Alberta Auguste to start against Arkansas

Pat Summitt plans to insert Alberta Auguste into the starting lineup against Arkansas because Alexis Hornbuckle is out for medical reasons. Hornbuckle practiced Monday but will need to undergo a diagnostic procedure this week.

Alexis Hornbuckle said Monday that she would only miss Thursday's home game. Hornbuckle, who truly lives day to day, didn't realize Duke was the next team on the schedule.

"I didn't know that was our next game after Arkansas," Hornbuckle said. "I knew we played them on a Monday."

The season does rather seamlessly flow into one game after another, and postseason will arrive before anyone blinks. With that in mind Pat Summitt used Monday's practice to emphasize defense – defensive rebounding, pressure and guarding the high-low action.

The two-hour practice was up-tempo and upbeat, a pleasant development for the coaching staff, especially with the absence of Candace Parker.

"It's one of our better practices – just the intensity overall," Summitt said. "Obviously we miss Candace being here but we've had that happen, had players out, it's business as usual."

Parker is under the weather but expected to be OK. The team is off Tuesday so that will allow another day off the court. Hornbuckle has an undisclosed medical issue and needs to undergo a diagnostic procedure this week.

"This was the best time to do this and take care of the situation," Summitt said. "I didn't want to prolong it. Let's get it over with and move on."

Alberta Auguste, a senior wing player, will move from the role of early substitute to starter.

"I think she's up to it," Hornbuckle said. "She's been coming off the bench and playing well. May have a few breakdowns here and there but when it's all said and done you know she's going to give you defense. She's going to hustle. She's knocking down shots now. I think she'll be able to handle it well."

The absence of Hornbuckle on Thursday against the Lady'Backs means Auguste and point guard Shannon Bobbitt will be patrolling the perimeter. Freshman Angie Bjorklund is the other starter on the wing.

"I think it puts greater emphasis for Alberta and Shannon, in particular, on the perimeter at both ends," Summitt said. "They have to be able to run our offense and defensively they set the tone for us."

Summitt will want Bjorklund to look for her shot against Arkansas a lot more than she did against Vanderbilt, a game in which the freshman forward only shot three times.

"She's got to work a lot harder without the ball so once she receives the ball she's ready to shoot it," Summitt said. "Just being more aggressive. A player like Angie that shoots the ball as well as she does she has to really hunt shots. We screen for her, but she's got to find open shots."

Summitt does know that Bjorklund is a young player still making the transition to Division I basketball. For that reason she can smile when she talks about her game.

"You watch Angie Bjorklund. She goes to Notre Dame. She's unconscious," Summitt said. "She's knocking down seven threes and then we'll get in a game and I can't find her. I'm looking for her."

Summitt also wants Auguste to look for her shot early, especially with her moving into a starting slot.

"I think sometimes her first thought is to pass, and her first thought needs to be to score," Summitt said. "She's got a really great pull-up. She can make threes, but her strength is playing off the dribble. She can get inside the defense. And rebounding. When she goes in the game – obviously she could start for us – but I've brought her off the bench because she gives us such a lift."

Summitt has faith in this team's ability to score. She has a prolific scorer in Parker, who was named the SEC's Player of the Week on Monday. It was Parker's third SEC weekly honor of the season and 13th of her career, including Freshman of the Week nods.

She averaged 21.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 3.0 blocks in victories this week over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Against the Wildcats, she connected on 10 of 14 field goal attempts en route to 23 points. She added two steals, three blocks and seven rebounds.

Against Vandy, Parker entered the top-10 all-time Lady Vol scoring list with her ninth point and ended the game with 19 points. She has now tallied 1,683 points in just 89 games.

"Obviously she's been able to do it in a timely fashion," Summitt said. "Candace has been a go-to player and she's a player that will demand the ball in pressure situations. She's been able to add to her offensive package with her face-up game and also being able to play off the dribble. It seems like it happened in a hurry, but she made it happen through hard work."

It speaks to Parker's versatility that she could also play point guard this week. With Hornbuckle out, another player will have to back up Bobbitt at the one spot. Summitt knows she has Parker in a pinch – Parker has effectively played point guard before – but she wants to get Bjorklund and fellow freshman Sydney Smallbone some reps in a trial by fire.

"We could run Candace there, but I really want to see Sydney and Angie play some point," Summitt said.

Summitt has also used Auguste at point on occasion but she sounded Monday as if she realized she was jamming a round peg into a square hole.

"She's not a point guard," Summitt said. "She doesn't need to be a point guard. I don't know why the head coach would put her in that position, but I did. I think let her play to her strengths. Keep our offense moving. Her decision-making is lot better from the wing than it is from the point."

Sophomore Cait McMahan, a true point guard, is waiting in the wings, but she is taking a redshirt year this season to recover from knee surgery last June. McMahan is working her way back into practice and ran the scout team Monday very effectively. She even stayed with the speedy Bobbitt from end to end.

"I told her today she had a really good day," Summitt said. "I'm just glad she's getting as many reps as she is because we're going to be so young next year. That's why I'm on these freshmen this year. I'm trying to fast-forward the process."

Thursday's game without Hornbuckle could mean more playing time for those newcomers, but the loss of the senior guard will be an adjustment for those who do take those minutes.

"She sets the tempo for us on the defensive end," Summitt said. "She's one of the best rebounding guards to ever play in this program. She's passionate about playing defense."

Summitt was smiling after practice because she saw some of that same attitude out of every player on the floor.

"I thought we had a lot of good things happen today in practice just in the overall commitment to our defense," Summitt said.


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