"I thought our transition offense, I thought our spacing was poor, and we weren't really sprinting the floor," Summitt said after practice. "We missed a lot of opportunities to get to the rim in transition either off the perimeter game or by the posts running. That's why I worked on that today. This team has a chance to be very strong in the running game, and we just have to stay on it. They think they're running, but not last night."
For now Summitt is leaning toward starting the same five that opened the game against South Carolina – Loree Moore, Shanna Zolman, Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike and Tye'sha Fluker.
One player definitely won't play, and that is freshman guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, who still needs to rest her left knee.
"She won't play," Summitt said. "Right now she's just too sore and still has some swelling. Back off, rest her, definitely not playing this weekend."
The play of another freshman, center Sybil Dosty, was encouraging. Before the game Dosty said she was considering the remaining regular season games to be an audition to show the coaches what she can contribute in the post-season.
Dosty scored seven points – 5-5 from the free throw line – in nine minutes and also grabbed three rebounds. The perfection at the line was especially noteworthy, because coming into the game Dosty was 2-11 from the stripe in SEC play. But it's her play from baseline to baseline that the coaches are particularly watching.
"She got fouled, and she made her free throw attempts. She ran hard, and she defended in her stance better than she has in any game in quite some time, maybe all year," assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. "I think that's very important with her. We've been trying so hard to get her to play lower and playing more athletic that way. Lower is more athletic; lower is quicker. She did that. She did a good job being in her stance. She did a good job being athletic. We were happy about that."
Besides the win over the Gamecocks, the biggest news out of Tennessee on Thursday was the announcement that freshman forward Candace Parker would redshirt.
After undergoing two knee surgeries in the preseason – one to remove loose cartilage, the other to repair the lateral meniscus and articular cartilage – Parker make a gallant effort to play this season. But the left knee hadn't healed completely – Parker's offensive game was back, but her lateral movement on defense was limited – and it was decided she needed a full off-season to get healthy.
Summitt said she had no doubts that Parker would be fine and her playing this season was a long shot – Dr. William Youmans, who performed the surgeries, said as much – but one that was worth attempting.
"I think Dr. (William) Youmans pretty much told us that at the front end and we heard him, but we were hoping he was wrong," Summitt said. "He's usually right, almost always since I've worked with him. He knows."
Wiley-Gatewood is bothered by a severe case of patella tendonitis in her left knee – her father, Jerry Gatewood, said in November that there were microscopic tears in the tendon that hopefully could heal with rest – and a right knee that occasionally gets mildly sore but is fine otherwise. She sometimes ices the right knee, too, but merely as a precaution against any problems developing. Hornbuckle battles tendonitis in both knees, but her condition is much less serious by comparison.
Summitt said she became aware last July of how much pain Wiley-Gatewood was enduring after encountering her at a basketball event in North Carolina.
"I didn't know that Sa'de had as much pain and irritation until I saw her in late July of her senior year over in Charlotte at the end of an event," Summitt said. "When I saw her then and saw her quad (a leg muscle that helps strengthen and stabilize the knee) I knew it had really been bothering her. She had told me it bothered her."
Wiley-Gatewood missed the first two months of the season – starting with the beginning of practice in October – and must take occasional rest breaks now to manage the pain. She didn't play Thursday and remained on the bench with crutches and an ice pack. She watched practice Friday from the sideline.
The players are on the court year-round, Summitt said, and that's a double-edged sword.
"All these kids, they play a lot of basketball. That's living proof that they're playing all year round," Summitt said of the knee problems involving the freshman class, including Alex Fuller, who had reconstructive knee surgery and is taking a redshirt year.
"The good news is they're getting a lot better. The bad news is that sometimes their spokes are falling out. That speaks about who they are as competitors, and they're always working. Now they (Hornbuckle and Wiley-Gatewood) both are dealing with tendonitis and obviously having some pain. We'll be healthy eventually. The thing that we have to do is know that some of these injuries take time. Obviously Candace's situation and Alex's took surgery. Hopefully they'll come back stronger."
The good news for Hornbuckle is that she's feeling a lot better lately, except for a tweaked hamstring sustained in practice earlier this week.
"Overall I'm feeling good," Hornbuckle said Friday after practice. "Last night I felt great, loose, that's the best my body's felt in awhile. My hamstring is a little tight from where I pulled it. Other than that I'm feeling pretty well. My knees are holding up so that's a plus."
Hornbuckle and Wiley-Gatewood are roommates and are helping each other through the season both by watching film together and reminding each other to take care of their knees.
"I'm like, ‘Sa'de did you ice?' She'll be like, "Lex, you got your wrap?' "Hornbuckle said. "You don't want be sitting out longer than what you have to. I've been encouraging her to keep her head up. As soon as her knee gets back on track, and she's gets everything where it needs to be I see her being a lot better. She's good, but when she's able to move the way she wants to and be as explosive as I know she can be, it's going to be a lot better, and her spirits will be up a lot."
Wiley-Gatewood has been able to show flashes of her brilliant play. Against Vanderbilt, she did a spin move at the free throw line and buried the short jumper. The move left her defender literally spun around and on the floor.
"That was so sick," Hornbuckle said. "I was on the bench when that happened. You see that, and you're like, ‘I can't wait to see that on film.' "
Watching film can also bring some amusing moments. Against South Carolina, Hornbuckle said she knew she traveled on one play but didn't know how blatant it was.
"Sometimes you don't know," she said. "Like last night I knew I walked, but I did not know it was that bad. I took like four or five steps. They didn't call it."
Hornbuckle has had her own highlight moments this season, including in the Vandy game where she dribbled behind her back to leave guard Dee Davis in her wake and then spun off the second defender before hitting a shot from the wing. The move on Davis came from experience, Hornbuckle said, because she played against her when both were still in high school.
"I know Dee. She's the type of person that likes to gamble," Hornbuckle said. "I'm like, ‘She's going to gamble,' so I need to get to the basket. I need to go forward instead of east-west. I need to go north-south. I don't even think about it. I just kind of do it. It just comes to me."