Upon further review ....

It's game week. That, and coach Pat Summitt watched the tape from her team's scrimmage the night before. She sounded like a defensive coordinator at Monday's practice and spent the bulk of the session on defense.

After eight 5-minute scrimmages against the male practice players Sunday, Summitt's initial impression that evening was that the offense looked good, and the defensive transition was awful. That was confirmed Monday morning when she watched the film.

"I watched it this morning," Pat Summitt said Monday after practice. "Didn't want to ruin my evening so I decided to ruin my morning instead. We're behind defensively. The good thing is we made good progress today. And I'm going to take full responsibility (for the delay). Defense is not about the timing. It takes less time to teach it than it does to talk about the aspects of timing and spacing and passing and cutting and teaching offense."

The film confirmed what she saw Sunday during live action.

"The good was probably the half-court offensive execution, the bad was our turnovers, and the ugly was our defense," Summitt said.

So on Monday Summitt summoned her trademark stare and intensity as she instilled the tenets of Tennessee defense. The bad news, of course, is that the team is behind. The good news, is that there's plenty of time to catch up. She expects marked improvement from now until Sunday when the Lady Vols host Dalhousie-Canada at 3 p.m. in an exhibition game at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"I think we can make significant progress between now and Sunday," she said. "We should be able to improve significantly, but I think by the next exhibition game, we should be a lot better. Hopefully in another week (after that), we'll be ready to play."

The second exhibition game is Thursday, Nov. 10, against Carson-Newman at 7 p.m. at the arena. The regular season opens Nov. 20 against Stetson on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 3 p.m. in Knoxville.

Usually turnovers would end up in Summitt's ugly category, but she recognized that she had one player out of position, and that accounted for several miscues. Freshman Lindsey Moss helmed the point position during several of the scrimmage sessions.

"I put her at the point yesterday, and I probably wasn't even being fair to her putting her in that position. She hasn't run point since she's been here," said Summitt, who also noted that Moss has made "great strides" in her overall game so far this fall and has handled her demanding nature. "She's had some tough coaches in her life."

Also, with Moss running the point, that allowed a fresh duo of Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and Alexis Hornbuckle to team up together when a different five took the floor against the men.

"I was trying to look at Sa'de and Alexis together, playing them together a little more," Summitt said. "Instead of making them go back to back, I put Lindsey in, because we were going against the guys."

The different combinations allowed Summitt to get a good look at offensive flow and defensive pressure. And after Monday's afternoon practice, she was a lot happier with the defense.

"We made great progress today, and we're going to continue on a path of opening up practice for the next several days on defense," she said.

NEEDS OF KNEES: Redshirt freshman forward Candace Parker sat out Monday's practice for treatment on her knee. Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine, said the rest was no cause for alarm and was a matter of tackling a small setback now instead of allowing it to become a bigger one.

She also said with so many surgically repaired knees – Parker, Wiley-Gatewood, Sidney Spencer and Alex Fuller had surgery last season; Sybil Dosty had two surgeries in high school – it's to be expected.

"The bottom line is I don't expect her or Alex or Sibyl or Sidney to go through this year without incident at all. Or Sa'de," Moshak said. "These are the chronic surgical knees. Sibyl didn't have surgery here, but she had two in high school. We had problems with her knees last year. We'll probably have problems at some point this year. Sidney is not 100 percent, but she's hanging in there. I don't expect to have absolutely no problems with any of these people so we deal with what presents our way. The good news is they're responding to treatment, they're responding to rest. Some of them are requiring it at different times."

Moshak added a big test would come early when Tennessee plays several games in a short period of time starting with the Stetson match and ending Dec. 4 at Stanford. That also includes three consecutive games at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and lots of flying – which increases swelling – in between. The beginning of the stretch includes five games in seven days – two in Knoxville and three on the island.

"We'll see how we do … and see what happens," Moshak said. "I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball to know for sure whether everybody's going to make it through without any irritations and stuff."

Parker has some slight swelling in the knee that has been brought on by an inflamed bursa sac and tightness in her iliotibial, or IT, band. Moshak explained it thusly:

"She's experiencing a little swelling in her knee and also her IT band has gotten really tight and what's called the IT band bursa – it's right on the head of the fibula where it inserts – has gotten really irritated and swollen," Moshak said. "So basically what we're doing is trying to calm the whole thing down, and it's not surprising. We had an incident with this in preseason as well.

"Bursas are in your knee to stop friction. So when your IT band gets tight to protect the knee – when the knee swells other structures are going to try to protect it – on the outside of the knee, where she had her work done, the IT band is the supportive structure on the outside of the knee, so that's going to get tight and say, ‘Hey, the knee's not happy right now. I'm going to have work harder.' So then the IT band has to work harder, it gets tighter. Then that creates more friction at the insertion of it. Then that bursa sac gets rubbed on and then it gets inflamed and irritated. That's pretty inflamed right now, pretty irritated, and so we're treating that directly, because that's one specific structure we can focus on and then we're just trying to work on the inflammation of the knee in general as well."

Her swelling is on the low end of the scale, Moshak explained.

"It's what we call one-plus. And if you're looking at degrees, there's one, two and three," Moshak said. "This is a point of concern where you deal with it now so you don't have to continue to deal with. She still has a very good quad. In other words, she can make a good quad, Because that's the other concern when you get even a minimal amount of swelling in a knee, it makes a neuromuscular shutdown at the quad, and the quad will stop working. She can still contract the quad on command – beautiful, hard, defined quadriceps. So that's a very good sign."

The game plan is caution, Moshak said, and Parker will remain day to day until Moshak gives the all-clear sign.

"We're not going to be dumb," she said. "We have time right now. We're going to take the time, we're going to do this right, we're going to get it calmed down, and then we'll let her back in to play."

Since the Lady Vols practice early Tuesday morning, Moshak doesn't expect Parker back in such a quick turnaround.

"I don't expect her practicing tomorrow in this short time that we have," said Moshak, but Wednesday or later in the week – the team is off Thursday – remains a possibility, depending on the swelling. Again, the buzzword is caution, because an aggressive approach is unnecessary now.

From strictly a medical point of view, Moshak said the healing issue is simple.

"What would greatly help me out is if we removed a lot of the forces they experienced out there," she said, motioning to the basketball court. "But I can't do that. Since I can't do that on a regular basis, sometimes we have to just remove them from the forces completely – what's required to play basketball, running, jumping, cutting, landing."

With that in mind, Moshak will ground any player, not just the surgically repaired knee group, as the season progresses as needed.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories