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Pat Summitt: Take the Arkansas win and get ready

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was philosophical after the win over Arkansas - take the win and get home to Knoxville. <p> She watched the film of the 84-71 win - "Oh yeah," Summitt said - but she had her team back on the floor Monday as quickly as possible. The players had a day off Tuesday, but will practice again today in preparation for Thursday's game against Mississippi State at Thompson-Boling Arena. <p>

"I think it was a very difficult game for us to be able to get on a run," Pat Summitt said. "While we had a few spurts we couldn't get going because of ... there were a lot of fouls called. They fouled a lot. We fouled a lot. It was a hard game to coach, and I'm sure it was a hard game to officiate."

There were 48 fouls called in the game - evenly split between the Lady Vols and Lady Razorbacks. There also were 50 turnovers - 22 for Arkansas and 28 for Tennessee.

A big bright spot was the play of senior forward Shyra Ely, who played 34 minutes off the bench (she will start on 'Senior Night' on Thursday) and scored 30 points on 13-19 shooting. She also had 11 rebounds and three steals.

"I just think my teammates did a great job of finding me," said Ely, who specifically cited Nicky Anosike's passes out of a double-team. "I was going to work for the ball, and I told them I would. If it's there, give me the ball. I tried to get things going off our defense as far as steals and getting things going as far as easy points and getting us going defensively."

Ely missed practice Monday because of a sore left knee but expects to be OK this week. She also has a sore right wrist and a jammed left ring finger that is still swollen. Ely dismissed it as routine aches and pains in a long season.

"It's fine. It's my tendonitis flaring up, and it was really sore and swollen but nothing that's going to stop me from playing," Ely said of her knee. "I'm pretty sure I'll practice Wednesday. I've just got tendonitis in my wrist."

"Shyra's OK," Summitt said. "Tendonitis, just resting her. She played a lot of minutes and played pretty well. I guess she deserves a day off."

Another player - freshman guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood - remains out of practice because of severe tendonitis in her left knee.

"It's doubtful," Summitt said of Wiley-Gatewood being cleared to practice. "I wouldn't expect her to practice this week. She's still really tender, but I think we'll take it a day at a time."

The regular season ends Sunday when Tennessee travels to Alabama. Then, the SEC Tournament starts. Tennessee, which earned a first-day bye, will play next Friday in Greenville, S.C.

"We haven't even discussed it," Summitt said as far as Wiley-Gatewood's availability for the post-season. "It's literally day to day."

The fact that the post-season has nearly arrived is stunning enough in and of itself.

"This season ... I don't think this is an age thing, because a lot of people have said to me , a lot of fans have said to me I can't believe the season is almost over," Summitt said. "But everybody says the older you get the faster time moves. I thought November and December, it seemed slow to me, but I think it's because we were struggling to find a good chemistry; we were struggling shooting the basketball, and we were dealing with injuries, and it was just one thing after another. But man we hit January, and it's just flown by. So it is hard to believe."

Summitt's reaction is echoed by a freshman in guard Alexis Hornbuckle.

"It's flown by so quick," Hornbuckle said. "As a freshman you think it's going to go by so slow, while the seniors might think it's gone by quickly, but time flies. It seems like we just got out of preseason. Maybe the tournament will go a little bit slower."

Hornbuckle had one of her worse games of the season against Arkansas - six turnovers in 23 minutes of play vs. zero against South Carolina in the previous game - but Summitt was willing to dismiss it quickly.

"I don't like turning the ball over, but that game was so different from the South Carolina game," Summitt said. "The one thing about it in this league - and that was probably living proof down there - is every night is a different night. Each team brings their own style, and the personnel is different. The coaching style is different. And this is just one of those games that wasn't going to be a well-played basketball game. Too much physical play and sloppy play to really be a great-looking basketball game. Just get out of that with a W and catch that plane and come back home.

"You know what? She had a bad game. She's been super for us. She just had a real bad game. And then the harder she tried, the worse things got for her. When Loree got in foul trouble I'm sure she was thinking, 'I've got to do something.' Maybe just pressed a little bit, I don't know, but she's been pretty steady for us all year. So as I told her, 'We can't dwell on one bad game.' "

Loree Moore was hindered by foul trouble - four total in 21 minutes of play - and seemed to get suckered into trading blows with an undersized Arkansas team.

