Pat Summitt seeks up-tempo practice pace

The Lady Vols returned to the practice floor Monday two days after their scintillating win over Connecticut to turn their focus to two road games against conference foes Florida and Georgia.

Tennessee enjoyed the victory over its archrival, but by Monday it was time to think about the SEC.

Pat Summitt gave the team the day off Sunday and watched the film of the 70-64 win over UConn in a game with multiple storylines: Candace Parker's dunk on the Huskies' home floor, Sidney Spencer's three-pointer to un-knot a tie late in the second half and the ferocious comeback by Connecticut to erase an 18-point lead by Tennessee.

"Obviously I came away with a real understanding of what happened in the second half," Summitt said. "I thought they turned up their tempo. I thought we took some ill-advised shots and just got one look, and they really did a great job. They had (Ketia) Swanier and Renee (Montgomery) both really pushing tempo. He (Geno Auriemma) had his most athletic team on the floor. They got the ball to (Charde) Houston early in transition.

"Shannon got caught flat-footed, so did Lex. We didn't react well to our quick shots. Candace had a shot up top; Sid missed a long-range shot. (Alexis went into the lane) totally out of control. We just weren't efficient offensively. We quit doing what gave us the lead."

But the team regrouped behind the offensive arsenal of Parker and her 30 points – which came from the dunk, jumpers, a spin move with a left-handed finish, a sweet, swooping touch off the glass with the shot clock down to barely more than a second, dribble drives and interior shots – and timely shooting by Spencer, who scored 14 points.

"Obviously we did a better job of executing offensively," Summitt said. "Parker was unstoppable really in the paint. Her offensive package that day was just as good as it's been. We got her a lot of good looks, and she finished those. Sid answering that three was huge. That was key as far as tempo was concerned."

Monday's practice was two-and-a-half hours of up-and-down work with an emphasis on board play, defense and shooting drills.

The rebounding work Saturday came from Alexis Hornbuckle (six), Parker (12) and Spencer (nine). Summitt had been seeking better board play from the three spot, and Spencer delivered. Now, Summitt wants Nicky Anosike and Alex Fuller to get to the glass more. Anosike had three boards, all offensive, in 24 minutes. Fuller had two boards, both defensive, in 14 minutes.

"We're a lot better (when Spencer rebounds), especially when we're not getting rebounding from Anosike," Summitt said. "Fuller and Anosike, they've got to get their numbers up on the boards. That's big for us. Lex is obviously a very good rebounding guard. The lack of consistency (from the other interior position) is bothersome."

So on Monday at practice the lid went on the basket to create rebounds, and the team drilled repeatedly at game tempo against the practice guys. It's not that Summitt wasn't thrilled with the win over UConn – she mentioned Monday how much ownership of the game the team took – but she knows there remains improvement to be made and the SEC opponents loom large this month with a game against Duke mixed in.

Summitt got the response she was seeking Monday.

"Absolutely," she said. "I thought they were terrific today. You can't dial it up come game time. It doesn't work that way. It's repetition every day in game shots, game speed, and that's what we need."

A lengthy practice such as that held Monday allows for what the bench players need – repetition. Summitt shortened her bench considerably Saturday after using it extensively against Alabama.

"It all depends on the game," Summitt said. "I don't go into a game predetermined how many people I want to play. They have a better chance of predetermining how much they play in practice. I wanted to play Dom more; I wanted to play her earlier, yet she goes in and gives up five points."

Dominique Redding was in the game in the second half when Brittany Hunter scored and drew a foul and didn't get out on Mel Thomas, who drained the three to tie the game. In that case Spencer got picked off.

"Dom was on top of the floor, but Sid got caught up high," Summitt said. "In your matchup, the defense takes the shape of the offense. That wasn't the way it was designed. Sid was obviously supposed to be in the back. But if that happens, you've got to adjust."

Summitt said Redding had been playing well in the matchup zone so that is why she used her at that juncture in the game. At practice Monday, Summitt made it clear that she needed more defensive commitment from everyone.

