Briana Bass: 'We're learning to be a team'

Pat Summitt held practice later Friday to allow her team some extra sleep after returning from a road game, but two players were in the training room that morning, and the extra treatment worked - Kelley Cain and Alyssia Brewer were both able to go. The first player on the floor was Briana Bass, who completed an interview and reached for the ball rack to loft extra shots before practice started.

Pat Summitt had to briefly remind the entire team – which at first moved as if in quicksand at practice – how to bounce back from a tough game, win or lose, and the Lady Vols picked up the pace for the duration of the two-hour session that was preceded by film study and followed by weight training.

"I think that is a young team coming off a game, getting home late – but they got to sleep in – and that's youth," Summitt said. "They just needed a little adult voice."

Summitt can certainly provide that voice and outside of that next-day blip, she expressed pride in her young team for not folding on the road amid a raucous crowd, two players unavailable, foul trouble for a key post and three in-game injuries and coming out with an 81-76 win against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va.

"We could have a pity party, but we didn't," Summitt said. "I thought we've just got to go in and compete the way we've got to compete all the time. I think that coming off that loss at Texas it was a great opportunity for us to teach and for them to learn and to see. It was good for us."

Sophomore Angie Bjorklund stepped up by tying her career high with 29 points, including 6-10 from behind the arc. Freshman Alyssia Brewer tallied 15 points in relief of Vicki Baugh, who had 12 rebounds in just 14 minutes of play, but was plagued by foul trouble.

"She came in and stepped it up big time having my back when I got in foul trouble," said Baugh, whose sense of relief was tremendous when Brewer's knee was OK after a violent collision in the paint. "I don't want to see her get hurt."

Baugh, who is coming back from ACL surgery in May, can relate to the agony of a knee injury and nodded repeatedly when asked about her reaction to Brewer and Kelley Cain going down and then being OK.

"It's a big-time relief," Baugh said. "Big time."

Brewer and Cain were injured in separate incidents in the second half but both were able to practice Friday afternoon and have been cleared for Sunday's matchup with Stanford (7 p.m., ESPN2).

Cain went down first when Old Dominion guard Jazzmin Walters stumbled backwards after contact under the basket and fell – nearly sat actually – on the right knee of Cain, who was near the free throw line. Cain was able to whip her leg backwards, ultimately preventing major injury.

"Kelley took the leg out of it," said Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine. "If your foot's planted that's your issue. She took herself out of it, so it ended up being a contusion versus tearing anything up. She's just re-irritated the back of the kneecap again, but she's feeling no different than she did a couple of days ago."

Cain's kneecap was inflamed after a practice collision nearly two weeks ago and she has been playing through pain and sometimes with a noticeable limp as the leg stiffens. She is coming back from reconstructive surgery to realign the kneecap, so a blow to the knee carries a psychological toll as well as a physical one.

"I think her understanding of what it is really helps," Moshak said. "She knows she's not going to hurt it more. Then it's just a matter of fighting through the pain. Basically what happens is she goes through her stuff out here and then she sits down and she's like, ‘Man, this hurts.'

"But it isn't that it's necessarily bothering her out there because she's focusing on something else. And she's still strong. She's very, very strong and that's a big key."

Cain had to be helped off the floor but she returned in the second half when Brewer went down. Summitt said she understands why Cain would be tentative on the court, but she thinks time will heal the issue.

"With the schedule we have she's going to have to stand up and fight or surrender," Summitt said. "She's not going to surrender. She's going to fight. It's just taking us a little while to get her where we need her to be. And I understand having had an ACL. I really can relate to the fear that you feel when you get back on the floor."

Brewer got hurt when Glory Johnson fell into her knee while both were in position to rebound.

"What saved Lyssi's knee when I look at the film over and over was if your foot is planted and your upper body is still and then the knee is hit, the knee takes it," Moshak said. "So what happened was Glory rolled into her because Glory got pushed into her and then Glory hit her here (side of the torso), so she (Lyssi) started moving in this direction, then she (Johnson) rolled on the knee, but then her (Lyssi) foot came up.

"The knee went way over but nothing was stuck to make anything tear. So the upper body wasn't vertical; it was on its way down. The knee was turned in, but then the foot slid up."

That series of events was the difference in a sore knee and a season-ending injury.

"Watching that tape Lyssi Brewer dodged a huge, huge bullet," said Summitt, who went onto the floor when Brewer was being carried to the locker room because she feared the worst-case scenario. "I did. I just knew from the fall she took, but I didn't see everything that transpired until Jenny showed me. When I was watching the tape coming back (on the plane) I called Jenny from a few seats back and said, ‘She is so fortunate.' I thought, ‘Wow.' When I saw it Jenny said, ‘That's all that saved her right there.' "

Moshak may want to light some candles this season, as the team has had several scares in practices and games, and the players have ultimately been OK.

"I am doing whatever it takes," Moshak said.

That included being in the training room Friday morning to treat Brewer and Cain, who both were very sore after the game.

"We treated from 10 o'clock on today," Moshak said Friday after practice.

