Lady Vols prepare for Texas

The Lady Vols held a relatively short practice Friday as they get ready for what will likely be a track meet with Texas on Sunday. Two Tennessee players – a current one and a former one – will graduate this morning at the December commencement and then the team will leave for Austin and hold a shoot-around session Saturday afternoon on the Longhorns' court.

The staff used Friday to work on some specific offensive and defensive sets and to also go over a portion of the scouting report. The players had a weight workout after the two-hour practice and an offhand remark was made that they could forget half of what they had just learned between now and Sunday's game with Texas (TV: FSN, 2 p.m. Eastern).

"Trust me, they already have," Pat Summitt said. "We'll do it again when we get there."

Summitt was smiling but with the considerable youth on this team – and they were rather ebullient Friday with the fall semester over and a lengthy break from class beginning – the objectives on offense and defense will need to be reinforced.

Summitt hopes to go into Sunday's game at full strength. She expects sophomore guard Cait McMahan, who sat out Thursday's game to rest her knee, and sophomore forward Vicki Baugh, who pulled herself in the second half because of knee discomfort, to be cleared to play. Baugh was held out of practice Friday while McMahan was able to participate.

"I am expecting to have Vicki," Summitt said. "Jenny (Moshak) said she'd like to rest her today (at Friday's practice) and let her get in the weight room. I think Cait will be able to go."

Summitt will have to wait until the team arrives in Austin – plane flights can cause swelling – to finalize her starting lineup, but if Baugh is healthy, the head coach intends to use the same five that opened the game against Middle Tennessee on Thursday.

That would be Briana Bass at point, Angie Bjorklund at shooting guard, Shekinna Stricklen on the wing and Glory Johnson and Baugh inside.

"I will go with the same lineup, if everyone is a go, that we had last night," Summitt said Friday. "I like that lineup a lot. It's also the quickness and athleticism in the paint. They're very mobile and quick."

Summitt could also opt to, once again, go deep into her bench, but that will depend on how the game unfolds. The Longhorns like to run – they did in Knoxville last season and lost 92-67 against the eventual national champions – but four of the players that started that game for the Lady Vols have graduated and were drafted into the WNBA.

"It will be a wait and see," Summitt said. "I think I'm going into it now knowing the better the competition the better players we need on the floor playing a lot of minutes. But we need our veterans ready to contribute. I thought Angie last night really stepped up big for us. I think we can get some good minutes from Alex and still keep fresh people on the floor. It'll be a great test."

Alex Fuller was 7-8 from the field against Texas last season and scored 18 points. Fuller, a redshirt senior, will receive her degree in exercise science today. Former Lady Vol Alberta Auguste, a key player on the 2007 and 2008 national title teams, will graduate today with a degree in psychology.

Summitt noted the offensive efficiency of Amber Gray in the 81-52 win over Middle Tennessee. Gray, a freshman forward, was 3-3 from the field with eight points in eight minutes. She missed a week of practice with a concussion and is playing catch-up on defense, especially in terms of conditioning, so a running game at Texas might not bode well for her at this time, but she was effective on both ends against Middle Tennessee, and she can score.

"I thought Amber came in and gave us some quality minutes," Summitt said.

It was Gray's three-pointer with a few seconds left that energized the crowd because it put the Lady Vols at 80 points or higher for the game, and the fans get a free Chick-fil-A sandwich with their ticket.

Summitt heard the fans yelling behind the bench.

"I turned around to them and I said, ‘Chick-fil-A?' And they all started screaming," said Summitt, who recently learned of the promotion. "I wondered why they were cheering. I didn't even know we did that until (a few) days ago. I turned around right before the game was over and I said, ‘What are y'all doing?' Oh, yeah, Chick-fil-A.' I turned back around and Amber hit that three."

Usually the player with the ball would dribble out the clock under those circumstances, but the team also heard the shouts for free sandwiches.

"I told Coach (Rick) Insell, ‘I am sorry about that. Normally we would have run the clock out, but the fans get Chick-fil-A if we score 80,' " Summitt said. "He laughed. We've been friends for a long time."

Summitt watched the game film overnight and came away with the same impressions she had on the sideline.

"I thought we did some good things," Summitt said. "They present a different challenge with the way they space. They can shoot the three ball and take you off the dribble. I thought for not having played anyone like that – other than maybe UTC – we did a better job of transitioning defensively and matching up."

No Lady Vol logged more than 28 minutes on Thursday as Summitt continued to rotate players in and out. Fuller played 21 minutes off the bench, and 10 players reached double-digit minutes for the game.

"I was trying to evaluate who was ready to go in and play because of way they do space out," Summitt said. "I just really wanted to give them a chance to show me again where they are at this point in time."


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