SEC road games up next

The Lady Vols will take off Wednesday to travel to Florida for Thursday's first SEC road game of the season. They will return home before making a quick turnaround for the second SEC road game against Georgia on Sunday.

Coach Pat Summitt and her staff held a high-spirited practice Tuesday – shooting drills were run at a scorching game tempo – and the team got in multiple offensive and defensive sets in full-court work.

Tennessee, 14-1, is coming off an emotional win Saturday against UConn – the Lady Vols have now won three in a row against their archrival – but that game was forgotten as soon as practice started Monday.

"We gave them Sunday off, and we didn't talk about it on Monday," Summitt said. "We talked about Florida and Georgia and preparing for these two games in a relatively short period of time. I thought we had a great practice."

The Florida game is up first in Gainesville at 7 p.m. Eastern (pay-per-view video stream on, Lady Vols Radio Network) on Thursday evening. That will be followed by Georgia in Athens at 1 p.m. Eastern (Fox Sports Net, Lady Vols Radio Network) on Sunday afternoon.

However, Tuesday drew a throng of print and broadcast media that still wanted to talk about the 70-64 win over UConn in Hartford so the players and coaches complied.

"It was great," said freshman guard Cait McMahan, who was playing in her first UT-UConn game. "It may have been the most exciting game I've ever been a part of. It was just great to be in an atmosphere like that."

McMahan, who had a steal, played five minutes in the first half and managed the game well when she ran the point.

"I actually wasn't nervous at all," she said. "It didn't even cross my mind. I was surprised. I was just anxious to play."

McMahan had one of the best views of Candace Parker's dunk in the second half and leaped off the bench when Parker slammed home the ball off a Sidney Spencer steal. She had plans for Parker had she not seized the opportunity for the dunk.

"If she didn't I was going to hit her after the game," McMahan said. "It's the best dunk she's ever had I think because it's against UConn on their floor. It's rude, and that's good."

Spencer was a key part of Parker's first dunk against Army last March and her latest one. In both cases it was Spencer who forced a turnover and then passed the ball ahead of Parker to give her a clear path to the basket.

"I don't remember Army, but of course since we just played Connecticut I remember that steal," Spencer said. "We were trapping, and she (the UConn player with the ball) was pretty much in the corner and on the baseline. There was pretty much nowhere for her to go.

"I figured I could get this steal. I heard Candace say, ‘Sid, throw it up.' And I looked and there she was breaking down the court. I knew it was about to happen so I just threw it. Here we go. I screamed. I'm never around her when she dunks. I'm usually at half-court so I just screamed and just made a fool of myself."

The dunk was impressive but so was Parker's physical feat of playing 40 minutes. Spencer went 37 and only got short breaks in the three minutes she wasn't on the floor.

"We have an incredible strength and conditioning coach in Heather Mason and coach is always preparing us throughout the season with a lot of up and down work," Spencer said. "But I think at any given point depending on if there're foul troubles or there are injuries every player has to be ready to go. It's very easy to get motivated against a team like UConn so you can always find something extra."

Although the media was still fixated on the UConn win, the players and staff were not, and the two practice sessions Monday and Tuesday reflected that. The sessions were intense and demanding with sharp execution expected and pointed out when it didn't happen.

Junior guard/forward Alberta Auguste, who collided Monday with a practice player and had to leave practice with a sore shoulder, checked out fine in a physical and returned Tuesday "good to go," Summitt said. Freshman forward Nicci Moats is still ill and will not travel with the team to Florida, Summitt said.

Classes start Wednesday so the players will have to return to school mode at the same time that the SEC road schedule gets rigorous.

"You obviously want them to realize that the UConn game was what it was," Assistant Coach Nikki Caldwell said. "It was a game. We obviously play this tough of a schedule to help prepare us for the March Madness. You celebrate the win, you're glad you came away victorious, but there's more work to be done. And I think they know that and realize that."

McMahan, although a freshman, seems to have already gotten the message.

"You're a good team if you can come in and not get the big head," she said of the team's approach to practice this week. "We beat UConn, but we've got another half a season to go. That's the way we look at it. We've got to come in and each day of practice we've got to get better for the next opponent. UConn is done with. Yeah, we won. Great. But Thursday's next and then Sunday and then the next teams after that."

Summitt used practice this week to remind the team of the loss to Florida last season on Tennessee's home floor. The Gators were unranked at the time – they catapulted into the rankings the next day – and the defeat dealt a blow to the Lady Vols' postseason seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

"It was a costly loss for us, but I think this is a new year," Summitt said. "Now you can use it as motivation, but hopefully you don't need that type of motivation if you really are serious about running the table in the league. Our goal is to try to win it outright, and obviously we have to take them one at a time."

Spencer said Summitt has delivered a nice mix of congratulating the team on the UConn game, reminding them of last season and looking ahead to the next game on the schedule.

"She's definitely doing a great job of being positive with us and telling us when we did a great job and then really teaching us what we could have done better," Spencer said. "At practice we came to work. We know that we are never there because it's only January. It's not even close to postseason. So we came in, we worked hard, and we've just got to keep working. Because we know we didn't play a perfect game, and we'll never be perfect so we've got to keep working."

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