"The George Washington game just sent me over the edge," Summitt said. "It really did. I went home and watched that tape and it was disgusting to see how many players took possessions off, how we played in spurts. We'd be very inspired and then we'd be very uninspired. I just couldn't like what I saw. Very undisciplined."
No. 5 Tennessee takes on No. 23/24 Texas, 7-2, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern (Fox Sports Net, Lady Vols Radio Network) in Austin at the Frank Erwin Center. So what does Summitt want to see Sunday afternoon?
"I want to see a team of five every time we're on the floor playing together, playing hard, playing inspired basketball," she said. "Not have to scream at players to go to the boards – it should be four players on the offensive boards; it should be five box-outs on the defensive boards."
Summitt is expected to stay with her usual starters: Shannon Bobbitt, 5'2 junior guard, No. 00 (5.6 points per game, 4.0 assists per game, 1.3 rebounds per game); Alexis Hornbuckle, 5'11 junior guard, No. 14 (9.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 steals per game); Sidney Spencer, 6'3 senior forward, No. 1 (13.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Candace Parker, 6'5 sophomore forward, No. 3 (19.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg); and Nicky Anosike, 6'4 junior center, No. 55 (9.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
Texas coach Jody Conradt is expected to start: Carla Cortijo, 5'7 redshirt freshman guard, No. 3 (4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Parade All-American and No. 10 overall high school recruit – and top point guard – by All-Star Girls Report, injured her knee (hyperextended left knee that had been surgically repaired in high school) last season in Duke game on Dec. 4 and granted redshirt year, played in Puerto Rico before enrolling at Bellaire High School in Houston; Erika Arriaran, 5'10 sophomore guard, No. 4 (10.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg), made 2005-06 Big 12 All Freshman Team, Parade and State Farm/WBCA player of the year awards in high school, called one of the purist shooters in Texas program history, her father, Jim, played football at Oregon; Erneisha Bailey, 5'9 junior guard, No. 20 (5.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg), started six games last season and played in 26, considered lockdown defender who will compete for shooting guard minutes; Tiffany Jackson, 6'3 forward/center, No. 33 (17.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg), All-American and national player of the year candidate, played at the same high school in Duncanville, Texas, as former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings, selected to Big 12 Preseason First Team, runs the floor and handles the ball like a guard, First Team All Big 12 as a sophomore and junior; and Earnesia Williams, 6'1 redshirt freshman forward, No. 00 (6.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg), 2004-05 Gatorade State Player of the Year in Oklahoma at Sapulpa High School, tore ACL in right knee on Dec. 4, 2005, in her first start against Duke, had 12 points, three rebounds, one assist and two steals in 14 minutes of play, granted redshirt year, her mother, Kammie Holmes, starred in basketball at NAIA power Fort Hays State University (1989-91), which won the 1991 NAIA national championship.
The last time Tennessee played at Texas on Nov. 25, 2004, the Lady Vols' bus broke down en route to the arena. They had to wait on cabs and cars to get the team, staff and equipment to the Erwin Center and they arrived about 40 minutes before tipoff.
"The last time we went to Austin it wasn't a great experience for us," Summitt said. "I think it sticks in our mind because that's when our bus broke down, and our team broke down right afterwards once when we got on the court."
The Lady Vols couldn't even leave right after the 74-59 loss on Thanksgiving night. Their incoming charter plane lost an engine and had to land in Atlanta. It was hours later before a replacement plane could get to Austin so the team waited out the delay in the visitor's locker room, which gave Summitt time to watch the game film. Needless to say it wasn't a fun trip.
Texas' two losses this season – New Mexico and Duke – came on the road. The Longhorns are 7-0 at home.
"It's a tough place to play – the Texas type of defense and obviously they always draw very well for this game," Summitt said. "Tiffany Jackson, she's a real force on the inside. They are a very athletic team so I think defensive intensity and pressure will be something that we have to handle."
The Longhorns also should have revenge on their minds. Tennessee wiped out Texas last year in Knoxville, 102-61, on Dec. 1, 2005. For the Lady Vols the win broke a four-game losing streak to Texas. For the Longhorns it was the sixth-largest margin of defeat in program history and the highest ever in the 27-game UT-UT series, which Tennessee leads 16-11.
Texas is experiencing growing pains this season but playing at home can settle a young team's nerves.
"I think young teams struggle more on the road than they do at home," Summitt said. "I've found that to be true with our teams. I certainly think coming off the loss to Duke, which was not a good loss in terms of how they performed, I'm sure they're going back and go to work. They'll be ready to defend us. We pretty much had our way with them last year. Revenge is a factor whether you're young or you're a veteran. Obviously I think they'll be ready to play us."
