No. 5 UT begins preparations for No. 3 LSU

The Lady Vols took to the practice court Monday in a high-energy session to begin game preparations for Thursday's visit from conference leader LSU. The players practiced for about three hours and went through a full-court workout on both offense and defense.

After the session ended even coach Pat Summitt was pleased with the effort.

"Absolutely," she said. "We typically practice the day after a game and then take off because I always want to come back and revisit anything that happened the day before or, in this case, today was more of an up-and-down day. I knew we had a lot of work to do, and I'd rather do it today than Tuesday or Wednesday because we're going to need our legs. We'll go light Wednesday."

The team will take off Tuesday to allow a full day of rest. The best news for Summitt on Monday, besides the team's practice response after the resounding win over Arkansas, was that junior Sidney Spencer, senior Tye'sha Fluker and freshman Lindsey Moss all practiced.

Spencer left Sunday's game when she hyperextended her right knee - the same knee she had surgically repaired a year ago - and was evaluated Monday. She was cleared to play. Spencer's availability for the LSU game is key because of her shooting range.

"Absolutely," Summitt said. "It gives us a different dimension when we have her there, stretches the defense. She's OK. She looked good today."

Moss also participated in her first full practice since breaking her nose a week ago in the game against Alabama. She had surgery last Friday and will wear a protective splint at least until she returns to the doctor Thursday. She got in some repetitions at point guard against a very quick male practice squad and struggled in that aspect, but otherwise Moss showed no ill effects from the week off and wasn't hesitant to go all out on defense.

"I think she did a good job," Summitt said. "Obviously running at the point against these guys she wasn't ready. But I was really pleased to see her toughness and getting back on the floor. It didn't seem like she was shy. She didn't shy away from any of the contact."

Fluker hurt her left thumb in the Arkansas game but had it taped before Monday's practice and is cleared to play. Several players have dealt with finger and thumb injuries this season, but so far none has missed any court time.

The practice was devoted to both defense and offense with Tennessee practicing its sets and preparing to guard the motion offense of LSU.

"Rather than guarding set players, you really have to defend concepts within the motion offense because it's all reading," Summitt said. "There are options off of their reads. They probably run it better than anyone in the country. I don't know that there's another team as committed to the motion game. It's a lot like watching coach (Bob) Knight's teams over the years and watching the reads. Basically it's not a pattern; it's a read. Therefore it can be very difficult to defend, and you really have to be aware and mindful of cuts and what kind of reads they're making. It's a challenge."

While the team learns to defend LSU's motion offense, Summitt must decide how to deploy freshman Candace Parker, who can play both small and power forward, but has shown herself to be quite a force inside, especially on the boards.

"She's much better inside," Summitt said. "I haven't decided what I'm going to do as far as our lineup. At the four spot she's one of the best players in the country. Put her at the three, she's got a lot of company out there."

The game between No. 5 Tennessee (21-2, 7-1) and No. 3 LSU (20-1, 8-0) is part of ESPN's "Rivalry Week" promotion and will be televised at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

"It becomes that when two teams are battling for the top spot in the conference," Summitt said. "It seems like of late it's been the two of us. Years ago it was Auburn and us, Georgia and us, now it's LSU and us."

There is one constant in that equation, of course, and it's Tennessee.

"Unfortunately, though, we haven't always come out on top," Summitt said.

The winner of Thursday's game will control its destiny in the SEC regular season. Summitt knows how important this game is, and she wants Lady Vol fans to turn out in force at Thompson-Boling Arena. As of last week, more than 19,000 tickets had been sold.

"You look at the UConn game. If you're talking about an X factor, that was it," Summitt said of the crowd. "They brought so much energy. I just think that inspired our team - not that we're not going to be inspired - but I think they not only have a positive impact on the home team, but I think they can have an effect on the visiting team. They were in to that game. We've had a lot of games like that in terms of the crowd being that sixth player that made a big difference. This is a game where I'd love to see us pack this place. First of all they're going to see a great ball game. I can't imagine it not being one. Secondly, give this team a great boost."

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