Vicki Baugh sprains knee

SOMERSET, N.J. – When the Lady Vols bus dropped off Vicki Baugh and Jenny Moshak at a hospital so the sophomore forward could get X-rays on her injured knee, a somber mood fell among the passengers as the bus continued to the hotel. There to greet the team was Shannon Bobbitt – "a happiness hand grenade," according to an observer – and the day got even better when news arrived that Baugh was OK.

The Lady Vols practiced Thursday in the field house at Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset, a township close to Rutgers University, and the upbeat and up-tempo session was clicking along until Vicki Baugh went down on the baseline while running an offensive set. She left her feet under the basket and came down hard on her left leg – she had been trying to land more on both feet now – and went to the floor in tremendous pain.

Baugh was treated on the sideline by Moshak while being comforted by all the coaches, and a decision was made to take her to a local hospital for X-rays after practice ended.

The news got much better for Tennessee when the X-rays came back negative on Baugh's left knee and a determination was made that the ACL, which she tore last April, was intact and the knee was structurally sound. The diagnosis from Moshak was a sprain of the lateral collateral ligament. Treatment will begin immediately, and her official status is day to day.

Baugh's availability for Saturday afternoon's game against Rutgers is not known yet. The key for Baugh is "how she does overnight and how she responds to treatment," said Debby Jennings, the chief of media relations for the Lady Vols.

Jennings said Moshak sounded very relieved when she delivered the news of the diagnosis, and Baugh "is definitely relieved."

The team practiced at the prep school – the girl's basketball team watched the session and met Pat Summitt – and the players had a relatively short weight workout afterwards with Heather Mason. The bus made a detour to take Baugh and Moshak to a local hospital and then returned the rest of the team to the hotel in New Brunswick, where Shannon Bobbitt came bounding out to greet them, Jennings said, lifting the spirits of everyone on board.

Bobbitt, a native of New York, had come home for the holidays from Turkey, where she is playing professionally. Bobbitt wrapped Summitt in what Jennings described as a "bear hug," and the entire time swarmed Bobbitt for hugs, especially Angie Bjorklund. Bobbitt immediately asked to see Briana Bass, whom she had been exchanging text messages with about playing point for Summitt, before she left for Turkey.

"Everyone was uplifted by seeing her," said Jennings, who characterized Bobbitt's presence as a "happiness hand grenade."

Bobbitt is supposed to return to Turkey on Friday, but she was trying to change her flight so as to be in town for the game, because, as she told Jennings, "y'all need me there."

The Lady Vols will need all the support they can get at Rutgers – Tennessee beat the Scarlet Knights last season in Knoxville in a controversial ending about whether or not a takedown foul on Nicky Anosike occurred with time left on the clock, which froze at .2 seconds and then restarted. Anosike drained both free throws to secure the 59-58 win.

Summitt addressed the issue in her teleconference before the Christmas break – ironically her phone had a malfunction while she was answering a question about the clock, and she had to reconnect – and called the incident unfortunate and a difficult ending to a hard-fought game. Summitt indicated Thursday that she had other matters to occupy her time now.

"I'll remind them – they probably don't even know what happened – but I'll remind them we're one and three against them on this court," Summitt said. "We've got a lot to get us focused. Am I going to deal with the clock issue? No. I'm through talking about that."

Half of Tennessee's team was in high school when the Lady Vols and Rutgers played last February – Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer was in distress after the game and a New Jersey legislator even got involved and called for an official investigation – but the wrath of the Scarlet Knights will be theirs to bear, too, on Saturday, simply because they're now wearing orange. Summitt wants her players to know the ire is intended for her.

"I told them every time they hear boos they'll be for me," Summitt said.

The common parlance of New Jersey could likely mean a lot more verbal expressions than boos.

"Well, every time they hear whatever they hear," Summitt said. "For me I've been called about every name that's out there. Personal, creative, whatever.

"Trust me my concern is not what I'm going to hear in the stands; it's what I'm going to see on the court."