The game will be another road test for Tennessee's two young points in Bobbitt and Cait McMahan and the first road game since the Lady Vols lost to North Carolina on Dec. 3. During her weekly teleconference Summitt said Bobbitt had seemed out of sync in the Arizona State game – Tennessee's first road game of the season – and when Summitt later asked what was wrong Bobbitt replied she was thrown off her rhythm by not hearing "Rocky Top" like she does at home.
"Y'all think Texas will play ‘Rocky Top?' " Summitt said to reporters and jokingly asked someone to raise the question with Conradt and see if she would arrange to have Tennessee's trademark song played Sunday.
"At halftime of the ASU game, I went up to Shannon and asked ‘What is the deal? You've got 9,000 people watching you; you have to step up and play on the big stage. Why are you so nervous?' She said to me, ‘Coach, I'm used to hearing Rocky Top,' " Summitt said. "Well there wasn't any Rocky Top in Arizona and there certainly won't be any played in Texas. I think what you see sometimes when you have those young players, having been in that environment, it can affect their performance."
But, overall, the addition of Bobbitt and fellow junior Alberta Auguste has been nothing but beneficial for Tennessee. Bobbitt is a pure point guard, and Auguste has been very effective on defense and on the boards.
"I thought Alberta Auguste and Shannon Bobbitt could both help us, but the fact that they had two years of experience at the juco level gave them a wealth of experience to come in and help us," Summitt said. "They didn't seem overwhelmed at all. They seemed much more mature in handling the expectations and getting into our training and conditioning in the summer. It was a very pleasant surprise, and I was very pleased.
"At the same time, the thing that they have struggled with is when we are on the road in hostile environments, in particular Shannon at ASU and Alberta at UNC, they seem to be a little overanxious and bothered in that environment. That's why we do what we do with our scheduling. They have both helped us tremendously, but I think there is a still a real upside to what they can do in the future."
Bobbitt, Auguste and McMahan will likely get a pep talk from Hornbuckle, who knows all too well how a first-year guard feels on the road at Texas.
"I can tell you firsthand," Hornbuckle said. "That was my first big road trip, my first big ‘postseason (type)' atmosphere and as a young guard you have to be mentally prepared. You've got to be able to handle it, play hard and play basketball. Because once you get caught up in the noise it can throw you off. You can get in to a little shell. I think just go and play basketball."
If Bobbitt and McMahan can be steady at the point then Hornbuckle is also free to just go play and stay on the wing, where she is more effective as a slasher and rebounder. The Lady Vols are averaging 36.6 boards per game with a paltry +5.9 margin.
The dual messages of board play and physicality were drilled over five scheduled days of practice during the break between games, and Sunday's matchup will be the first chance for Summitt to see if the extra repetitions and increased emphasis translate into tangible results on the court.
If it doesn't – if this team remains in finesse mode instead of physical play – how does she react?
"This is who they are?" Summitt asked as if considering the possibility. "It's too early to tell, but if this is who they are than this is who I am. I'm prepared. I am prepared to coach the way I've had to coach in the last few days of practice. That does not bother me."
Does she worry about burnout?
"With me?" Summitt said with a big smile that indicated otherwise. "I would hope they would figure it out. They have to take ownership. It has to be their team. I thought they did (buy into it in practice this week). I've been very pleased with how they responded."
The one concern is that the team will respond to the call to be more physical by picking up more fouls, but Summitt said she thinks her team can handle it. Hornbuckle expressed personal concern but said that couldn't deter the team.
"That's my concern, because I come out trying to get every hustle play, trying to body up people, and I was on the bench in the first half the first three games," Hornbuckle said. "It plays a big part, but you can't let one group of referees dictate how you're going to play the next game with a totally different group of referees. If you get that first foul, now back off a little bit and play smart. You can't go in there tentative because then that is when a team is going to walk all over you."
Tennessee's tendency to play in spurts has allowed teams to do just that on occasion and that is a trend the players and the staff want to see stopped.
There are times when the Lady Vols will eschew fundamentals, such as boxing out, and instead try to use their athleticism to out-jump opponents for the boards.
"We got exposed at North Carolina if you want to talk athleticism," Summitt said, though the game was "absolutely" good for that reason. "It's very telling. But then you turn around and play George Washington, which obviously is not the same type of team – they had some good athletes, good shooters – but we got into that same play hard for a little bit, coast."
Hornbuckle said the team is physically strong enough to play a lot tougher than it has shown.
"We're very capable of being physical," she said. "We spent a lot of time in the summer in the weight room. I know everybody is strong; everybody is strong enough to handle their own.
"It's just at times we think about, ‘OK, am I going to get this foul?' or ‘Maybe I can out-jump this person this possession' instead of, ‘Hey, every possession I'm going to go box out. I'm going to body them.' In all actuality that makes your job a lot easier because then that player doesn't really want to deal with you."
