Tennessee (15-1, 2-0) got wins over its archrival in UConn and avenged last year's loss to the Gators. The Lady Vols played Thursday evening as if they had something to prove – opening up a 25-0 score within the first eight minutes on the team that beat Tennessee at home on Senior Night and likely cost UT a No. 1 seed in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
"We definitely talked about that before the game," junior center Nicky Anosike said Friday. "I definitely mentioned it. It carried over. We kind of blamed them for the stuff, and it made us mad and that kind of fired us up."
The downside for Tennessee was the charge Florida mounted before halftime – the Gators went on a 17-1 run – that narrowed the gap to 44-26 before the break. Tennessee went on to win 80-58, but Anosike said the team needs to develop an attitude of shutting down an opponent.
"I think we need to focus on if they score once, OK fine. That's an inevitable part of the game," Anosike said. "But now don't let them score a second time so definitely they're not going on runs, and there's no consecutive scoring, and we're not going to have a 17-1 run like we did yesterday. So just focusing on, ‘OK, fine you scored on us this time, but you're not going to score on us next time,' and just getting that mindset."
Coach Pat Summitt watched the game film and came away with the same impressions she saw courtside at the O'Connell Center.
"Great start," Summitt said. "Starters were really doing the job in the opening minutes of the game for us. Obviously got off to one of our best starts of the year. At the same time – I won't say our starters had a letdown – I just think our bench didn't keep us at the level and intensity of performance that we wanted to be at.
"It's a matter of combinations now, making sure we understand we may have to substitute maybe not as freely but a little bit more specific to keeping four people on the floor and substituting one at a time, no more than two. We have some players that right now need to step up and be more dependable."
One of the dependable ones is sophomore forward Alex Fuller. She played 28 minutes and scored seven points, including a three-pointer, and had eight rebounds to go with a block and a steal. Summitt wants to see defensive effort off the bench, and seven of Fuller's boards were on the defensive end of the floor.
"I think Alex has played a very fine role for us and has been a player that I feel like you can count on her every night," Summitt said.
Fuller has played in all 16 games so far this season for an average of 21.5 minutes per game. She is hitting 51.9 percent of her shots for a per-game average of 7.1 points. She is the team's third-leading rebounder at 4.8 boards per game.
Summitt also mentioned the backup point guard play of freshman Cait McMahan, who was 3-5 from the field with two defensive rebounds, two assists and a block.
"I thought Cait had some really good minutes and did a lot of good things in this game in particular in Florida," Summitt said. "That is certainly something that can help us. She and Shannon even played some together. I liked her toughness and her aggressiveness and her play overall."
Speaking of toughness, junior point guard Shannon Bobbitt managed to return to the game in the second half after running into a screen in the first half that left her crumpled on the floor and needing assistance to get off the court.
"She's OK," Summitt said. "She got blindsided and hit a brick wall. That would hurt anyone."
When it was mentioned that the 5'2 Bobbitt went down like a felled tree, Summitt smiled and said, "A stump."
Bobbitt has been bringing nothing but smiles to Summitt's face lately for the way she has managed the team, especially on the road in hostile venues. Her stature is the source of some good-natured remarks – Bobbitt refers to herself as "five-foot nothing" – but there haven't been shortcomings in her play.
"She's really done a nice job in the opening minutes of the game," Summitt said. "I think that's where you learn a lot about a player because if they're nervous sometimes you see it more in the opening minutes than the closing minutes. She's been pretty steady and very consistent in her play."
Tennessee likely will have 10 players available for the Georgia game – the usual starters plus Fuller, McMahan, Dominique Redding, Alberta Auguste and Elizabeth Curry. Freshman forward Nicci Moats has not returned to practice since arriving on campus this week to enroll in spring classes and is still not feeling well, Summitt said. Moats saw the team physician, Dr. Rebecca Morgan, on Friday.
The Georgia game has been announced as a sellout – a few single seats and general admission tickets were available Friday afternoon – and the coaches and players are expecting a raucous road environment.
"I think it's going to be a tough road game for us," Summitt said. "We're going to have to go into that game with good scouting report defense, and we've got to stick to our game plan."
Anosike sees a team that has developed some spunk, especially on the road.
"We're definitely ready to fight," Anosike said. "UConn showed that we do have the fight in us. We just need to show that again more so on Sunday just because we are SEC rivals. I think we're ready for it mentally."