Amber Gray was able to practice Friday after getting injured in the game.

"She fell hard on the (left) shoulder, but she's fine," Moshak said.

Shekinna Stricklen also returned to practice after missing Thursday's game because of a stomach virus. She is cleared to play Sunday against Stanford.

"We just need to get her calories up," Moshak said. "She felt a little winded. She used the term winded. I think it was more fatigue, but once her calories continue to get up – and I'm glad we have (Saturday), too – she'll be fine. She's been holding food down since (Thursday) afternoon, but it's been slow, little amounts, and now we're picking it up."

Summitt surmised that if she played Stricken against ODU, the freshman guard/forward wouldn't be well later in the week.

"Kinna woke up and feeling the way she was feeling, couldn't hold anything down," Summitt said. "Realistically, I knew we wouldn't have her for the Stanford game if she played there, most likely."

Sophomore guard Cait McMahan remains out to get treatment for her sore knees and will not play Sunday.

"Still the same," said Moshak, who hopes the holiday break helps McMahan. "I'm hoping for that."

With McMahan out and Stricklen unavailable for the game, freshman point guard Briana Bass played 37 minutes against ODU. Bass had ACL surgery on her left knee last March and the same procedure on her right knee as a high school sophomore.

"My knees are talking to me," Bass said before practice Friday. "My body's talking to me, but I'm OK. They're (knees) hanging in there. This break that we're about to get is going to really help me out."

The Lady Vols started individual workouts last August and had Bass been told then that she would log 37 minutes in the 10th game of the season she might not have believed it.

"I would have been surprised," Bass said. "I'm still kind of surprised now, but I'm grateful that I'm getting this PT (playing time), and I'm grateful that my coaches have that kind of trust in me."

Summitt said Bass improved from one game to the next.

"I think she took in what we emphasized at practice," Summitt said. "I told her I don't want you to try to get to the rim all the time because people are scouting us. She can shoot the three-ball. She's got a good pull-up game. There will be times that she'll beat people down the floor but not teams that get back and set their defense."

Bass said the difference from one road game to the next was she shook off mistakes.

"I learned how to not dwell on mistakes and even though we make mistakes we've just got to try and make the next play and not keep holding our head down over the mistakes we just made," Bass said. "I also learned to keep our composure because teams are going to make runs and we're going to make runs so we just have to keep our composure when those runs do take place."

Bass smiled when asked what it was like to play against someone who was the same height – Walters, the point guard for ODU, is listed at 5'2.

"I was actually taller than she was," said Bass, who is barely 5'2.

Has that ever happened on the basketball court?

"No, not at all," Bass said. "She is fast. I give her credit. She was fast. Her experience and the way she ran her team were really good. That's something that I can learn from."

Bass made her voice heard in the team huddles near the free throw line and credited that to a visit earlier this month from a team-building specialist, Dr. Carolyn Savoy, the head coach of Dalhousie's (Canada) women's basketball team who has a doctorate in sports psychology from Tennessee.

"Ever since we had that lady come talk to us we've been a closer, tighter team, so I think that really did help," Bass said.

"I really wanted to work on composure. When they started making that run I wanted to get the team calmed down and tell them it's OK. We're going to make a run, too. I was trying to be a leader."

The only player who logged more minutes than Bass was Bjorklund, who scored 29 points in 38 minutes.

"She stepped up," Bass said. "She really put this team on her back and knocked down some big shots for us that we needed."

Tennessee needed the win coming off the loss to Texas – the Lady Vols rarely lose two games in a row; the last time was in 2006 to Duke and Kentucky – and Summitt took the time to congratulate her staff, Holly Warlick, Dean Lockwood and Daedra Charles-Furlow, who is in her first season, one by one as the clock expired.

"I think I've got a great staff," Summitt said. "I really challenged Daedra to step up and be more vocal. She's a player with a banner in the arena with her name, and I think they know the type of player she was here at Tennessee. I told her you've got to get your volume up. I want you talking, encouraging. I think that you can have an impact on these young players, because they see her as a great player. She responded well.

"I thought Dean did a fabulous job presenting our scouting report. I really thought he did an exceptional job with that preparation."

Baugh gave a shout-out to Bass and the rest of the freshman class.

"Bree is doing great for our team," Baugh said. "All our freshmen are really doing good. We're going to need everybody this year. We're going to need all our freshmen to step up big."

Bass may be the shortest player on team but she has acquired the most nicknames with four, one of which, "Mighty Mouse," was bestowed by Kathy Harston, the team's director of basketball operations.

"I got it from the team and the coaching staff," Bass said. "They always call me Mighty Mouse. And Lil Bit. And Holly calls me Shorty. I have a lot of nicknames."

"She kind of does look like Mighty Mouse when you really look at her," Baugh said. "But I call her Bree Bree."

Bass saw the win as a successful step a young team needed to take.

"I think so," Bass said. "I think that we are learning to trust each other more and be more comfortable with each other. I think we're learning how to be composed during times when teams are making their runs and the audience is really into the game.

"I think we're learning as a team to be a team."

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