Lady Vols pass practice tests

Pat Summitt began the tapering down process Wednesday after three tough practices but still put her team through its paces as exam week winds up. Two Lady Vols missed practice, but everyone is expected to be available for Sunday's matchup against Texas.

The team will practice Thursday afternoon and then likely take an off day Friday for rest before traveling Saturday to Austin. Wednesday evening's session continued with the same theme – get tough; be physical – and the same format – lots of full-court work – but practice ended in just less than two hours. The emphasis remained the same: boxing out, transition defense and attacking the basket.

The loss to North Carolina set up the readjustments in practice – Pat Summitt and her staff increased the intensity last Friday to a level that resembled at least midseason, if not postseason, and have made it clear what they expect on the floor. So far the players have responded.

"I think the North Carolina loss was something that we took and learned volumes from," Summitt said. "Obviously they were much more physical than we were. They were much more committed to transition and rebounding than our team demonstrated. We gave up a lot of second-chance opportunities; we gave up a lot of transition baskets. That's typically where we're strong. But I just think their physical play at times really took us out of what we wanted to do. So we placed a lot of emphasis on being more physical, being more aggressive, not giving up the layups and certainly dictating the boards."

Freshman forward Nicci Moats used the practice time for knee rehab exercises and riding a stationary bicycle. She took a tumble in Tuesday's practice, but her knee is OK, and she is expected to be back on the court this week. Junior guard Alexis Hornbuckle watched practice from the sideline after being excused from the session because of stomach illness. She also is expected back.

Junior point guard Shannon Bobbitt, who took a shot to the thigh in last week's win over George Washington, hasn't missed any practice. She was slowed a little Friday, but has shown no indications of problems this week.

"I think Shannon is doing fine," Summitt said. "She's tough. She's really a tough player and tough-minded. She bounced right back."

Tennessee, with just 10 scholarship players, will need to be at full strength at Texas in yet another road test for a relatively young squad. The longstanding Tennessee-Texas rivalry is one of several out-of-conference rivalries on tap for the Lady Vols this season, with Connecticut and Duke lurking in January.

"They're not always fun, but they're always very challenging," Summitt said. "We do this by design. I really feel like if we can play teams outside of our conference that's what we typically see when we get into postseason so now we have a better understanding of what teams bring whether they're from the Big 12 or they're from the Big East or they're from the ACC.

"The Pac-10, we've already played three of those teams this year. You feel like when you get to postseason there are no real surprises. You've played against a lot of different styles in terms of how teams play as well as how coaches coach."

PUP UPDATE: The seven puppies born Monday to Sally Sue Summitt, a yellow Lab, are all doing well, Summitt said Wednesday.

"Sally Sue is doing great," said Pat Summitt, who added that based on the look on her dog's face puppy motherhood can be exhausting and at times trying. It's probably how Summitt feels on the sidelines sometimes.

Summitt is superstitious but said she hadn't yet thought about the fact that she is seeking a seventh national title and Sally Sue had seven pups.

"Have to wait and see," she said.

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