Rebounding, defense drilled at practice

The Lady Vols returned Tuesday evening to Thompson-Boling Arena for film study and a practice session devoted to the principles of Tennessee basketball – defense and rebounding – after a resounding loss at Duke the night before. The turnaround – for the team's play and time in Knoxville – is a short one. Kentucky awaits in Lexington on Thursday night.

The practice followed the 75-53 loss to Duke in which Tennessee, 18-1, was out-played and embarrassed on national television.

"I thought Duke totally dictated the way they wanted to play, and we just didn't respond," coach Pat Summitt said. "We didn't dictate with our defense; we didn't dictate with our board play; we didn't dictate by running our offensive sets and didn't get to the offensive glass. Now I give them a tremendous amount of credit. They were much more inspired to win that game than we were. Now does that bother me? Yes. It greatly concerns me, because we have always been a program that understood our identity of defense and board play. I'm not sure this team has bought into it yet, and if they don't then we'll have some more miserable games like this game."

The game was miserable for sophomore point guard Alexis Hornbuckle for another reason. The students, known as the "Cameron Crazies, held up Wal-Mart bags and taunted her throughout the game in reference to a shoplifting charge in the summer after her senior year in high school.

"It's not something I'd want our fans to do," Summitt said. "It was constant. It was constant. Even if she had anticipated something like that might happen I don't think she realized how long they would sustain it and just how harsh it could be."

With Hornbuckle taken out of her game and senior guard Shanna Zolman going 0-7 from the field, the Lady Vols seemed rudderless at times.

"Like there's a glaring lack of leadership on the floor, and the coach can't be the one to take control of the game," said Summitt when asked what was going through her head courtside. "Once the game starts and things unfold players have to take the ownership. They're the ones who have to make adjustments. Even out of timeouts we would talk about things, and it just seemed to fall on deaf ears. What we have to understand as a team it's all about ownership. This team has taken more responsibility offensively but defensively and board play it's obviously glaring that we're not at the caliber that we were a year ago and not as inspired."

Summitt talked to the media before practice – she had yet to talk to her team to get a gauge on its state of mind – but she said the performance upset the coaches.

"I know how our staff felt," she said. "We were obviously extremely disappointed, embarrassed with our play. You have a chance to showcase your team and your program, and you don't step up and compete.

"I met with my staff for three hours today. We know our strengths, we know our weaknesses, and we know what we have to get better at. We'll meet with our team because first they have to buy into it. They've been living on the edge for about four games, and it caught up to them. It was a pretty tough way to learn a lesson."

The team watched film of the Duke game before practice and then spent nearly two hours working on defense and rebounding.

"We work on the things we didn't do well in the game," Summitt said. "Last night was your test; today you get the test results back. Now you look at what you did not do, and you've got to provide some answers. So in practice they need to provide some answers, and they need to understand these answers are the key to how we play defense and rebound. That's the big aspects of the game that greatly concern our coaching staff."

Assistant coach Dean Lockwood broke out his preseason personality during the defensive drills. His voice reverberated throughout the arena as he implored, cajoled and demanded that the players commit to defense. When the drills were over, he was as sweaty as some of the players.

"I'm that way," Lockwood said. "This was a training camp practice, and I'm that way by nature. As you go on you do less and less training camp-type drill work because you start preparing for specific opponents. Practice sometimes they get cerebral. Today we said we're going back to training camp. What you saw was my training camp mentality coming back."

It will take more than one day of drills to fix the Lady Vols deficiencies. The effects of such a loss can linger, and it could take several training camp sessions to drill the lessons into the heads of the players.

"I saw the start of it," Lockwood said. "Young people are incredibly resilient but they're also easily forgetful. They don't learn lessons; some things don't stay with them. A guy at West Point told me that's why we send young people to war. When you're 18, 19, 20 and 21 you often feel and seem like you're invincible. I think our team has a false sense of security about how good we were with how we were playing and how we were doing things. It was a great wakeup call to know that hey maybe coach Summitt had a point or two when she was talking about defense and rebounding and how we've got to commit to it."

The Duke game also gave the coaches a collection of film clips to show the team what they had been warning was coming.

"We now have hard-core evidence that we can show them," Lockwood said. "We didn't have that before. This is what happens to you when you don't. What you saw today was the start of a renewed sense of a-ha, an epiphany if you will, if we don't that's what happens to us. We want to avoid that. Whether or not it takes time will tell."

INJURY ISSUES: Alexis Hornbuckle and Tye'sha Fluker are both listed as questionable for Thursday's Kentucky game because of injuries and did not practice Tuesday. If they can't play, Tennessee will be down to eight players for the game.

Hornbuckle has a hairline fracture of her right patellar that she sustained in the second half of the Duke game when she went to the floor hard in the second half.

The fracture of the kneecap is vertical – thus the bone is not displaced – which is preferable to a horizontal one in which the kneecap would be unstable. She will undergo intensive rehab for the next two days, and her status is day to day, according to Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine.

If Hornbuckle were able to play Thursday she likely would need to wear a kneepad. She has pain and swelling in the knee – which she periodically iced in the Duke game – so she was held out of practice Tuesday evening.

In her absence, Shanna Zolman, Dominique Redding and Lindsey Moss shared repetitions at the point position in practice, though most of Tuesday's session focused on defense.

Fluker also was held out of practice Tuesday because of pain and swelling in her left knee, according to Moshak. She will be reevaluated to determine her status and also is listed as day to day.

She also will undergo aggressive rehab and remains questionable to play. Her knee pain is not related to a specific incident but more likely the result of chronic wear and tear.

If Fluker were unable to go, Sybil Dosty would likely be the first post player off the bench. Alex Fuller has been deployed on the perimeter lately, but she is also an effective post player.

The team will take a day off from practice Wednesday to travel to Lexington for Thursday's game. On Sunday the Lady Vols will play Alabama in Knoxville.


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