"I watched our game tape (against UConn) and then I watched some Georgia tape," coach Pat Summitt said. "I was really disappointed in our lack of effort throughout that game. Our scouting report defense? We might as well have not had a scouting report. As a coaching staff we prepared for the team to give them a cheat sheet, if you will, before you go in and take your test. A lot of them lost theirs before they got to the gym.
"You take a game like that and play an opponent like Connecticut, they will expose a lot of your weaknesses and take advantage of your mental lapses, and that's exactly what they did. They did a great job of doing that. They (UConn) just missed shots. I just thought we would compete harder, and our transition defense was really poor at times. Now we're facing Georgia. Well, we are not strong at their strength. Their strength is running."
Summitt set the tone early for Monday's practice with a lot of players getting an earful of instruction. She asked a lot of questions. Some of them were rhetorical; others demanded a real answer.
"We're dialing it up today," Summitt said after practice. "We started. You don't have to do that when you've got people that bring it in practice and bring it in games. We've been practicing harder than we've been playing at times. There're the ones that have to develop good habits."
Junior Dominique Redding is on the opposite end of that spectrum. She played one of the best short minutes of basketball ever against UConn – seven points on perfect 3-3 shooting and two rebounds in six minutes of play – but she knows she has to dial it up in practice if she wants to see more floor time in a game. Redding heard from Summitt on Monday as did her teammates.
"I just take a deep breath and keep saying, ‘Rebound' (the team's word for playing better) and if she wants a legitimate reason why you did that, give her one and just say rebound and try to get it back," Redding said. "Talking back is definitely not an issue so everybody just says rebound. I like that – treat everybody the same and then everybody is going to work for you."
Summitt watched game film on Sunday – she gave the team the day off – and saw too many things that upset her, particularly not getting back on defense in transition. So she is using practice time to make corrections.
"We'll just get better," Summitt said. "We'll get better individually and tougher as a team. After watching our play I feel like maybe I'm not asking enough from this group. I'm going to ask for a lot more. I'm going to ask a lot more."
Summitt also acknowledged that her schedule hindered her team's development in practice. The Lady Vols played two in a row at home in November and then played three in a row a few days later at the Virgin Islands. The returned from Christmas break with a loaded road schedule and three games last week.
"We won't do what we did here this year," Summitt said. "Two in a row? No. Three in a row? No. Aside from that it's still going to be tough, and you won't always have as many days of preparation as you'd like to have, but at least the back-to-back stuff won't be a factor."
When Summitt took the floor Monday, she clearly indicated that the intensity was about to be ratcheted up several notches.
"We took Sunday off so really Monday, Tuesday are your up-and-down days," Summitt said. "But we need it. I've said all along the downside of our schedule is we haven't had enough practice time, and it shows. It shows big time, and not just in that (Saturday) game. We saw it in other games. We have two good days to work on it (before Georgia). Today, I thought we got better. Hopefully we'll get better tomorrow. Get ourselves mentally and physically ready."
Summitt made it clear to her players what she wanted.
"That's what she said – that she was going to come in and hold everybody accountable," Redding said. "We all responded well I thought today, and you've got to build on it. I guess I do it in the game, and I don't keep it consistent in practice. I've got to watch my practice film because I can just see exactly what she wants me to do. I'm trying, and my teammates are helping me so I think I'm improving every day."
If the Lady Vols thought Monday's session would be business as usual, that notion was quickly dispelled in the first few minutes of practice. There was some initial surprise, but Redding compared it to last season following a bitter loss.
"At first I think it did, but then we all got used to it because we had practices like this last year after we lost to Duke," Redding said. "I don't know if you guys noticed, but she was pretty riled up. We all know what to expect so we've just got to come in here and do what she wants."
And what about practice if Tennessee had lost to Connecticut?
"Praise the Lord," Redding said.
Monday's practice still left an impression, though.
"First one all season I can remember," Redding said. "Today all we did was transition, which is good, because that's all we're going to see on Thursday is a lot of transition. She's been in a position where she's had great teams so she's just trying to get us to that level where we need to play every game. Play our system and use our scouting report. What she's doing is right, and we've all got to buy into it."
So, have they?
"Yes," Redding said with a laugh. "After today's practice."
PARKER'S STATUS: Redshirt freshman forward Candace Parker was held out of Monday's practice to rest and rehab her left ankle, which she sprained against Temple on Dec. 28 and reinjured Saturday against UConn.
Parker is considered day to day – a decision will be made Tuesday afternoon about practicing – but she is considered probable for the Georgia game on Thursday, according to Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine.
"Tough practice, and Pat wanted to go up and down, and she wasn't going to be explosive so why put her out there?" Moshak said Monday. "I treated her yesterday. She's coming in again (Tuesday morning). If she makes progress, we'll be fine. When she first hurt it at Temple, she had minimum to no swelling. This one she's got swelling. That's going to affect many things."
Moshak said Parker, like most basketball players, has endured multiple ankle sprains.
"She's stretched out from a history of chronic ankle injuries," Moshak said. "It's more or less what's called the propioceptors, or the little sensors that tell you where you are in space and time. When you get hurt or have surgery they basically, in layman's terms, go to sleep. When that happens – there're the things that tell your muscles, your ligaments, your tendons, your neuromuscular junctions, all those things to work – so if those aren't key and sharp and responsive, it's not able to tell the muscles."
Propioceptors allow the central nervous system to monitor the body. The nervous system sends signals to the muscles to stimulate a contraction, or movement. If the system's wiring is hurt, the receptors respond with symptoms – such as swelling – as a way of saying there is a problem.
"She's got strength," Moshak said of the ankle's musculature. "That's not the issue, and she's not going to lose strength in this time – it's making sure that things function in the proper order and that things function at the right time. We can protect the ankle, but it doesn't mean she's going to be explosive out there so we make sure we get her explosiveness up to par so that her performance doesn't hinder the rest of the team nor hinder her ability to be coached by Pat."
PARKER HONORED AGAIN: Parker was picked Monday as the SEC Freshman of the Week, and it is the third time she has been selected by the conference for her first-year performances.
In three victories last week against Old Dominion, South Carolina and Connecticut, the 6'4 Naperville, Ill., native averaged 11.0 points per game, 4.7 rebounds her game, 2.3 assists per game and 1.3 steals per game. Parker shot 50 percent from the field and 70 percent from the line in those games.
Parker is ranked in the top 14 in the conference in eight categories and is the top rookie in five spots. She ranks second in blocked shots (2.3 bpg); third in defensive rebounding (6.0 drpg); sixth in rebounding (8.3 rpg); seventh in scoring (14.2 ppg); 11th in steals (1.8 spg); 11th in offensive rebounding (2.3 orpg); 13th in field goal percentage (.524); and 14th in free throw percentage (.795).