Glory Johnson, a top recruit in women's basketball a year ago who was courted by several top programs, lives in Knoxville so home for the holidays means a short drive from campus. She will spend the week making regular trips to the training room.
"She's going to continue to receive treatment and rehabilitation over the break," said Amanda Shields, an assistant athletic trainer under Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine.
In terms of whether or not Johnson would be cleared when the Lady Vols resume play Dec. 30 against Gonzaga, Shields said it's too soon to know.
"It's day to day and how she responds to treatment," Shields said. "It just depends on how she responds and how the injury progresses or resolves."
Johnson is on crutches but that is standard with that type of injury.
"It's just to give the injured site as much assistance and rest as possible," Shields said.
Johnson received stim and ultrasound treatment on her right thigh during the practice session and was moving rather gingerly.
Johnson was hurt in the overtime period of the 79-69 win over Stanford on Sunday when she got tangled with Nnemkadi Ogwumike and ended up on the floor, where Shekinna Stricklen tripped over Johnson. Stricklen's knee caught Johnson's thigh. Stricklen was able to limp away under her own power. Johnson needed assistance getting to the locker room.
"You can't see it externally, but anytime you have a contusion like that there's going to be bruising, whether it be visible or not," Shields said. "It may be a couple of days down the road when they see some of that."
Stricklen was among the nine players on the court at Pratt Pavilion by 9 a.m. Monday for stretching and loosening drills with Heather Mason, the strength and conditioning coach, whose energy is abundant even when her charges are bleary-eyed and the outside temperature hasn't even reached 20 degrees.
"She worked out early this morning," Summitt said. "We had a little mix-up, a little confusion, and she scheduled her flight earlier than it should have been scheduled."
The Lady Vols, including Baugh, who lives in Sacramento, had made their travel plans months ago, so Baugh fulfilled her workout commitment and then caught her flight to California.
The team will be off until Friday evening – though Baugh and Angie Bjorklund, who is from Washington state – will remain on the West Coast and let the team come to them on Saturday when the Lady Vols leave Knoxville for Spokane.
Summitt wanted to get the team together Monday morning to reinforce patterns of behavior. Summitt and her staff put the team through some full-court drills and free throw shooting for less than an hour and turned the players over to Mason, who had a series of sprints devised – all the players made their times – and then took them to the weight room. Some players ran some extra sprints, too.
After that, the players were free to leave for home. Some family members remained in Knoxville after the Stanford game to provide the transportation.
"They've got a nice break and I think it's all part of understanding that we've got to stay in great shape," Summitt said. "We had some people who didn't play as many minutes and that's not punishment, it's opportunity to get back in here and do the cardio. It's good for their mental toughness."
Tennessee, which jumped from No. 11 to No. 8 in the AP poll Monday, was coming off an emotional win against then-No. 3/4 Stanford, and Summitt was pleased with the way her players responded Monday morning in a short but demanding session.
"They hung tough; that's what you want," Summitt said. "Good energy. I told them this was definitely not punishment. This was getting them back in the gym and get a weight lift in and now they get a break."
Summitt also saluted the fans in her Monday afternoon teleconference. The 14,763 in attendance was the largest home crowd of the season – slipping past the 14,327 for the Middle Tennessee game – and they were a rowdy group who cheered throughout the game, especially when the score got close, and delivered a boost to the team.
"Totally," Summitt said. "A huge boost. They were loud. That was the loudest it's been for any home game, and we needed it."
Summitt intends to enjoy this Christmas break a lot more than she did last year's when the Lady Vols lost to Stanford in overtime in Palo Alto, primarily because of an unwillingness to defend the Cardinal's high-low action as the perimeter pressure was soft and the post players were often out of position.
"I was biting the inside of my lip," said Summitt, referring to what she was doing, not during the game, but after arriving back home. "This was during Christmas and thinking about it and watching it and re-watching it again. I don't know how many times I watched it and every time I watched it I got even more upset because we had a veteran team, and we had an opportunity to win there and didn't seize the moment.
"But I really felt going into last night's game that if we did the things with our scouting report defense (Tennessee could win), and for the most part, with a few exceptions, we stuck to it."
The interior defense was relatively solid on Sunday – bringing 6'6 Kelley Cain off the bench boosts it considerably and Alex Fuller is a fundamentally sound post – but Summitt wants better production on offense from the paint players.
Although the stat sheet doesn't show it because Baugh was 2-9 from the field, the 6'4 sophomore forward played Sunday squared to the basket and got some good looks, several of which just wouldn't roll her way.
"Absolutely," Summitt said.
Baugh is coming back from ACL surgery and she said Sunday was the first game in which she just played without worrying about her knee.
"I told her you're trying to shoot off one leg," Summitt said of the games before Sunday. "Jenny wouldn't put you out there to play unless she felt like you were ready. She did a much better job of playing on balance, getting both feet under her. That's not uncommon with that injury to have it in your head for a long time."
As the rangy and athletic Baugh gets closer to 100 percent Tennessee's press could be more effective, but the full-court pressure is nowhere close to where Summitt wants it to be. Against Stanford the coaches opted to drop back and buckle down on defense in the half court.
"The reason I didn't press because when we tried to extend our press, it hurt us," Summitt said. "We didn't match up; we didn't do what we needed to do. One thing that I noticed the difference between their Duke game and when they got there they had been working on quick in-bounds, push hard. I thought we would be better served to be in a half-court or quarter-court game and defend them."
Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer thought the difference in the game was the shooting of Bjorklund and Stricklen, who combined for 41 points, more than half of Tennessee's total. Stricklen tallied a career-high 25.
Summitt noted that the team also gained confidence in Thursday's road win over Old Dominion, a game in which Tennessee lost the lead with under two minutes to play but prevailed, 81-76. Stricklen missed that game with a stomach virus.
"The fact we closed out the Old Dominion game I think that gave them some confidence going into the Stanford game," Summitt said. "Not having Shekinna on the floor at Old Dominion and then her stepping up and doing what she did last night … I expect a lot from her.
"I told her today, ‘Be careful what you show me.' "
Summitt also thinks Stricklen and Bjorklund can both feed off each other and relax – neither player has to be the one to hit all the outside shots.
"I think it takes a little pressure off of her and she takes pressure off of Angie," Summitt said.
Stricklen was all smiles Monday, as were her teammates despite the fatigue and eagerness to go home.
"I think they're starting to understand how hard you have to work to prepare for each and every game and how hard you have to work to stay in great shape," Summitt said. "With Heather, she absolutely gets the best out of them and they're now responding better than ever before.
"It's work but they have to understand playing the game is hard work, and I think when they work here, mentally they're getting a lot tougher. It gives you an edge."
It's also a little bit easier to extract hard work when a team is upbeat and encouraged.
"That was definitely a game in which they can leave here feeling really good about themselves and certainly feeling real good about our team," Summitt said.
CAIT UPDATE: Cait McMahan got an MRI on Friday because of chronic pain in her right knee.
The MRI revealed no structural damage and McMahan's status remains status quo - day to day, manage the pain and play when she can, according to Debby Jennings, chief spokeswoman for the Lady Vols.
The MRI was scheduled to ensure there had not been any additional structural damage to the knee. McMahan has had four operations on the knee - one in high school and three at Tennessee.
The news would be a relief to the team and coaches because it means McMahan can continue to play, as the pain allows.