She expects Texas to prove to be a formidable challenge, especially Jackson who is a force inside.
"I think they're physical," Hornbuckle said. "I think they bring the heat for the whole forty minutes so we've got to be prepared for that."
Hornbuckle has another objective. She needs to become more of a scorer for Tennessee and join Parker and Spencer in averaging double digits in points.
"I think I just need to look for my shot more," she said. "I'm still point guard-minded every now and then when I get the ball. I'm trying to break down the D and pass and sometimes I overlook my shot in order to get somebody else a better shot. That has its pros and cons. Because if it's a crucial time when I might be open, I should have taken the shot rather than passing it.
"But I think if I just get in there and play instead of over-thinking the game it's going to help me out – shot selection and everything."
Tennessee would like to have some better things to think about on the way back to Knoxville than the thoughts they were left with after the last trip to Austin. And Summitt routinely watches the just-played game tape on the flight home. Hopefully for the Lady Vols she will like what she sees.
SCOUTING REPORT: Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick handled the scouting report for the Texas game. Here is her assessment.
When Texas has the ball: "Probably 50 percent of their scoring comes from Arriaran and Jackson, and they're both outstanding players. Erika is a catch-and-shoot type kid, really hunts her shots and Jackson is a workhorse. They just get on her back and ride. She faces up; she's a great rebounder.
"Probably our biggest concern for their team as a whole is their offensive rebounding and their transition points off of our turnovers. So we've got to take care of the ball and not give them second-chance points. We want to make sure if they're going to score that they try to score in their half-court game. That's what we've got to try to limit them to."
When Tennessee has ball: "We're going to push tempo. We need to take care of the ball. I think that's probably our main concern. And we've got to match their physical-ness. I think we're going to press them. We're just going to continue to do our game plan, but we just can't turn the ball over, which gives them easy baskets."
Warlick said Tennessee needed to be ready for the crowd and for the Longhorns' desire to erase the memory of the last game against the Lady Vols.
"It's a loud environment," she said. "We beat them by 40 last year and the kids that are on their team had never been beaten by that much. They're a better team than what they played last year and they're well coached and their players play hard. They're young. They've gone to Duke, and they've been in some tough environments. They're at home and they're going to be relaxed and settled. I think it's going to be a good game."
TIPOFF SHOW: The Fox Sports Network College Hoops Tip-Off Show will air from the Erwin Center beginning at 1 and ending at 1:30 p.m. prior to tipoff. It will be the first time this season that the show airs from a women's game venue.
Mike Goldberg and Debbie Antonelli, who also is the color commentator for the game, will be broadcast partners for the live half-hour show. The show is expected to feature live cut-ins to the Erwin Center and interviews with Jody Conradt and Pat Summitt. Kevin Eschenfelder will provide play-by-play during the game.
IN HER OWN WORDS: Pat Summitt will be on SportSouth's original production, "In My Own Words," on Sunday, Dec. 17, at 10 p.m. Eastern.
"You may out-coach me, you may out-skill me and you may outplay me, but you will never outwork me," she says on the show.
The show will re-air Monday, Dec. 18, at 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern.
ON TAP: Five other SEC teams are in action Sunday: TCU at Georgia; Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Kentucky; LSU at Michigan State; Central Arkansas at Ole Miss; and Vanderbilt at South Florida.
Three other SEC teams play Monday: Birmingham Southern at Alabama; Arkansas at Memphis; and Stetson at Florida.
ODDS AND ENDS: The 11 wins by Texas in the series have been scattered with five in Knoxville, five in Austin and one at a neutral site. Tennessee had won 13 straight from the 1989-90 season through the 2000-01 season, and then Texas reeled off four straight from the 2001-02 season through the 2004-05 season. The games tend to be either close or blowouts, such as the Lady Vols' win in the 2005-06 season. Texas won by 31 points, 91-60, in Austin on Dec. 11, 1984… Tennessee ranks second in the nation in field goal accuracy at 50.8 percent, second in three-point field goal accuracy at 43.8 percent, sixth in blocked shots with 6.2 bpg (a position Tennessee shares with Texas), ninth in scoring with 81.2 ppg, 10th in steals with 13.9 spg, 14th in scoring margin at +21.1 ppg and 18th in assists with 17.9 per game. … Tennessee is 10-2 in games played on December 17. One loss came in 1976 to Delta State, 74-63, though Tennessee also got one of its 10 wins on the same day in 1976 over Clemson, 87-61, in two games played at a neutral site that day. The other loss on December 17 came in 1981 against Ohio State, 83-82, in overtime. …. Pat Summitt has an overall record of 921-178 so Sunday will be her 1,100th career game to coach in. It will be the 1,185th career game for Jody Conradt, who has a record of 889-295. Between the two Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coaches that's an eye-popping 1,810 wins.