She also would like to get the bench more minutes and lessen the load on Parker, who went 40 minutes against UConn, and Spencer, who played 37. Shannon Bobbitt played 34 minutes, and Hornbuckle was in for 33. However, in some games Parker could likely get a full night with no rest.

"I don't want Parker to have to play 40 minutes," Summitt said. "She was looking at me, and I knew she was winded, but I had already decided before the game started that she might have to go the distance."

The look from Parker came about two-thirds of the way through the first half in Hartford.

"She was looking at me and I said, ‘What?' " Summitt said.

Parker told her: "Don't think you need to take your timeouts home with you coach," Summitt relayed. "I started laughing. I said, ‘I got ya.' "

Tennessee and UConn started off slowly, but the Lady Vols got in an offensive rhythm – Spencer and Bobbitt were hitting three-pointers to complement Parker's dominance in the paint – and UT led at halftime, 41-29. The lead stretched to 18 points quickly in the second half and then the Huskies began their comeback.

In the 2005 Final Four semifinal game against Michigan State, the Lady Vols surrendered a huge second-half lead and lost the game. But the players and staff remained calm Saturday and never seemed out of sorts by what was unfolding on the court.

"The difference is this team is a better offensive team," Summitt said. "We've got Candace Parker inside. That team got a lead but watching us run our offense was like watching paint dry. It was painful at times. We couldn't afford in the end not to get second and third opportunities, and we were one and out in that Michigan State game. I never felt that (Saturday), no. We were struggling in that (2005) game offensively, but that team did struggle a lot."

Summitt also saw a different team than the one that prepared for North Carolina in early December. That is the sole loss in Tennessee's 14-1 season to date.

"I saw a different focus going into the game," Summitt said. "You have to give this team a lot of credit because they called their own team meeting; they talked. This game was very important to them. You could just feel it. You could see and feel a different attitude from the team going into it. If I compared the two I'd say this one was different in a good, positive way. They were very focused. They were ready to play. I felt it in the locker room. It wasn't one of those games you had to get somebody psyched up to play."

PLAYER UPDATES: Junior guard/forward Alberta Auguste collided with a practice player Monday and hurt her right shoulder. She was unable to finish practice, and she was to be examined by Dr. Rebecca Morgan, the team physician. Her status for practice Tuesday wasn't yet known.

Freshman forward Nicci Moats has returned to campus. Moats, who didn't rejoin the team after the Christmas break because of personal reasons, wasn't able to practice Monday.

"She's on campus but wasn't feeling well," Summitt said Monday. "As long as she feels OK, she should be here tomorrow."

SEC HONORS: Candace Parker earned SEC co-player of the week honors for her performances against Alabama and fifth-ranked Connecticut. She shares the accolade with Mississippi's Armintie Price.

The Lady Vol media relations office also picked Parker for the honor of Lady Vol Athlete of the Week on Monday.

In the 72-36 win over Alabama on Jan. 3, Parker had a career-best five steals, 15 points, five rebounds and five blocks in 24 minutes of playing time.

In the victory over UConn, Parker was selected the CBS and Lady Vol player of the game for her 30 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks and four assists in her first 40-minute game of the season.

The Naperville, Ill., native is ascending the Tennessee record books. Through 51 career games, Parker has 928 points, 432 rebounds and 127 blocks, ranking sixth all-time in the latter category.

When she reaches the 1,000-point plateau, she will become just the 29th Lady Vol to do so. If she does it before her 57th career game, she will be the fastest Pat Summitt-coached player to amass 1,000 points. Chamique Holdsclaw did so in 57 games and Tamika Catchings in 58.

Parker previously captured SEC player of the week honors on Nov. 20 and Nov. 27 of this season.

PUPS UPDATE: Sally Sue Summitt's seven puppies are now four weeks old. From here on out, they will sleep with their mama outside of Pat Summitt's room.

"I'm about over the pups," Summitt said. "They woke me up at 4 a.m. this morning. They were howling. So I got up and had a feeding at 4 a.m. So they woke me again at 7:30. Same thing. But I'm moving them out of my room."

Summitt looked tired but she couldn't help but smile about the pups, one of which will remain in the Summitt household.

"They are cute," she said.


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