When Baugh went down on the court Thursday, the team hovered over her for a few minutes and then Summitt took the players down to the other end of the gym. It's standard when an injury occurs in practice because the team has to get refocused – such happens in games – but several players, especially Bass, cast looks back at Baugh as they changed ends. As the players rotated off the floor during drills they came over to check on Baugh with Cait McMahan being the first. McMahan and Bass have both come back from ACL operations and know the fear and pain of a traumatic knee injury.

With Baugh's status questionable – her knee will likely be very sore and she could have some swelling – a tough task becomes even more formidable for a young Tennessee team.

"If that happens," Summitt said, "somebody has to step up. It's the nature of the game. People go out and somebody gets up and gets an opportunity."

The player most likely to replace Baugh in the lineup would be Alex Fuller, a fifth-year redshirt senior who played significant minutes against Rutgers last year because two starters got in foul trouble.

The upside of Fuller is that she is consistent. She can start or come off the bench. She can play inside or outside. She can play five minutes or 30 minutes. Her demeanor doesn't change, and she never complains. When the coaches ask her to do something, she simply does it.

"Solid," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said of Fuller. "She gives you great versatility. You trust her because she's a veteran, and she's been through so many things. You know what you're going to get and that's the thing that we appreciate so much about Alex is there's a consistency to Alex and her game that you can just count on, you can depend on. I think that is so important.

"Her minutes may be very noticeable and spectacular, they may also be somewhat unspectacular in terms of what shows up in the box score but the thing that we appreciate and that we trust is the level of consistency and the level of effort that she puts forth. We know what we're going to get in those two areas. We love the fact that we can count on her for some stability and especially for this year's team it's huge."

Fuller, who had ACL surgery and missed the 2004-05 season, had six points, four rebounds and an assist against Rutgers last season in a game in which points were hard to come by. She played solid defense without fouling and got two steals.

The team used Wednesday to travel across the country from Spokane to New York, where they took a bus to New Jersey, and didn't encounter any travel issues, but the late arrival on the switch from Pacific to Eastern time meant no court time.

Thursday's session lasted two hours – Baugh was hurt midway through – and the coaches declared it to be a productive one in terms of meeting their objectives on the court.

"We did what we wanted to do," Summitt said. "We basically wanted to come in and do the scouting and get as much as that packaged together so we wouldn't have to spend a long time (Friday)."

The team will hold a light practice Friday on Rutgers home floor in Piscataway at the Louis Brown Athletics Center. The 8,000-seat venue is sold out for Saturday's game (2 p.m. Eastern, CBS).

"I thought we had a very good preparation day," said Lockwood, who is handling the scouting report for the Rutgers game and was particularly keyed up Thursday.

Summitt wryly noted that the players were focused because they had plans for Thursday evening and had a goal to get their work done, please the coaches and be released for the day.

"They're real anxious to go into the city," Summitt said. "They're focused."

Lockwood's dedication is such that he intended to spend the rest of Thursday in his hotel room watching more film and gleaning information that will be useful in Friday's practice and strategy sessions.

"There's a group going on an excursion," Lockwood said. "They're going to go into the city and do a little shopping."

The group had adult supervision. Assistant Coach Daedra Charles-Furlow was to escort the team into New York City by train and return them to New Jersey in time for a late team dinner.

As with past Lady Vol teams, the players like to go shopping. Summitt also planned to hit some stores but she was going to stay in New Jersey. Lockwood, who is not much of a shopper, conceded that he did join the other coaches on a trip in downtown Spokane.

"I did go in Spokane because there's a nice mall. There's a Nordstrom's that had some good sales," said Lockwood, who noted, "I'm a John H. Daniel guy all the way with suits. But I did get some nice shirts and some other knick knacks."

"(Thursday) is going to be a big tape day. I want to catch up on some stuff, go over and over and over some Rutgers stuff. After that long day of travel I had a nice workout this morning so I'm feeling ready to roll again. But I love the city. New York is a great city."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories