UT hosts arch-rival Vandy on Sunday

Tennessee has endured back-to-back losses once already this season. The team doesn't want Sunday to be a repeat against SEC rival Vanderbilt. After a marathon film session Friday, the Lady Vols took to the practice floor Saturday to take care of game preparations for the Commodores.

There will be a big change in the starting lineup. Coach Pat Summitt has decided to reward Dominique Redding with her first career start and is disciplining Alexis Hornbuckle by having her start the game on the bench because of her technical foul for taunting in Thursday's game.

The selection of Redding reflects both the behavior of Hornbuckle - and she said she regrets her actions - and the need to keep sensational redshirt freshman Candace Parker in the paint at power forward.

"I want to keep Candace at the four right now," Summitt said. "With their matchup defense I want to have her inside, gives us another shooter."

The Lady Vols spent Friday watching film and lifting weights. Apparently Redding, a junior forward with a polished offensive game and a sometimes indifferent approach to defense and rebounding, had an epiphany of sorts during the screening of the 72-69 loss to LSU.

"We watched tape and basically the announcer said that one thing she does is shoot. She doesn't seem to have a commitment to playing defense or rebounding," Summitt said. "And she said that really got her attention, and I thought ... "

At this point Summitt pauses in a state of suspended disbelief. She has been preaching that to Redding for more than two years.

"First time she's heard it," Summitt said. "First time she's really heard it. I loved the fact that they talked about Dom having an offensive game only. Maybe she tuned me out."

Summitt consider putting redshirt freshman forward Alex Fuller in the starting lineup, but ultimately opted for Redding because she is a junior.

Hornbuckle is available to play and will come off the bench. The precocious sophomore is a fiery point guard whose game is predicated partly on emotion. But after being hit with a technical - it came at the 4:19 mark in a tight game with LSU when Hornbuckle scored on a layup and got fouled by LSU guard Erica White - Hornbuckle was convinced she needs to rein in her emotions on occasion.

"I'm the type person I don't think," Hornbuckle said. "I just react on my emotions. So now I'm going to have to start thinking about what I do, which probably means I won't show as much emotion. I'll be thinking about it instead."

After watching the game tape against LSU the entire team had something to think about. The viewing lasted so long that the team never practiced. They went from film to weights.

"We watched every possession," Summitt said. "We talked about things. I thought we had a great film session. It was very telling. LSU knew they could take (Shanna) Zolman off the dribble. They even talk about setting up the out-of-bounds play because she wouldn't defend the cut. (Scholanda) Hoston was quoted after the game. When you look up and you think, 'I can take you one on one,' that's telling me there's a pattern here that they picked up on. Shanna, last year, was one of our best one-on-one defenders. So good lesson there."

The loss was humbling for a competitive team. It ended the Lady Vols' 22-game overall and 64-game SEC home winning streak. The Jan. 23 Duke loss unsettled the players, and they responded with a poor showing and subsequent loss to Kentucky. The loss to LSU angered them.

Senior guard Shanna Zolman, when asked if the loss would lead to the same carryover effect, responded that No. 5 Tennessee (21-3, 7-2) would not lose to No. 20/22 Vanderbilt (17-7, 6-4). Her remarks, basically taken out of context, touched off a mini media-fueled firestorm.

"I think the Duke game was a little harder because of how it turned out," senior center Tye'sha Fluker said. "We were actually in the LSU game. We're mad about the loss, we obviously wanted to come out with the win, but I think it's a little easier to bounce back from a close game than it is from a game like Duke."

Summitt, who took great exception to Hornbuckle's taunting, had no issue with Zolman's remarks.

"Keep in mind her response (is) to the question is this going to be another Kentucky?" Summitt said. "That's saying to me, 'We learned from the last one. We'll be ready to play Sunday. We're not going to lose Sunday.' I can understand her saying that. LSU is one of the top teams in the country. There's no doubt in my mind. I think they're one of the top three teams in the country. But you come in here on our home court with the kind of environment we had and you do things that really cost you in the end, you ought to be mad. If you're not mad, you're not competitive. They ought to be mad. I'm mad. It will take me a whole lot longer to get over it than them. Trust me."

Hornbuckle got in the face of an opposing player - one who she knows and who had been yammering all game long, along with UT's guard. But Hornbuckle knows she crossed the proverbial line. After the ball dropped in the basket and she was fouled by White, Hornbuckle said she told White, "Yeah. Get off me."

Official June Courteau called the technical and told Summitt that it was clearly apparent that it was warranted. Summitt said that had she seen the play - she was screened off - she would have pulled Hornbuckle from the game. She saw it later on tape and immediately made the decision to pull Hornbuckle from the lineup to underscore her resolve to not tolerate taunting. Hornbuckle expected a warning from the official, but regardless she said she has learned her lesson.

"I can get hyped up after an 'and one' play, but I'll turn and face the crowd next time," Hornbuckle said. "It is a part of the game; it's going to happen. It's not like I intentionally said, 'OK, if I get an 'and one,' I'm going to walk up to a girl's face.' I love Erica to death. Everything was going on all game. I've just got to learn to channel it the right way. I'm going to start channeling it to the crowd or the student section if we're at home. I used to flex. I'm just going to go back to that.

"She did it smart. She was about to talk back - I was watching it on film - and then she looked at the ref. That was actually smart of her. A lot of emotions were flying. If somebody got in my face like that, I'd get mad. She handled it real well. I learned a lot from that. I almost did it again (later in the game). I knew I wasn't going to say nothing; I was just shaking my head. That was a high school thing. I used to do that all the time in high school, but they would warn me. It was straight taunting."

It's immaterial to Summitt that the extracurricular activity occurred all game off the ball. She doesn't want her players acting that way and doesn't blame the officials for missing any earlier jawing.

"I don't think they even saw it during the game," Summitt said. "They're officiating a pretty intense competitive game. They're watching for screens and fouls, not watching for people mouthing off."

Summitt won't tolerate the mouthiness. She does applaud what Fluker did a few plays later when she scored and was fouled. She raised her leg, turned to her teammates and screamed.

"Tye brought energy to our team," Summitt said. "I have no problem with that. I like that. I like that about Lex. But I do not like when we're taunting period, and then the technical foul really hurt our momentum."

Hornbuckle's energy and emotion can be a springboard for the team to perform better. So does Summitt feel like she is sometimes walking a tightrope by both trying to let Hornbuckle loose and rein her in?

"I feel like I'm a solid ground; sometimes she walks a tightrope," Summitt said. "I think she has to understand that may be acceptable somewhere else. I don't have a problem if she's playing pickup this summer in the P.E. building, but we're not playing pickup, and this is a big stage here. That has never been a part of my philosophy. Never has been, never will be, never will be accepted by players. If they want to talk with their game, they need to choose to go elsewhere. Our recruits know that. Lex, I love her energy, and I explained to her. It's a habit she's got to break."

Hornbuckle has heard the message.

"I've got to learn how to contain it and channel it the right way," Hornbuckle said.

Of much greater concern to Tennessee on Sunday is how it plays in the first half. The Lady Vols spotted Vanderbilt a 14-point lead in Nashville before coming back to win 80-68 on Jan. 19.

"I don't think we ever start a game thinking, 'OK, let's be down and come back,' Fluker said with a smile. "They always play us tough. When we started off the year we weren't down the first half. As of late we've being going into halftime down. I think we're all tired of that, and we're going to come in and play hard, but Vandy has always played us differently up there. They never miss a shot for the first five minutes. This being our house we have to protect it, because you don't want to lose two in a row. I think everybody is motivated to come in here and play with energy and do the things that it takes to win."

Zolman said the false starts are not the result of scheming but instead reflect the team's lack of fire from, as she said several times, "the get-go." For that reason - the problems are mental, not physical - Zolman doesn't see any reason why it can't change.

"There're definitely things we can do about it," Zolman said. "We've just got to get a fire in our butt and just start going from the get-go. It's not Xs and Os necessarily. By people saying we're a second half team I think they specifically mean when it's a close game or we're down, we play desperately when it's in desperate times, when our back's against the wall. I think that's why we seem like more of a second half team. But right now we can't afford to be doing that. We've got to come out and kick people from the get-go. Start out like we need to start out and take the wind out of everybody's sails from the get-go. There's definitely something we can do about it."

Hornbuckle said essentially the same thing.

"For some reason this team hasn't been a first half team," she said. "I don't what the deal is with that, but we'd better get rid of that. We've got the rest of February left, and then we get into March Madness. It's definitely not Xs and Os. It's a mental thing, mindset. We know it. We go over it in scouting, practice. We know how to do it. It's just a matter of actually having the attitude to make it important to you."

Zolman will be running the point to start Sunday's 5:30 p.m. game against Vanderbilt, which will be broadcast by ESPN2 as part of the "February Frenzy" promotion.

She will be joined in the starting lineup by Redding, Parker, Sidney Spencer and Nicky Anosike. Fluker, who has been a spark off the bench, should see plenty of playing time, as should Hornbuckle.

Vandy is expected to start: Carla Thomas, No. 50, 6'3 junior forward (11.5 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game), the 11th Commodore to reach 1,000 career points in her junior season; Nicole Jules, No. 31, 6'3 senior center (7.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg), had a career high 21 points this season against La Salle; Dee Davis, No. 10, 5'7 junior guard (7.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg), leads the SEC in assists at 6.8 per game; Holly Rogers, No. 4, 5'9 freshman guard (3.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg), one of two in-state players for Vandy who helped lead Cleveland (Tenn.) High School to the AAA state finals; and Caroline Williams, No. 33, 5'10 junior guard (13.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg), leads the conference in three-pointers per game at 3.1. Sophomore center Liz Sherwood, who started against Tennessee last month, leads the nation in field goal percentage at 66.8 percent.

Hornbuckle may be coming off the bench Sunday, but she hasn't lost her spark.

"I think our mindset is kind of to do them like they did us on their home court," Hornbuckle said. "They're in Knoxville now so we've got to take care of business on our home court. They came out fired up. We've got to come out the same way, especially knowing how we started off the game up there. I think now we're just concentrating on if our offense isn't flowing getting it done with our defense. If we're not scoring, neither are you is the mentality that I think we need to have going into this game."

Zolman wants to see her team play a complete game. The Lady Vols have proven they can score, but they are sometimes lax on the defensive end.

"We haven't put together a full 40-minute game yet," Zolman said. "Championship teams have to play 40 minutes. It's going to be a game of spurts, it's going to be a game of runs, but you've got to not only be able to put runs against their runs, but you've got to play for 40 minutes, whether it's playing hard for 40 minutes, being efficient for 40 minutes. Either way you've got to play a way that it doesn't matter what the other team brings. You're just going to be successful throughout the whole entire night."

Summitt has deployed different tactics with this team: She has cajoled and coddled the players; she has screamed and scorched the team. The ultimate result appears to be up to them. She wants a fast start, but she's seen enough this season to not know what's coming.

"They're going to start out that way if they're not making shots, and they're not defending," Summitt said. "For some reason they just can't quite figure it out. If we don't score, we've got to go back here and they're not going to score. They've lived on their offense for so many games. That's what scares me for this team (Sunday). That's what scares me for every game we play. They haven't had consistently that instinct defensively to just take people out of a rhythm, take away their strengths.

"We go to Vandy, and I thought Holly had a great scout. I thought, 'You know what? She did a great job. We won't give up any open threes.' We come out, and that's all they were doing - jacking up threes. We're running to the paint. That's not a team that's using a scouting report. That's a team that's running up and down the floor and had no sense of urgency. They got it at halftime. I about had a stroke, but they got it at halftime. Here they are now, same situation the other night. If they don't get it then this is not a team that is going to make a great run in postseason. If they get it I like their chances. That's just it in a nutshell. Do the math. Come out, miss, miss, miss. Go down and let them shoot. It's like playing H-O-R-S-E."

If Tennessee hopes to spell T-I-T-L-E, it's time to start listening and learning.

SCOUTING REPORT: Associate head coach Holly Warlick handled the scout on Vanderbilt. Here, in Warlick's typically humorous fashion, in her assessment.

When Tennessee has the ball, the goal is to "score," she said. When Vandy has the ball, the intent is to "stop 'em," she said.

Seriously, Warlick handled the scout for the Commodores because as a Tennessean and a former Lady Vol player, she wants a good showing against Vanderbilt. Summitt loved Warlick's last scouting report, but the players - as they have been inclined to do sometimes - didn't heed it. At Saturday's practice, Warlick put them through their paces again.

"They move to the high low, obviously have to stop the three-point shooting," Warlick said about when the Commodores are on offense. "They do a lot of handoffs, ball screens, back screens. We've just got to make sure we're communicating and on the same page."

When Tennessee has the ball, "Take care of the ball, limit turnovers," she said. "We're turning the ball over too much. Try to get everybody touches and don't let the ball get stuck in our hand. Try to move the ball."

The coaching staff is as frustrated as the players by the slow starts and doesn't want to see another double-digit Commodore lead.

"Obviously we haven't done anything by design," Warlick said of the deficit that Tennessee has put itself in. "We've just got to make plays, finish plays. We've been getting open looks. We had open looks against LSU; we're just not knocking down shots. We've got to finish plays and hope we do it early. We don't won't to get down early. This team found a way to get back, but for us (staff) and for them it's better for us to be ahead."

Tennessee also needs to commit the scouting report to heart. Hornbuckle pointed to her misunderstanding for a breakdown against LSU in which point guard Erica White should have been picked up at half court. Now, talented point guard Dee Davis is looming.

"That was a misunderstanding between myself and the coaches because in practice they said to stay back off of her," Hornbuckle said of White. "But she was just talking about zone (and not man coverage). They kept saying it over and over so my mindset was stay off of her and make her take that shot. I misunderstood it. They were talking about the zone. That was my fault and misunderstanding."

Tennessee has found a very effective high-low combination to counter other teams. Fluker, who had 14 points against LSU, and Parker, who tallied 23, are both aggressive scorers who are inclined to go to the basket and rebound.

"I think what makes us so effective is because she is such a great player," Fluker said of her paint mate. "People are going to double her so when's she going off and hitting three buckets in a row I'm able to give her a relief when they are doubling her. I let her know and talk to her, and she has a good eye of passing the ball and getting it to me where I need it so I can score. We do a good job of feeding off of each other and playing together."

ON TAP: All 12 SEC teams are in action Sunday. The other matchups are: Alabama at Mississippi State; Kentucky at Arkansas; Auburn at Ole Miss; Georgia at LSU; and South Carolina at Florida.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tennessee leads the series against Vanderbilt, 46-6, and the Lady Vols are 20-0 at home against the Commodores. ... Vandy went on a two-game losing streak after the Jan. 19 loss to Tennessee (Florida and LSU) but has since won four consecutive contests against Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas. ... Tennessee has faltered since getting Summitt her 900th career victory at Nashville and is 3-3 in games played since with wins over Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas and losses to Duke, Kentucky and LSU. ... The College Sports Information Directors of America announced Feb. 9 that four Lady Vol basketball players were named to the 2006 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District teams. Shanna Zolman received first team honors for the second straight year, while Sidney Spencer, Tye'sha Fluker amd Nicky Anosike earned third team honors for the first time. No other university placed more than two basketball players on any of the district squads. Zolman was the the first Lady Vol since Kara Lawson to win two straight years. The Syracuse, Ind., guard has a 3.56 GPA in journalism and electronic media and has accrued Academic All-SEC honors (2004, 2005) and All-SEC honors (2004, 2005). Fluker, a center from Pasadena, Calif., has a 3.64 GPA in retail and consumer science. Spencer, a sports management major from Hoover, Ala., has the highest GPA (3.71) on the team. Anosike, a center from Staten Island, N.Y., has a 3.64 in Arts and Sciences. Anosike was an unanimous selection to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2005 and was also named to the Academic All-SEC Freshman Team. She made a perfect 4.0 GPA in the fall. ... The fans love this game. With 15 games played in Knoxville, the attendance figures are 225,062, or an average of 15,004 per game. Nashville has hosted 18 games with 206,624 in attendance, or an average of 11,479. The teams have played at a neutral site on eight occasions before a total of 60,168 fans for an average of 7,521. The largest gatherings were 21,968 in Knoxville on Feb. 22, 2001; 15,317 in Nashville on Jan. 30, 1993; and 11,182 in Memphis on March 3, 2001, in the SEC tourney.


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