Pat Summitt put her team through its practice paces Friday afternoon and Saturday morning and then opted to let them rest Sunday, according to Debby Jennings, associate athletics director for media relations.
At Saturday's practice, senior guard Shanna Zolman added herself to the list of players with hand injuries. She dislocated the ring finger of her left hand (non-shooting) and had the finger put back into place by Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine. The finger was taped to another, and she is expected to be OK and not miss practice or playing time.
Freshman guard Lindsey Moss sat out half of Saturday's practice with a minor knee injury. She slightly hyperextended her left knee in Thursday's exhibition game and had a mild flare-up of patellar tendonitis. She also was expected to be fine.
Sophomore guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, who has chronic patellar tendonitis, sat out Saturday's practice for precautionary reasons and iced her left knee. She will need periodic rest throughout the season to keep her knee condition stable. She also was OK.
Zolman joins senior center Tye'sha Fluker (fractured right index finger) and sophomore guard Alexis Hornbuckle (injured left thumb ligament) with hand injuries. In all three cases, the injuries have been splinted and taped, and the players' playing status is unaffected.
The team will return to the practice court Monday afternoon. Next Sunday kicks off the season with Tennessee playing back-to-back games at home against Stetson and UT-Chattanooga. They then leave for the Virgin Islands and three consecutive games Nov. 24-26 against Michigan State, Gonzaga and Maryland. They return home to play Texas on Dec. 1 and then take off for California. After the George Washington game, the players have final exams – and thus no games during the "dead" period – and then host Louisiana Tech on Dec. 15.
With that gauntlet of games and travel on the horizon, an extra rest day this week makes a lot of sense.
In its first two exhibition games against Dalhousie University (Canada) and Carson-Newman, the Lady Vols lit up the scoreboard but were sometimes lacking in defense. Summitt isn't surprised – the bulk of the preseason was devoted to offense – but she's narrowing her focus now.
The ball pressure was better against Carson-Newman, but Summitt said some players still lacked defensive discipline.
"We had players kind of on their own agenda revert to old habits in high school," she said after Friday's session. "What we have to be mindful of is having the discipline to stick to our system. We might have four people that understood it and one that had lapses. That's why we did what we did today. I thought we got a lot of really good reps in defensively to emphasize what our breakdowns were in the game (against Carson-Newman)."
Seniors sometimes aren't appreciated by fans until they leave school, and such may be the case with the departed Loree Moore, who now plays for the New York Liberty of the WNBA. Moore often wasn't considered an offensive threat, but she was dedicated to defensive pressure. Is she missed?
"I think as far as really stopping the ball, absolutely," Summitt said. "Her presence on the ball in the backcourt was obviously very strong, and that was one of the key strengths of her game. But we certainly are qualified in other areas."
Tennessee has the players to bring ball pressure again. Hornbuckle and Wiley-Gatewood can be disruptive from end to end. Forward Candace Parker has tremendous wingspan and creates a matchup problem when she plays small forward.
Carson-Newman's senior guards were quicker than might have been expected, but Summitt said she wasn't surprised.
"I thought they'd be pretty quick," Summitt said. "They're small, and they're quick. They lost their inside game for the most part so I figured we probably would be challenged on the perimeter."
It was a freshman forward, however, that did the most damage. Lady Eagle Ashley Tipton hit 4-6 from three-point range and finished with 16 points. She was left uncovered on several shot attempts.
"A lot of it came from dribble penetration kick-out," Summitt said. "The other thing was ball screens, and we were trapping and not rotating (and) in transition not matching up. It was a variety of issues that we have to deal with."
Tennessee has time this week to do so. The Lady Vols have a week of practice before the season starts. After that, the games begin, and Tennessee will find itself on the road more than inside the confines of Thompson-Boling Arena. Sunday's off day should help ensure that everyone is rested and ready to go.