Carson-Newman up next for UT

The game plan for tonight's exhibition match with Carson-Newman is to get the four freshmen "a lot of minutes," Pat Summitt said. After a tough exhibition opener against the USA team in which several starters logged considerable court time the coach wants to see what the youngsters can do.

One of those freshmen, Sydney Smallbone, had her first collegiate basketball experience Sunday and scored eight points on 3-6 shooting. She hit both of her three-point attempts, got one rebound and had zero turnovers in 12 minutes of play.

"I was trying not to get too overwhelmed," said Smallbone a 5'10 guard from Granger, Indiana. "I was trying to focus on the game of basketball and focus on the little things. It was against such a great caliber of a team that I was just trying to do the little things."

Coach Pat Summitt intends to use tonight's game to get Smallbone and her fellow freshmen, Angie Bjorklund, Vicki Baugh and Kelley Cain some significant playing time.

"It's another opportunity to learn the system as far as the game goes and get the opportunity to get the feel of things," Smallbone said. "It's a good opportunity to get out there and learn."

Bjorklund is in the starting lineup along with Shannon Bobbitt, Alexis Hornbuckle, Candace Parker and Nicky Anosike. But Parker's right shoulder, which she injured in practice two weeks ago, was jarred in Sunday's game and she needs some rest before the season opener on Nov. 11.

Parker practiced Monday, but Summitt said she would meet with Jenny Moshak, the team's head of sports medicine, before deciding Parker's playing status for Tuesday's 7 p.m. game at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"I want to talk to Jenny and just see," Summitt said.

Parker had 22 points and seven rebounds in Sunday's 83-72 exhibition loss to the USA senior national team. Summitt wanted a tough opener for her 2007-08 squad.

"Absolutely," she said. "That was by design. I knew we would have a great challenge. I wanted to see a little bit about the character of our team as well. I thought for the most part we were mentally tough, competed."

But she also welcomes an exhibition game with Carson-Newman because it will allow her to get longer looks at the newcomers.

"Just to see where they are and to gauge their progress from the start of practice and also to let them have time to just play," Summitt said. "They need it. They need to just go play. The main thing is to see if we can be more committed to our man defensive system. Right now I don't feel that we get five people on the same page all the time. We've just got to have the discipline to do that in all five spots."

On Monday after practice the coaches and players watched film clips of the USA game with an emphasis on the first half. Summitt watched the entire film after the game.

"I thought in the first half we were very inconsistent in spreading the floor," Summitt said. "We need a lot of reps on denying the middle of the floor and just committing to our philosophy. Second half was a much better effort. We never quit. I thought we did a lot of good things in the second half. I'm pleased with our freshmen."

During the post-game press conference Summitt expressed disappointment at the post play but noted the USA team did have some big bodies.

"Obviously, they had the size to defend us in the paint," Summitt said. "That was certainly a factor. But my take on it – when I watch the tape I may have a different impression – is that we didn't really seal in our post-ups and give ourselves an opportunity to catch and score. A lot of times we would catch and have to put the ball on the floor before we had a scoring opportunity that we were comfortable with.

"We've just got to bury people in the paint. Dean (Lockwood) works on that every day with these post players. We've just got to carry that drill and that commitment into game situations. We'll get better in there."

The tape confirmed what Summitt saw live.

"We've got to be more physical in our box-outs and get four people to the boards," the coach said Monday afternoon. "We typically had two to three in the USA game. We have to be more committed to four to the offensive boards and be more physical in our post-ups."

The Lady Vols were out-rebounded, 45-31, by the USA team.

"Our board play has got to pick up, particularly our defensive board play and then getting people on the offensive glass," Summitt said. "We talked about this a year ago; we're talking about it first exhibition game. But it's definitely going to be a point of emphasis, and we've got to find out who's going to rebound on the frontline. It's got to happen for us."

Summitt expects to see improvement in the second, and last, exhibition contest. Starting next Sunday when Tennessee-Chattanooga comes to Knoxville the games count.

Carson-Newman is an NCAA Division II school in nearby Jefferson City. Coach Dean Walsh has said he seeks exhibitions such as these both for exposure of his program and to challenge his players. He figures after battling SEC teams – Carson-Newman lost Sunday to Auburn, 94-52 – his players will be more prepared to take on the teams in the South Atlantic Conference. Carson-Newman was 21-10 last season and earned an NCAA Division II tourney bid.

On Sunday, Tennessee was squaring off against some of the best players in the country. A letdown would seem to be inevitable as the Carson-Newman exhibition is sandwiched between that event and the season opener. The veterans may need to remind themselves of the athletes' one-game-at-a-time mantra, but the freshmen won't. Everything is new to them right now.

"It's a chance for us to go out and work on the things that we need to work on," Smallbone said after practice Monday. "We had a good practice today. We focused more on ourselves. I think it's another opportunity to work on what we need to. It's a good opportunity to go out there and have another game under our belt before our first official game."

Smallbone and her classmates were thrown into the proverbial fire Sunday, but they didn't get scorched. In fact, they held their own for the most part. Smallbone hit her first shot from long range and felt at ease on the floor after it swished through the net.

"I think it calmed me down, especially in the first minute," Smallbone said. "Overall, it gave me confidence that I could play."

Bjorklund scored 13 points – she hit 3-4 from behind the arc – and added two boards, a steal, a block and an assist in 24 minutes. Baugh added five points and three rebounds in 15 minutes. Cain missed her one shot attempt and only played four minutes, but she had missed a substantial amount of practice because of a concussion. Summitt hopes to get Cain a lot more minutes tonight.

The challenge for all the freshmen will be learning to defend at the collegiate level. The 18 year olds started their Tennessee careers matched up against savvy USA team members, and it showed at times.

"Those were the best guards in the country, they're the best even at the pro level, in the world they compare to be the best," Smallbone said. "I grew up watching them play. It was a learning experience. I tried to go out there and do the best I could."

Smallbone is now getting the bulk of her practice repetitions on the wing after starting practice as the third point guard behind Bobbitt and Hornbuckle. Summitt sensed information overload for the first-year player and felt Smallbone's development at the two spot was being hindered by the additional responsibilities.

"I feel like I benefited from starting out learning both positions because now I understand what the point guard is going through and what they expect of the two guard," Smallbone said. "I think it's benefited me because I know what Shannon expects me to be doing. I like playing the wing. That's what I am more comfortable with, but it's good to know both positions."

Smallbone can handle the additional attention that comes with being a guard in the Tennessee system.

"I'm used to someone who will tell you right to the point what you're doing wrong, what you need to do," Smallbone said. "If they need to raise their voice they need to raise their voice. I think it's just their style of coaching and as a player you need to respect their style of coaching and learn from what they're saying."

The freshmen have had a lot to adjust to since they arrived on campus – college coursework, meetings, weight training, conditioning, study hall, media interviews and practice. After three weeks of practice and one exhibition game they have absorbed a lot of basketball, too.

"Just overall knowledge of defense, my closeouts, what angles I need to take," Smallbone said. "I've got to keep my hands up. Just the details that Coach Summitt and the other coaches have taught me, as well as the other players. They do a good job of telling us what we need to do and what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong."

The four freshmen, who are dormitory suitemates, also talked among themselves Sunday night after the game.

"It was a good mood," Smallbone said. "We all did different things right, and we did different things wrong. The overall mood was good. I think we enjoyed the game and we had a lot of fun with it. We took it as a learning experience."

Smallbone managed to take the floor in her first college game without getting overwhelmed. Considering the opponent that bodes well for a season in which Summitt has once again scheduled a slate of top teams. Once Smallbone stepped on the court the arena shrank to the end- and sidelines.

"The focus is there so you're not worried about the environment around you," Smallbone said. "It just becomes the game of basketball. If you're open for the shot you've got to shoot it. You've got to create, and you've got to make smart decisions. It was just going out there and playing the game."

ODDS AND ENDS: Carson-Newman's projected starters are: Ashley Tipton, 5'10 junior guard; Shari Buford, 5'11 sophomore forward/center; Ashley Kyle, 5'7 sophomore guard; Tashea Ledbetter, 6'1 senior center; and TyKira McDaniel, 5'8 junior guard. … Three players on the Lady Eagles roster are from Knoxville, including Tipton and Catelyn Dake, a sophomore forward, who both played at Farragut High School, and Abby Evans, a sophomore guard who played at Halls High School. Kyle is a sophomore guard from Jefferson City. Tipton is a 48 percent shooter from the field. … Tennessee's Alberta Auguste was able to practice Monday for the first time in two weeks because of a severe calf contusion. She won't play tonight, however, because of a two-game suspension for missing two classes last spring. "You don't miss class here," Pat Summitt said. "You miss a class you miss a game. And she missed two." The suspension covers the two exhibition games, and Auguste should be good to go this coming Sunday. … Sophomore point guard Cait McMahan, who had knee surgery June 6, participated in half-court shooting drills with the team Monday. … Tennessee has played Carson-Newman for the past three years and hit the century mark, 105-47, 101-55 and 104-49, in 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively. The two schools played regular-season games from 1920 to 1975, and the Lady Vols hold a 14-2 overall record. The two low-scoring losses were in 1920 (14-13) and 1925 (36-16).


Inside Tennessee Top Stories