's one and out."

Summitt said some of the temerity could have been caused by the post play of LSU freshman Sylvia Fowles – 17 rebounds and five blocks – but she blamed her team's lack of focus more.

"I'm sure she did," Summitt said. "We went inside on some dribble drives and did not really focus on scoring. I thought we quick-shot the ball on our dribble drives. Overall just really lack of composure and lack of continuity, lack of execution. We didn't set any screens. They were quite the opposite at the other end. They were a team that appeared very committed to execute. They took their time, they were deliberate, they made great reads, they got great looks, and we looked like, at times, we were running a fire drill. That was the difference in the half-court game."

Part of the reason for the low number of fouls was because Tennessee didn't go inside. Of 35 shots taken in the second half, only six were attempted in the paint, not counting four layups. None of the shots went in. Of the 36 first-half shots, not counting two layups, 11 were taken in the paint. Only one was successful.

"Frontline game faded because perimeter players didn't get them the ball," Summitt said. If you go inside good things happen. They may not occur inside; they may come back outside. You certainly put more pressure on the defense. That's what we've been doing such a good job of is going inside. And for whatever reason we didn't really focus from the perimeter game on getting the ball inside. And then our posts, as posts will do, they quit working."

CANDACE WATCH: Freshman forward practiced with the team Friday, and the possibility of her playing this season remains possible.

"She had no swelling today, either. None yesterday," Summitt said Friday. "She shot with us yesterday. The door is not closed yet."

MOORE FAITH: Playing in the rugged SEC can be a baptism by fire for many players. But on Sunday before the Vanderbilt game, Loree Moore will get baptized off the court.

It's the end of a journey that was aided by James Mitchell, the campus director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Mitchell is a familiar figure after practice, where the players often seek him out to discuss spiritual and personal issues.

The baptism will take place at Faith Promise Church, and Moore's teammates and coaches plan to be there.

"I go see Mitch. He's like my pastor," Moore said. "I talk with him about my faith. It was something that he asked me to do. I looked into it. It is my time to do that. Everything that I've been going through and all the changes in my life from the time I accepted Christ has made such an impact on me and it has changed me tremendously individually. I felt like that next step is a whole other lifestyle, a whole other change in my life.

"It's something that will kind of start over new and make me become another person as far as me leaving here and continuing on with the rest of my life. It's something that to me will help me a lot throughout the course of my life the rest of the way. I'm really excited. All my teammates and the coaches are behind me and are supposed to come, too."

Moore said the decision to get baptized has put her at peace.

"I really am at peace," she said. "I feel normal like I used to before. It was kind of a hardship coming in here and so much that was expected of me as a leader. It was just like a tug of war, but really it was kind of like figuring out myself and where my faith stands. That was the key to helping me get through everything, and that has helped me a lot – having a strong faith and having the background and the confidence and belief in what I'm trying to do. It feels like a relief."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories