Lady Vols return to practice court

The Lady Vols returned to the practice court Friday evening for an upbeat session that had their coach happy with the level of intensity following a road win and a day off.

Vicki Baugh, who had tweaked her knee Wednesday, had no residual issues and was able to fully participate.

"She ran hard, looked good, didn't seem to be favoring it," Coach Pat Summitt said. "She said she's fine."

Baugh landed awkwardly on her left knee in the first half of the 67-49 win over West Virginia and missed the rest of the game for precautionary reasons. The 6'4 freshman post player showed no ill effects Friday and was able to get up and down the floor with ease.

Also scooting the length of the court was sophomore point guard Cait McMahan, who had knee surgery last June. McMahan participated in a substantial portion of practice – including jumping, lateral moves on defense and full-court work – before taking a break to ice her right knee. In true McMahan fashion she tried to out-jump Candace Parker for a rebound, crashed to the floor and bounced back up.

"It's great that she's getting to get on the floor," Summitt said. "I think it's given her some confidence to get some reps. It's not a matter of thinking about her playing. It's a matter of thinking about her learning all the plays and getting herself very comfortable and having her voice heard as a leader on the floor."

McMahan's knee will be evaluated to determine how it responded to her first real practice session since surgery. If she has no issues she can practice with the team again this weekend. If the knee were to swell – a not uncommon scenario – she would have to sit out. Summitt has said it is possible that McMahan could return this season, but that is not the primary goal at this time. The intent is for her to return to practice and determine how the knee responds to sustained basketball activity.

Freshman center Kelley Cain remains sidelined with a knee injury and is continuing with her courtside rehab regimen.

"I think she's feeling better," Summitt said. "That's up to Jenny (Moshak). One day at a time. Swelling is down and doing better. She's much, much better."

Cain would be a key substitute for Tennessee, which is down to four players on the bench in steady performer Alex Fuller, senior wing player Alberta Auguste, freshman Sydney Smallbone and Baugh. Auguste is coming off of a severe calf injury. She jammed a finger on her left hand in the West Virginia game and then jammed her right wrist at practice Friday, though she appears to be OK.

"Our bench has got to get better," Summitt said. "I always say we're a work in progress. Sydney has got to become a whole lot more comfortable on the defensive end and her awareness from a defensive standpoint. She played a little overanxious, too, offensively, but I thought she came back and had a really good practice (Friday). Alex has (been solid). Even when she didn't shoot the ball well the other night she did other things."

Friday's session was used to correct miscues from Wednesday night, notably box-outs and screening. Although the Lady Vols dominated on the boards, 50-35, over the Mountaineers, Summitt saw cases where athleticism prevailed over technique. Overall, though, she was happy with the effort.

"I was pleased with the ball movement," Summitt said. "I thought we were tough on defense, physically tough. But I thought we could do a much better job of boxing out. We just turn and pursue the ball. We're so athletic – we do have a nose for the ball – but we have to be more physical in our box-outs, and I think we can do a better job of our perimeter people getting inside to rebound when we're on offense.

"Screening was not good. That is why we spent time on it today. The lack of physical contact with our rebounds and our screening and too many turnovers early, but we settled down."

Next up for Tennessee, 4-0, is Louisiana Tech, 1-1, which comes to Knoxville on Monday for a 7 p.m. game (TV: SportSouth) at Thompson-Boling Arena. Summitt took a game tape home with her Friday to watch of the Lady Techsters.

She will expect the same attitude in practice Saturday that the team showed Friday.

"Not to have a (male) practice team here (because of the holidays) they still brought the intensity," Summitt said. "The leadership is much better this year, has been from the beginning. If we can just maintain that and everyone be committed we can make progress even without our practice guys."


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