Lady Vols prepare for Stanford

The Lady Vols will practice Thanksgiving morning and then scatter to different sites to spend time with their families before reconvening Friday for the annual clash between top programs Tennessee and Stanford.

Wednesday's practice was devoted to getting better in one area that has been weak for the Lady Vols so far – three-point defense. The team did some full-court work at the start of practice and then settled into the half court to address specific issues.

"We did a lot of up and down early," coach Pat Summitt said. "I wanted to work on our transition offense and defense and try to do a better job of defending the three out of transition and limiting low block touches. And then I wanted to get in the half court and guard their sets and just really have a good session on scouting report defense."

No. 4 Tennessee, 3-0, will need to pay close attention to that scouting report against No. 11 Stanford, 2-1.

"They're a veteran team," Summitt said. "They get after you defensively. They space as well offensively as anyone we'll play all year. They play well together. Their high-low game is going to be a challenge for us."

Stanford played at home Tuesday evening – the Cardinal defeated Missouri, 75-60 – and was due to arrive into Knoxville on Wednesday night.

The matchup will not be televised because Tennessee balked at moving the game to Thanksgiving because of the burden that would place on the Thompson-Boling Arena staff. That also would not have given Stanford much time between a West Coast game and one played in the Eastern Time zone.

The operations, marketing and media relations departments met when ESPN inquired about moving the game to Thursday and decided it wasn't fair to ask ushers, the ticket office, concessions, UT police and other support staff to come in to work on Thanksgiving. Summitt agreed to tip off at any time Friday to accommodate television, but there were no takers. There also were concerns that a Thanksgiving game would hurt attendance and prevent fans that were traveling that day and spending time with their families from attending the game.

"And for our workers here we didn't think it was a fair situation to ask them to leave their families," Summitt said.

The offshoot may be brisk ticket sales for a game between ranked opponents that can be seen only in person or via pay-per-view video stream through the Lady Vols website, www.goladyvols.com.

"The way you can see it is to be here so maybe there's something to be said about that," Summitt said. "Obviously we love having TV exposure, but the decision was made strictly because of all the workers and a lot of people that go out of town."

"I think things are going well," Summitt said of tickets sold. "I know I've got my family coming in and they were like, ‘Well, you better sit down and work this out right away.' "

Summitt needed about 20 tickets to accommodate her family – mother and brothers and sister and their children and extended family members – who also will come to her house for Thanksgiving dinner.

A lot of the players also have family in town for the holiday and the games – Stanford on Friday at 7 p.m. and Middle Tennessee State University on Sunday at 4 p.m. – so they will spend time with them after practice Thursday, which is scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. at the arena with the first 30 minutes or so allocated for a film session.

"Some of them are going to Nikki Caldwell's and to Holly's," said Summitt, who will schedule a post-Thanksgiving dinner for the team. "My family is all coming in so we'll do it later, hopefully on Saturday in between the two games."

The players had an upbeat practice Wednesday and came out of the locker room all smiles and laughing and chatting with each other. The team has come together on and off the court in a relatively short period of time.

"We do like this team," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "For the most part they're great practice players. Very few (days) have we come in here and we haven't practiced well. They're very likeable. When somebody comes in here and gives the effort and works then you can do your job and coach. You don't want to have to motivate. The days you motivate are the days you get frustrated and you end up not coaching because you're so frustrated.

"I enjoy this team. I think they've got a lot of energy, and they're fun to be around."


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