"I told Loree if that's March and this is your agenda, we're not having practice today," Summitt said Monday. "We're probably done. She's that valuable to us and for her to get in foul trouble or get emotionally caught up in physical play, it will wipe us out. She's a big old piece to this puzzle."

Ely's best game of the season came at the best time against an inspired Arkansas squad. Ely lost her starting position after a poor performance in a loss against LSU - she had passive defense and zero rebounds, both Summitt staples - but has bounced back off the bench.

"I thought it was real important that Shyra understand we can't afford for her to take that position in a game and not do the things that we are counting on her to do," Summitt said. "I'm not concerned about her shooting and her scoring. But you take a senior - the ball sometimes won't go in - but you can greatly influence a game with the other aspects of your game. She could have really influenced that game with defense and board play. To me, if you learn nothing else, and you learn that, that could be key in post-season."

Summitt has ended her experiment of playing Ely at the three or small forward position. She will play at the four, or power forward spot, although Ely might still guard quicker perimeter players at the three.

"More efficient," Summitt said of Ely at power forward. "It gives us a veteran go-to player inside. With her mobility she has the high-post shot, or she can put it on the floor. She can do some nice things out of her post-up. She played within the offense and didn't force (against Arkansas), but she's most likely to do that at the four. I flashed back in that game, just watching some of her moves, last time we were there she hit big shots. From my perspective I think it's helped her a lot (playing at the three) - helped her ball-handling, her passing. She had a couple of great passes inside. I think she'll still help us by rebounding and pushing tempo and getting the ball up."

With Ely ensconced inside, Summitt is looking to the sophomore class of Sidney Spencer and Dominique Redding to provide support at the small forward spot.

"She's had two good games," Summitt said of Spencer. "The sophomores, looks like they're starting to feel more comfortable. I just think those are two players that can score for us and they can score for us from the outside game. They are offensive weapons. Sid's got to get better defensively, and Dom's got to get better defensively. But Dom's defense right now - she's one of our more-improved defenders."

Spencer scored six points on 2-3 shooting and had six rebounds. She was pulled in the first half when she appeared to be on an offensive spurt, but Summitt said she had hit the proverbial wall.

"She was just about to lay down," Summitt said. "She was exhausted. And I got onto her because she made a bad play, and I said, 'Pull yourself.' She hit the wall on us. She was exhausted. She should have pulled herself; if she had I would have put her right back in."

Spencer does know what it takes to win in the post-season - and Summitt has made it clear she's counting on her. Spencer has counseled the freshman class about what lies ahead.

"Every now and then - we haven't yet sat down and talked about for a good hour - but every now and then we'll mention you can't do this in March ," Spencer said. "You have to be ready; you have to do this. We have let them know there are things you can not do. I think getting that experience in the first couple of games - realizing you lose, you go home - they're going to have to experience that for themselves because you can't tell somebody how they're going to feel.

"Last year Shanna (Zolman) and the upperclassmen they helped, told us: 'In the post-season you're not going to get open shots. Everybody is gritting their teeth down and going to work.' We're going to tell them that, but as far as experiencing it they're going to have to experience for themselves. We're going to try to do everything in our power to let them know what it's like."

In the meantime, Mississippi State and its phenomenal scorer Tan White come to town Thursday. The seniors will be protecting a 60-game regular season SEC win streak at home.

"They're playing her all over the floor," Summitt said. "You never know if she's going to be the point guard or posting up or coming off screens. She's just involved and rightfully so."

The last two regular season games will give Tennessee a gauge on its focus and post-season chances of a title - both in the SEC and NCAA tournaments. Spencer has heard the naysayers.

"I know there's little things that we need to work on," Spencer said. "I know that everybody thinks that we're going to lose early. I'm anxious to get out there like that; it just really motivates people, just want to go out there and just cream people that ... you know. We'll just have to wait and see. I like our chances. I have full confidence in our team whether anybody else in the nation does."


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