Lady Vols wrap up week

The Lady Vols completed their last practice session of the week Friday by starting with defense and finishing with offense in a high-octane full-court drill.

Coach Pat Summitt will now let her players have the weekend to themselves in order to focus on their exams. They earned the time off.

"Absolutely," Summitt said. "I could think, ‘Well they don't have exams these next two days, so we can have practice,' but I want them to have time to rest and prepare (for their tests)."

One player wasn't quite ready for some time off. Despite another up-tempo two-hour practice session, freshman guard Angie Bjorklund stayed behind Friday evening with a student manager to get in extra shots.

A member of the staff also showed some dedication Friday. Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick broke her right ankle in a workout mishap Friday morning – the ankle rolled on her – and attended practice with an orange cast and crutches. She will be on crutches for about six weeks.

"I just hate it for her with the games and the travel and the practice, but you can't get Holly down," Summitt said. "I kept telling her to sit down."

Summitt even brought a bar-style stool for Warlick, but she kept getting up and pacing the court, as usual.

"She thought that was my stool, but it's hers now," Summitt said.

Warlick finally grabbed a sideline seat towards the end of practice – when the Lady Vols were racing the four-minute clock to score 100 points on each basket with an assortment of layups, three-pointers and mid-range jumpers – but she spent most of the session upright and mobile.

Friday's session included the promised up-tempo pace.

"The practice guys were great, and we got a lot of up and down," Summitt said. "Tapes are very telling about who's running hard, who's not running hard."

But it also included significant attention to the Lady Vols' matchup zone defense, which has not been deployed much this season but could come in handy later. For that part of practice, the Lady Vols stayed in the half-court for a teaching session with multiple repetitions, especially for the newcomers.

"For our new players we really hadn't had a chance to get repetition in on it," Summitt said. "I think they knew a little bit about a matchup but not the short slides, the long slides, when you have to wing up, just the terminology and the coverage."

The terminology refers to matching up with the offensive players with the type of slide being determined by where the ball goes and how it gets there – by pass or dribble – and by how the offensive players move – by penetration, cuts or screens. Offensive players are passed off to another defender as the ball moves so communication is key. The matchup also involves switching on screens and identifying and covering the soft spots within the zone. The box-out assignments out of a zone, as opposed to man-to-man defense, also must be drilled.

"That's why we stayed in the half court for a while to get some clarity there," Summitt said.

The Lady Vols will return to practice Monday. The next game is Thursday, Dec. 13, against Middle Tennessee in Knoxville.

Tennessee goes into the exam break undefeated at 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country.

"We're pleased," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said of the first part of the season. "The beauty of our schedule is she schedules in order to test us and to see where we are."

Five of the seven opponents are now ranked in the Top 25.

"I think for us it's been good because we have a little bit more of a barometer than if we would have played six directional schools, nothing against those people," Lockwood said. "I think it's helped us with confidence of a couple of players and as a team to measure ourselves and see some things we have to do, here's some things we want to do a little bit better.

"It'd be like asking anybody after the first quarter, ‘OK, we're happy so far, but we've got a long way to go.' "

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