Vicki Baugh - a Lady Vol in learning

Everything is a learning experience right now for Vicki Baugh. Half-court offenses. Defensive schemes. Post play. But this week the freshman forward finally gets back to something familiar – her home state and family members she has not seen in five months. The first game in the two-game California road swing is tonight against UCLA.

"I am very excited," Vicki Baugh said. "I have been here for five months without going home."

Home for the 6'4 forward is Sacramento, Calif., where she was raised by her grandparents, Calvin and Barbara Baugh, and became a prep star and All-American at Sacramento High School.

No. 1 Tennessee, 9-0, takes on UCLA, 4-5, at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 10 p.m. Eastern (Lady Vol Radio Network, free video stream at www.UCLABruins.com.)

Although Los Angeles is well south of Sacramento, Baugh's two uncles will be in attendance to see their niece play. When Tennessee plays Saturday at Stanford in Northern California, Baugh's grandparents, uncles and aunt from Utah will be present.

"I'll have almost all my family at the Stanford game," Baugh said. "I miss them. I am not one to really get homesick, but it will be good to see them."

Freshman Angie Bjorklund is also from the West Coast – the state of Washington. Her family came to Knoxville for the Gonzaga game – Bjorklund's sister, Jami, is a junior forward for the Zags – and followed the team to California for the two games. Both players needed help securing tickets for the road swing.

"We have some family and friends in California, and they're all coming out," Bjorklund said. "Me and Vicki were battling for the tickets, that's for sure, but it's her home."

Baugh is happy to go home, but she has basically been too busy to get homesick. As a first-year player for the Lady Vols, she had to make the adjustment to the college classroom, as did the three other newcomers on the Tennessee team. The fall semester and exams ended last week.

"I know how hard to work," Baugh said of completing her first semester. "I know what to expect. I'm glad I got one over with because now I know how it is."

Baugh has put in a lot of work on the basketball court, too. In high school, despite her size, she played facing the basket and with the ball in her hand.

The biggest adjustment from prep star to college roster is role learning, Baugh said.

"In high school everyone is used to doing everything, and you're so much more free on the court, but in college the difference is you have roles because everyone was great in high school," Baugh said. "Especially at the top level at Tennessee, everyone was great, so basically learning my role as a rebounder, a post and a scorer, whatever it may be.

"There is a lot that I need to work on – shooting, I think I could be more aware of the post and learn how to get open. But I also have learned a lot because in high school I didn't play the post. I was used to having the ball in my hand so it's a different adjustment. But I think I'm doing well for basically playing post for the first time at the number one level."

Baugh perused a stat sheet during the interview and smiled at some of the numbers, while grimacing at others. She is averaging 13.1 minutes per game with a robust 5.1 rebounds per game.

She has quickly gotten the message that Pat Summitt has an affinity for board play.

"I know it's something that Pat loves, and I know for me to stay on the court that's one of my roles out there so I have to do it," Baugh said. "Also, I feel like I can jump higher than anyone, whoever it may be, when I'm on the court. That is basically it. You just go in and attack."

Other numbers jump out in a good way – 4.2 points per game in limited playing minutes, eight blocks, seven assists and four steals. One number needs work – 19 turnovers. Baugh said poise would cut back that category.

"I play a very fast pace," she said. "I'm not used to playing slow. That's why I have a problem in half-court offenses. I'm used to playing transition, just push the ball. So I know some of the turnovers … offense takes patience, and I'm not patient when it comes to that end."

The crowd buzzes when Baugh gets the ball in the open floor. She handles like a guard and can go coast to coast and finish at the rim.

"I feel it," Baugh said of the fans' excitement. "Ever since I was little that's how I've been playing. I've always had the ball in my hand and that was one of the things that I was recruited for because I really didn't have an assigned position. It was the way I could get the ball off the rebound and push the tempo."

Tennessee has allowed its post players to play on the perimeter. Candace Parker and Alex Fuller are prime examples. But Baugh also must learn to play in the paint. A few of Baugh's turnovers have been from trying to make an extra interior pass instead of taking the shot.

"Vicki Baugh, there's such a great upside to her game, and we need her to become more of a scorer," Summitt said. "She looks to get everybody else involved, but I think she will take more initiative on the offensive end."

Baugh's position coach, Dean Lockwood even smiles at her mistakes right now. He sees a player whose errors come from effort.

"There are mistakes, Coach Wooden always used to say, of omission and commission," Lockwood said. "I'd rather have commission. That means you're doing something. Omission means you're not doing anything. With her at least she's active. She's doing something. We can always work with that. She's certainly not a wallflower, and I appreciate that about her."

Baugh said defensive assignments have been another steep learning curve in college.

"Everything on defense here I have learned," she said. "I never really played defense in high school, which I'm scared to admit. I never had to deny. Everything, I had to learn."

Baugh had an early season propensity to get in foul trouble – she fouled out of one game in an astounding nine minutes.

Some of the calls have been warranted and the result of reaching in on the opponent. Some other calls have been highly questionable.

"I just tell myself you're not going to get the call back so let's just move on," Baugh said. "I'm a freshman. I have to show something. It's frustrating, but you can't take it back."

Lockwood said that is just one more adjustment for a freshman, and he cited Nicky Anosike's struggles early in her career. Summitt ended up telling Anosike she would pull her after one foul in the first half because she knew the second one was seconds away.

"She's got to adjust to college officiating and how to play smart," Lockwood said. "Nicky Anosike went through it. Nicky lived in a state of fear for a while of getting that foul.

"Vicki has to understand, ‘I can't reach from behind. I can't swat down. I've got to use my length.' Once she learns some of that it's going to help her."

Baugh also has been getting more than her share of three-second calls this season, though to be fair, she got called for one lane infraction against West Virginia that was bizarre because only two seconds ticked off the clock.

"Just make her aware you've got a good one thousand one, one thousand two and then if you haven't gotten the ball, no matter how open you are, you've got to break that and step out," Lockwood said. "We show her tape and talk to her in practice. We'll say, ‘Break it, break it!' It's just awareness. She'll be all right with that."

She fixed it in the Gonzaga game. In 20 minutes of play Baugh was not whistled for any lane violations. She also scored 11 points – she was 5-5 from the free throw line – and grabbed seven rebounds.

Lockwood has noted incremental improvement from Baugh – she has logged time in all nine games this season – and is confident that her play will elevate as she gets more comfortable on the court.

"My biggest thing with her right now offensively is I want her to be able to finish or get fouled and play very comfortable close in," Lockwood said. "Right now she's missing some layups that she needs to be making. Every so often she'll have a tendency to finish out here with a shot (demonstrates with arm away from body) as opposed to going up. That's my biggest drive with her right now.

"But she's doing some good things. She's driving from the high post and just went right to the basket. She's flashing better. She's sealing a little bit better. She's still thinking about it. As those things become habits that's what is going to get me really excited."

Lockwood has as much energy as the post players in practice. He uses pads to push them away from the basket while they are shooting or boarding. His shouts of encouragement echo across the court. It is a rare practice that he is not as sweat-soaked as his charges.

"It's great because I know that there's no way I can slack," Baugh said. "He's always so jumpy and ready to do the next drill. I am always working hard. You always know that you're getting better."

Baugh can also lean on the other freshmen, Bjorklund, Sydney Smallbone and Kelley Cain, who is taking a redshirt year to recover from knee surgery. The four are suitemates on campus.

"We're all very close," Baugh said. "Everything we do is together basically."

Baugh will welcome the short time apart later this week when the team scatters for a Christmas break. For Baugh that means a short drive home.

"I'm very excited because I'm already in my home state and I won't have to get back on a plane," Baugh said. "I got lucky. It's going to be great."

The Lady Vols will reassemble in Knoxville for practice on Dec. 27 – Summitt always takes off Christmas Day – to get ready for the 2008 games, the first of which is Jan. 2 vs. DePaul. Baugh, who will make the long flight to Knoxville from Sacramento, knows she could have stayed near the West Coast to play basketball. She considered being closer to her family for the next four years.

But she wanted to take her measure within a dominant program.

"I didn't want to go be the star at some program and not get any better," Baugh said. "I wanted to go to the best, and I thought Tennessee was the best. I am very happy with my decision."

STARTING LINEUPS: Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Shannon Bobbitt, 5'2 senior guard, No. 00 (8.9 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game); Alexis Hornbuckle, 5'11 senior guard, No. 14 (11.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.4 steals per game); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 freshman guard, No. 5 (10.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Candace Parker, 6'5 junior forward, No. 3 (22.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.1 blocks per game); and Nicky Anosike, 6'4 senior center, No. 55 (9.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg).

UCLA Coach Kathy Olivier is expected to start: Tierra Henderson, 5'10 junior guard, No. 02 (8.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), scored career-high 15 points against Pepperdine; Darxia Morris, 5'9 freshman guard, No. 03 (8.5 ppg, 3.0 apg), started her first career game at UCLA; Doreena Campbell, 5'10 freshman guard, No. 21 (10.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg), ranked 13th in the country in assist to turnover ratio at 2.64, leads the team behind the arc at 10-18 for a 55.6 percentage; Lindsey Pluimer, 6'4 senior forward, No. 14 (14.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg), senior leader started all 32 games last season and has expanded her shooting range, has hit seven of 11 past three-point attempts; and Regina Rogers, 6'3 freshman center, No. 34 (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg), had 16 rebounds against Pepperdine with 10 coming on the offensive end.

Nina Earl, a 6'1 freshman forward, also has started two games this season and is averaging 10.7 points per game. Only Campbell and Pluimer have started all nine games this season. The Bruins have used five different starting lineups this year.

Tennessee has started the same five in every game this season.

This will be Tennessee's first trip to UCLA since 1999 when the Lady Vols, led by Tamika Catchings, won, 88-77. The home-and-home series with the Bruins – UCLA came to Knoxville last season – was set up as a homecoming game for former Lady Vol Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, who ended up transferring to Maryland in 2005 midway through her sophomore season. Tennessee could have opted not to go forward with the plans, but Southern California is fertile basketball territory, and a trip to Los Angeles has its appeals.

"California has always had great players and very good talent," said Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick, citing former Lady Vols Tye'sha Fluker, Loree Moore and Wiley-Gatewood. "It's a good market for us, and it's great media exposure. I think it's a great thing for our kids to go out on the West Coast and people get a chance to see them play.

"It's still a good deal for us. We've got a lot of fans out there. It gives the people on the West Coast a chance to watch us play, which is a good thing."

Pat Summitt has ties to UCLA, too, in coaching mentors – legends John Wooden and Billie Moore, the former UCLA women's coach and Summitt's Olympic coach in 1976. Pauley Pavilion is considered a shrine in college basketball.

"It is a place where I get chills every time I walk in the building," Summitt said. "Having played for Coach Billie Moore, every time I've been in there I marvel at the history. It is an honor to coach in that arena. Obviously, Coach John Wooden is the greatest of all-time. It is always special for me as a coach. I know our players will be reminded of the history of Pauley. They are very familiar with Coach Wooden, and we are all in awe of what he has accomplished."

With the setting being in Los Angeles – the Sparks have the top pick in the WNBA draft next April – Parker could also be the target of extra attention from fans wanting her to forego her last year of collegiate eligibility and enter the league. It happened last season at Arizona State when the Phoenix Mercury had the first pick. Fans held up signs and shouted for Parker to come play for the Mercury.

"We will talk to her and to the team," Summitt said. "I'm sure there will be a lot of signs and cheering in Los Angeles. She is mature and focused enough to keep things in perspective. She went through it at the Final Four last year, the amount of people wanting to talk to her and get in her ear. Afterwards I told her that I didn't know how she did what she did with those distractions. We have to protect her as a coaching staff and be mindful of that. We won't elaborate on it, but I will talk with her before we go out there."

ON THE ROAD AGAIN (SORT OF): Tennessee has played only two of its nine games away from Knoxville this season, but they were considered neutral sites and the stands had plenty of orange in them – both at Tampa to play Oklahoma and in Charleston to play West Virginia for Alexis Hornbuckle's homecoming game.

Four of Tennessee's five starters return from last season so they are battle-tested and beyond. Freshman Angie Bjorklund starts at the small forward spot. Freshmen Vicki Baugh, who will be needed for relief in the post, and Sydney Smallbone, another three-point sharpshooter, come off the bench.

The game in Los Angeles will be the first official road contest of their Lady Vol careers.

"I'm sure they'll have their moments," Holly Warlick said. "I know last year Shannon Bobbitt had a hard time at Arizona State, so I think it's just getting used to the fans. I think it's them getting more comfortable with our system. The more comfortable you get the less you worry about the crowd. You drown out everything. You just go out there and play, and that's how it should be.

"I think when they get more comfortable with what they're doing and who they're playing with, I think it will be to their benefit. I think they'll learn to play a little bit more relaxed against an away crowd."

Nicky Anosike has already advised them to be ready to be on the wrong side of the officials' whistles.

"I think when you go on the road you have to be prepared not to get calls," Anosike said. "You have to bring your defense and boards or else the game could go either way. I'm sure the coaches will get us ready, and I'm sure we'll do just fine."

Summitt has deployed her bench generously at time and shortened it in tight games, such as the one against North Carolina. But she knows she needs contributions from the bench - veterans Alex Fuller and Alberta Auguste are usually the first ones in - and that will include the two youngsters.

The stretch of five games at home allowed Summitt to find more minutes for the freshmen.

"I have more of an awareness of where we are with our bench," Summitt said. "We are making progress. I was very encouraged with what I saw from Vicki Baugh against Gonzaga. With Sydney Smallbone, the biggest challenge right now is from a defensive standpoint. She has to be much more committed to early pickup (of the player she is guarding).

"I've got great confidence in Alberta Auguste and where she is and also with Alex Fuller. Would I go four deep on this road trip? Yes, I'd like to. Minutes played? It depends on how they step out on the floor and perform. Will I be less patient? Possibly. These are two fine teams and two big road games for us. Ultimately we want to come home with two wins."

For her part, Baugh is looking forward to the experience. It's another shot to learn something in a season full of such opportunities.

"I like traveling," Baugh said. "The freshmen, we were talking about how we want to be ready for the tempo in other gyms because we're so used to having such a great amount of fans cheering for us and even when we go other places, like when we went to Tampa. It's going to be a different environment. I want to learn about it."

SCOUTING REPORT: Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-UCLA game. Here is her assessment.

When UCLA has the ball: "UCLA is very athletic. They're very aggressive on the defensive end. They're super quick. They rebound the ball very well. They're offensive rebounders. I think they rely on their second and third shots and rightfully so. They're very aggressive and they pursue the ball on the rebound. It goes back to us not giving up second-chance points. We've got to hunker down and play defense as well.

"Offensively they run some stuff like us. They run the triple-post offense, a little bit of what we run at times, so some of the things we're accustomed to. They've got a pretty good anchor inside (in Regina Rogers) and the Pluimer kid is playing exceptionally well. I think she can play all positions."

Warlick noted that UCLA led the game late against Maryland – and got quite a bit of separation – but could not close it out.

"I've watched a lot of tape on them," Warlick said. "They've been in the game with a lot of the teams they lost to. They're just young, but they're going to learn to finish. I think the talent is there. The players are there. It's a matter of them getting more experience and getting more comfortable with what they're doing."

The Bruins' separation from the Terrapins started with their defense.

"They played solid defense," Warlick said. "Maryland got a little tired, I think, from the travel. They hit some big threes when they needed to. I think they've got it in them. They've just got to sustain it and the more they play, they will. They'll take it to another level against us, and they took it to another level with Maryland."

When Tennessee has the ball: "We've got to take care of the ball because their transition relies on steals. I think we've got to get paint points, meaning we've got to get the ball inside, and our guards have to get points in the paints. We can't all be jump shooters. We can't rely on the three the whole time. We have to rebound. We've been playing solid defense. If we continue to do that and play together like we did against Gonzaga … it was a total team effort. We played well together. We shared the ball."

The Lady Vols expect to see the Bruins in a man defense, but they will show some zone looks, too, and will pick up full court.

"They're a man-to-man team, pretty aggressive on the ball," Warlick said. "They'll run a two-three matchup. They run a 1-2-1-1 full-court press and then they face guard man to man. They play hard on defense. They want to run off your turnovers. That's why it's important for us to take care of the basketball. We've got our work cut out for us. They're going to get up and down the floor. They run on steals."

Tennessee has 175 turnovers so far this season – an average of 19.4 a game – and has been squirting them from nearly every position on the floor. The exception has been Shannon Bobbitt, who despite averaging the most minutes at 29.9 only has 19 turnovers.

"They've got to understand the responsibility of the basketball," Warlick said.

Some of the turnovers in the paint have been the result of trying to do too much by making an extra pass instead of taking the open shot.

"That's sharing the basketball (so it's hard to get upset), but sometimes you've got to be selfish and take your shot," Warlick said.

Tennessee only had six in the first half against Gonzaga but tacked on 12 more in the second half.

"We've got to be more disciplined as a team," Summitt said after that game. "It's a hard habit to break, regardless of whether you played efficient basketball or whether you get up and you have a big lead, and now you become a little more casual. We want to take away those casual possessions and keep our intensity where it needs to be in those type of situations."

Tennessee also started out with a lot of intensity and energy in the Gonzaga game, but it was dotted with too many defensive breakdowns.

"We came out there intense, trying to deny, limited their touches and their three-point shots," Alexis Hornbuckle said. "They did hit a lot of shots, and we struggled towards the end of the first half and a little bit in the second half, but that speaks volumes for our team because some teams you get down on defense, you get scored on and it affects your offense as well as your next possession on defense, and we try not to do that."

Hornbuckle outlined the shortcomings and smiled.

"To be honest more or less lack of communication, breakdowns, not matching up in transition sometimes, running to the wrong man," she said. "But that's fixable so we're not worried."

SHORT BENCH: Tennessee not only has a short bench when it comes to players – Kelley Cain and Cait McMahan are both rehabbing from major knee surgeries – but the Lady Vols are one coach short for this trip.

Holly Warlick, who broke her right ankle Dec. 7 while working out, developed a blood clot in her calf and was told by her physician not to fly. She is taking medication and will be reevaluated before the next road trip to DePaul in early January.

"The pain in my ankle is not as bad as it has been," Warlick said. "I'm just taking it one day at a time. I've had to get blood drawn every day. This is a new deal for me. I didn't get injured in college. I'm dealing with it because I don't have a choice."

This will be the first time Warlick has ever missed a Lady Vol game. As a player (1976-80), Warlick played in 141 consecutive games. She has been on the sidelines for 782 consecutive contests over the last 23 years.

"I've never had this much time off for Christmas since high school," said Warlick, whose tone made it clear she wasn't enjoying the experience. "It's weird. It's strange to not run and get on a plane and rush to do this and go see this. It's not something I'm accustomed to. I've never had the luxury of having this much time off. I guess I should enjoy it, but it's not fun right now."

Warlick handled the scout for the UCLA game – and will do the Stanford game, too, as she has always done – and sent the information to Dean Lockwood and Nikki Caldwell to present to the team at Tuesday's practice session.

She will watch the Tennessee-UCLA game online but is not sure how she will react to not being on the sideline.

"I don't know," Warlick said. "I watch a lot of basketball, and I watch a lot of basketball for pleasure outside of scouting. I'll be watching it in a different way. Being a first I don't know how I'm going to react or what I'm going to do. Debby Jennings (the head of Lady Vols media relations) sits near them so I'll be in some kind of communication with them."

ON TAP: Three other SEC teams are in action Wednesday in the following games: Auburn at Sam Houston State; LSU vs. Miami; and Alabama A&M at South Carolina.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tennessee leads the series with UCLA, 15-1. The Bruins' sole win in the series came in Knoxville on Jan. 3, 1981. … Tennessee is 9-1 in games played on December 19. The sole loss came on the road in 1989 to Long Beach State, 62-58. The last win on this date came in 2004 against TCU, 82-55, in Knoxville. … Tennessee's overall record against Pac-10 teams is 52-12, and three teams account for the wins – Southern Cal (seven), Stanford (four) and UCLA (one). The Lady Vols swept the conference last season with wins over Arizona State, UCLA and Stanford. The last loss to a Pac-10 team came Nov. 24, 1996, to Stanford in Knoxville. … BY THE NUMBERS: Tennessee is averaging 42.0 rebounds per game and has a +3.1 margin. UCLA is averaging 46.6 boards for a +5.4 margin. The Bruins average 13.9 assists per game. Tennessee checks in at 18.1 per game. The teams are about even in turnovers – 19.1 for UCLA and 19.4 for Tennessee. Lady Vol opponents are averaging 22.6 a game for a +3.1 margin. Bruin opponents average 21.1 for a +2.0 margin. UCLA averages 11.4 steals per game with opponents getting just 7.8. Tennessee averages 12.4 a game with opponents swiping 10.2. Tennessee averages 7.1 blocks per game. The Bruins swat away 3.1 a game. … The Lady Vols have shot at least 40 percent in every game this season with the lowest percentage coming against Louisiana Tech (40.5 percent) and the highest against Texas (53.7 percent). The last time out, Tennessee shot 50.7 percent against Gonzaga. No opponent has shot 50 percent or better against Tennessee. Gonzaga came the closest at 46.3 percent. West Virginia clocked in with the lowest percentage of the season, so far, at 30.6 percent. … UCLA last hosted the country's top-ranked team on Dec. 28, 1991, when Virginia came to Pauley Pavilion. The Cavaliers won, 77-55. The Bruins last played a No. 1 team on Dec. 23, 1999, and lost at Connecticut, 106-64. … UCLA presold nearly 3,000 reserved tickets for the game. As of Monday there were about 60 reserved seats left with the rest general admission. The first 2,500 fans get a free T-adidas shirt. Pauley holds 12,819. The Bruins average 970 per home contest. … Several Bruin teams will be wearing special jerseys or patches in 2007-08 to commemorate UCLA being the first school to 100 NCAA Championships. The women's basketball team will have a different-colored "C" in UCLA, with the "C" signifying the Roman numeral for 100. … Tennessee has a 15-game winning streak dating to the six-game sweep in the 2007 NCAA tourney to claim the program's seventh national title. The streak will be put to the test in California. "I am excited about it," Pat Summitt said during her media teleconference before the team departed. "It has been a while since we've been on the road. We'll play in a tough environment against two quality opponents. It will be a good way to evaluate and get some road game experience."


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