Coach lauds Shannon Bobbitt's toughness

Pat Summitt lauded the toughness of Shannon Bobbitt on Friday and deplored the way Candace Parker is getting mauled in the paint. The feisty point guard practiced with seven stitches in her forehead – part of the game, the coach said – but Summitt bristled at the way Parker is being manhandled in the paint.

"I'm sick and tired of everybody coming in and just beating up on Parker, and it didn't start last night," a clearly angry Pat Summitt said after practice Friday. "This is ongoing. This has been since the beginning of the season. That North Carolina game, going back and watching it, it's like that must be the blueprint now for everybody. You just forearm her. You shove her. I'm sick of it."

Candace Parker scored 34 points Thursday, tying a career high, with 17 coming from the free throw line in the 84-61 win over Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders were whistled for 31 fouls and 15 of those came from trying to guard Parker. Tennessee totaled 20 infractions.

"Fifty-one fouls were called," Summitt said. "There could have been 70 called. The only thing you can do is understand: That's not basketball; that's football. That's an intention to keep someone from making a cut by displacing them."

"You can't displace," Summitt added, noting that Lady Vol players were getting kneed simply for trying to make a routine cut through the lane.

Summitt's recourse is to send in tapes to the SEC of the objectionable calls.

"Absolutely," she said. "I need to do it. I need to make sure that our conference sees this."

Despite the frequency of whistles, there was no foul call when Shannon Bobbitt went up for a rebound, got hooked and took an elbow to the forehead midway through the second half. She gushed blood onto the court, and the wound needed seven stitches to close.

"The blood started coming out," Summitt said. "That situation it just happened. It's part of the game."

Bobbitt did not return to the game, and the incident seemed to fire up the Lady Vols, especially Nicky Anosike, who is Bobbitt's roommate and who looked ready to exact some form of revenge.

The scoreboard bore the brunt of the Lady Vols' ire. Tennessee increased the lead from single digits to 23 points in the span of five minutes after the incident.

"We're more like sisters out there," freshman forward Vicki Baugh said. "That just set it off. Now she's got a gash in the middle of her head."

Bobbitt returned to practice Friday with a bandage to cover the stitches.

"I'm proud of Shannon," Summitt said. "You get your head busted open, blood flying everywhere, and you're on the court the next day leading the team. Really, to me, that said a lot about her toughness. I told her she did not have to practice and she said, ‘No, Coach, I want to go.' "

Bobbitt passed her neurological tests and also got an earful of instruction from Jenny Moshak, the assistant athletics director for sports medicine, before she took the floor.

"I told her if you don't feel like it, get off the court," Summitt said. "Listen to your body. I think she had a pretty strong headache last night."

Another point guard was on the practice floor for Tennessee in Cait McMahan. She ran sets with the scout team and participated in all the drills with her teammates. It was McMahan's first practice session since she had some swelling two weeks ago in her surgically repaired knee.

"I thought she had a good workout, too," Summitt said. "I was pleased. (She can continue to practice) as long as her knee is OK, and Jenny says she's good to go."

Freshman guard Angie Bjorklund also had a good workout – no doubt enhanced by the presence of her parents, Jim and Kris Bjorklund, who are in town from Washington state for the Tennessee-Gonzaga game on Sunday. Jami Bjorklund, Angie's older sister, is a junior for the Zags.

Angie Bjorklund's trademark sense of humor was in place Friday. The 6'0 freshman forward was whistled for four fouls Thursday. Her fourth came on a textbook box-out of a MTSU defender, but Bjorklund was somehow called for the foul. She looked stunned, as did the Tennessee bench, press row and the fans in attendance.

"Candace really helped me there," Bjorklund said. "She said that was a good box-out, just relax. Pat is yelling at me in the locker room for not rebounding and boxing out. She's like, ‘You're going to be benched if you don't box out.'

"So I box out. I get a foul. I've got four fouls so I'm benched anyways. I'm like, ‘Oh, whatever.' You just let it go. Next play."

Another perimeter player, Alexis Hornbuckle, had a solid offensive game Thursday with 17 points. It is becoming a pattern for the senior guard, of whom Summitt said the Lady Vols won a seventh national title last season despite her offense.

Hornbuckle is shooting 37-68 from the field and leads the team with a field goal percentage of 54.4 percent. She also has hit 7-16 from long range for a percentage of 43.8 percent. Only Parker is better at 50 percent but on far fewer shots behind the arc (3-6).

"There is a correlation between shot selection and shots made," Summitt said. "She seems to understand now what her shot selection should be. I think she's tightened up her package. She's just more efficient."

Summitt watched the Middle Tennessee game tape after she got home Thursday and confirmed what she saw live – the Lady Vols were better after halftime.

"I thought we were just better in the second half last night," Summitt said. "And I blame myself. I think we focused so much on their screening action and how we wanted to switch it that we got caught sagging off shooters. We were more concerned about the screens and we were looking to help when we didn't extend on three-point shooters, and they got some good open threes because of it. I thought it on the court but then going home and having the opportunity to see it again it really reinforced what we need to do.

"We talked about that before we started practice because Gonzaga is the same way. They space really well, they are committed to three-point shots, and we're going to have to guard the three ball."

The Lady Vols will return to the practice court Saturday. Sunday's game with Gonzaga is set to tip off at 3 p.m. (TV: SportSouth, Lady Vol Radio Network). It is the last home game until Jan. 10 when Tennessee opens SEC play against Auburn.

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