Pat Summitt turns focus to Texas Tech

When Tennessee coach Pat Summitt walked into the Lady Vols basketball office Wednesday morning, she was surrounded by flowers. Her first thought was that it looked like someone had died. <p> Far from it. <p> The flowers were sent from all over the country by fans wanting to send congratulations after she became the all-time winningest basketball coach in NCAA history the night before. <p>

"A lot of our fans, boosters, people that I've known sent them to our staff as well as the team so we just display them up in the office," Pat Summitt said. "I did take a couple home. They smelled great. It's amazing, people from all over."

Tennessee's 75-54 win over Purdue secured Summitt's 880th win, surpassing the 879 wins of North Carolina coach Dean Smith, who retired in 1997.

It was an eventful evening - the win sends Tennessee to its 24th consecutive Sweet 16 - and it ended with Summitt being floored that the floor at Thompson-Boling Arena will be named after her starting next season. A permanent logo - THE SUMMITT, KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - will be affixed to the floor to commemorate her landmark achievement.

For the players it was a source of pride and also amusement.

"I heard some comments about that last night," Summitt said. "Holly (Warlick) said when they got mad at me they were going to go over and stomp on the Summitt."

There was also criticism of the floor on message boards and talk radio that naming it for a women's coach would somehow hinder UT's men's program from recruiting.

"A long time ago I said I'm not listening to any of that stuff," Summitt said. "I don't give it a lot of time or energy. I can't imagine it hurting the men's program."

That attitude and single-purpose focus is probably why she sits alone atop the record books.

"Not a problem," Summitt said about concentrating on the next opponent and putting the hoopla behind her. "Obviously I didn't get much sleep last night. I had a small group over at my house."

Summitt left the arena in the wee hours of the morning to return home to her guests, mostly family, including her mother, Hazel Head. Summitt has said she can't sleep until she watches her team's game on tape, and she didn't. She stayed up until 3:15 a.m. - and then watched it again later that morning - and arose at 7:15 a.m. to prepare for Wednesday's practice.

"We got through a lot of what we needed to do today," Summitt said. "I watched the tape last night and again this morning. I thought we opened up the game by how they defended us. They didn't guard Loree, they didn't guard Alexis, they denied Zo. They were very physical with our posts. We were quick-shooting the ball - Loree and Alexis took some quick shots. We talked about that today. I liked their aggressiveness and wanting to knock down shots, but I think we just have to demonstrate more patience, make them defend across the floor and get the looks we want a little bit later in our offense."

The day after she made basketball history Summitt was only interested in breaking down Texas Tech and her own team. The Lady Vols will play Texas Tech at noon Sunday at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.

Alexis Hornbuckle struggled from the field (2-9), and Loree Moore was 2-6, but hit 2-4 from behind the arc. Shanna Zolman had 15 points, four assists and two steals and remained one of Tennessee's most-accurate shooters (6-10, including 3-5 from three-point range).

Hornbuckle switched between the point and wing positions - something she has done all season - but seemed tentative in the second half after struggling in the first half.

"At point you have a lot more responsibility," Hornbuckle said. "You pretty much head the team. Last night I don't know what was wrong. I started off real well and then just went downhill from there. I love playing the point. It is more difficult to drive and slash to get to the basket, because you're playing one on five at the point position rather than one on two on one on three where it's easier to create. I don't think it takes away from my game, it's just a matter that I have to buckle down and realize the adjustments."

Shyra Ely scored 16 points but was 4-7 from the free throw line. She expects to do better from the stripe and spent time after practice shooting free throws. She is partly bothered by a jammed finger on her shooting hand, but she didn't offer that as an excuse.

"I just wanted to get some repetition so I could feel good," Ely said.

The players looked a little tired, but they were happy to be back on the court. They got home about 1 a.m., but were able to sleep in longer since Tennessee is on spring break.

"Honestly it was good to get back and get your mind focused on what it needs to be focused on," Zolman said.

Summitt shortened practice to two hours - and part of that was spent watching film. She will hold another light practice Thursday afternoon and then the team will leave Friday afternoon for Philadelphia. They won't take the court until Saturday's practice.

"It wasn't too physically demanding today," Zolman said after Wednesday's practice. "I could barely get out of bed this morning; I was so sore and still tired. I could fall asleep right now, but it's good to get us back in here with a light workout and get our minds geared toward Texas Tech now."

The players watched some film before practice and also will take tapes home.

"We watched them before we came out here a little bit," Zolman said. "She's going to give us some tapes, too, if we want some extra ones just to kind of look at them and get better acquainted with their offensive sets and their tendencies as well."

Ely also welcomed the practice time.

"I think it was good," Ely said. "I think that just conditions us and gets us mentally prepared. I think it helps in the long run."

Summitt wanted to get her team quickly focused on the next task - playing Texas Tech for a shot to move on to the regional final next Tuesday against the winner of Ohio State-Rutgers.

"It's good to get back out, start looking at a new opponent," Summitt said. "I thought they had good focus, good energy overall. It's part of the challenge and the discipline to get them to come right back and put last night behind us. They got to watch tape on Texas Tech. We went through the majority of the offensive sets that we want to be prepared for."

It also allowed Summitt to emphasize her post-season points: defense and rebounding win games.

"I told them last night was a game they could learn from, because I went in at halftime, and I'm preaching defense and boards," Summitt said. "I just cautioned them you can't play in and out at this time of year. Possession by possession you've got to be really focused on using your scouting report defense. We let the ball get in the middle of the floor too much. In the second half we were clearly playing with a different intensity level."

The three seniors - Ely, Moore and Brittany Jackson - practiced again at the arena, but they have played their last game there. Summitt said she was aware of that and had to hustle Jackson back into the game after taking her out during a timeout with less than four minutes left so that Dominique Redding could get some more minutes.

"I was trying to get Dom a little playing time, and I got caught by the clock a little bit," Summitt said. "I wanted to get Brittany back in so she could come out and be recognized."

The three seniors then were taken out one by one to rousing applause by the crowd. In the days leading up to the game, Moore said she had been thinking about Tuesday being her last game at home. It didn't enter her mind when it happened because of the record win.

"It didn't actually," Moore said. "This moment was too big."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories