Lady Vols hold scrimmage

The Lady Vols held scrimmage sessions Sunday against the male practice players, and the coaching staff experimented with various combinations inside and outside. Assistant Coach Nikki Caldwell was the double winner. She handled the men's squad and partook in the women's huddles.

The teams played five-minute sessions under game situations with referees. Offensive standouts varied depending on player combinations. Sophomore Candace Parker was effective in the paint, senior Sidney Spencer found her long- and short-range stroke, and junior college transfer Shannon Bobbitt got a lot of repetitions at the point guard position. Sophomore Alex Fuller was dominant on the boards and hit a three-pointer as time expired in one session. Freshman Nicci Moats, who had seen limited action in practice because of illness and knee rehab needs, displayed some nifty offensive moves during her stints on the floor.

The five-minute formats allowed the coaches to get a lengthy look at the nine players on the roster. At times they liked what they saw. They also saw several aspects of play that need some work, including protecting the ball and transition defense.

"We looked at a lot of different lineups," Nikki Caldwell said. "I thought some teams had a different defensive intensity to them than others and then offensively I thought we did a good job of distributing the basketball with the exception of some critical turnovers. They did some really nice things offensively."

The other junior college transfer, Alberta Auguste, also had some good minutes of play. She took a charge from a male player and grabbed her knee as she fell to the court. She turned out to be OK – the players bumped knees in the collision – much to the relief of everyone on the floor.

The scrimmage sessions provided the coaches with a lot of real-time game situations that they can break down and review later with the players.

"We have a lot that we can look at and dissect and watch some tape and then see where we can get better," Caldwell said.

Since the official start of practice in mid-October, the team has held 14 court sessions and overall the staff has been pleased with what the players have shown. They also made use of the preseason workouts to get the team accustomed to what to expect on the offensive and defensive ends.

"The first two weeks very pleased with how our team has come in – when we were doing preseason we put in our offensive plays and we put in a lot – for them to be able to carry that over and us be able to not miss a beat offensively and keep things going," Caldwell said. "I think defensively we're a work in progress, but we're doing a good job of having the defensive commitment. I think with the addition of our newcomers it's been great, very pleased with them. Very pleased with how Cait and Nicci are coming along. I don't think you're missing a beat when you have Alberta or Shannon in the lineup either. So very pleased with them."

Cait McMahan, a freshman guard, is likely to miss the exhibition games this week as she completes her knee rehab. She spent Sunday on the sidelines doing extensive rehab exercises and should be back soon.

The Sunday scrimmage sessions will allow the coaches to point out on film to the players specifically what worked and what needs work.

"I think one of the big focuses has been transition defense, and we're going to try to get better at that," Caldwell said. "That's going to be a focal point for this year, and obviously we want to make sure we're executing on the other end offensively."

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