Each one teach one

The Lady Vols assembled Friday afternoon in the state of Alabama and addressed an immediate need – how to start games with focus and energy. Pat Summitt has assigned returning players to freshmen and made them responsible for what happens on the court. She also will address the team's pre-game warmup routine.

Tennessee (15-3, 4-1) departed from Fayetteville, Ark., on Friday morning and will stay in Opelika, Ala., for two days before Sunday's game against Auburn (19-0, 4-0). The team had a short practice Friday afternoon after arriving in town.

"We went in and walked through what they (Auburn) do with their man offenses," Coach Pat Summitt said Friday evening in a telephone interview. "(Saturday) we'll cover zone and do some shooting, and we'll go play Sunday."

Most of Friday's work took place off the court when the coaches and players met to address Tennessee's most vexing problem this season – the way it starts games.

"We haven't had a good first half of basketball," Summitt said. "We go in at halftime and they come out and, in most cases, they play better. Same thing (Thursday) night. There was no sense of urgency. I know in order for us to have a shot at beating Auburn they've got to be a 40-minute team.

"I sent them a message last night, and we had a good session today. We talked about it and tried to create some situations that might help."

One of those solutions is to pair returning players with freshmen to create a climate of accountability.

"Our veterans all have a freshman and some of them have two that they are accountable for on the court so we'll see how that works because we need that," Summitt said. "We need a sense of urgency for 40 minutes."

Redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan, whose season has ended because of chronic knee issues, was also drafted into service.

McMahan has been assigned to Briana Bass and Alicia Manning; Vicki Baugh will oversee Alyssia Brewer and Kelley Cain; Alex Fuller will watch over Glory Johnson; Angie Bjorklund was paired with Shekinna Stricklen; and Sydney Smallbone will assist Amber Gray.

The conversations among players do not have to be in a single direction. The freshmen were encouraged Friday to speak up, too.

Summitt said the purpose of the pairings is "so they know that if they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing then that's who they're going to hear from."

"And I said if there's a situation where the upperclassmen are not bringing what they need to bring, you challenge them," Summitt added. "But right now we need our veterans talking."

Saturday's to-do list includes addressing the way the players warm up before the game. Heather Mason, the strength and conditioning coach, handles the formal warmup, but the players have their own routines prior to that. Those tend to be more casual – the case in years past, too – but apparently that's an area that could be tightened up a tad with a young team.

"When they go out early before they actually start their routine they are a lot more casual," Summitt said, indicating that was OK to a degree. "But that is something I am addressing with them (Saturday) because it was brought to my attention (Thursday) night. Today, I had to pick and choose. That's on my list."

Summitt managed to laugh when it was noted that the list seems to get longer with such a freshman-laden squad, especially as the first-year players are pressed into service, while the roster gets shorter.

Kelley Cain, who had been cleared to play Thursday, was deactivated for the Arkansas game after experiencing pain in warmups. Vicki Baugh, who had initially been doubtful for the game, was cleared to play but got clipped in the knee within a few seconds of being on the court and did not return.

Baugh irritated her left knee but did not sustain damage and is listed as day to day, according to Jenny Moshak, the chief of sports medicine. Baugh did not practice Friday and will undergo treatment on the road. She was able to participate in a weight workout.

Cain practiced Friday and is also day to day. Summitt thought Cain would be available Sunday "based on what I saw today, but I thought I was going to have her (Thursday)," so her status is by no means set in stone.

Summitt and her staff are pondering changing the starters against Auburn by inserting Manning into the lineup. Manning had six points and eight rebounds – that's a stat that will catch Summitt's eye – in Thursday's 76-67 win over Arkansas.

"I am even thinking about starting a bigger lineup," Summitt said. "We can run five (defense), which is our switching man. We can switch on everybody except their two bigs. Bree struggled a little (Thursday) night defensively until late in the game, then she stepped up."

Manning started against Vanderbilt in place of Bass but Sunday's switch, if it occurs, would not be for disciplinary reasons as was the case earlier in the season.

Both players are now under the watch of McMahan, who had been expected to handle point guard duties this season while Bass learned in a backup role. Both Manning, a 6'1 guard/forward, and Shekinna Stricklen, a 6'2 guard/forward, have backed up Bass at point guard this season.

Despite Summitt's frustration with her team's lack of 40-minute focus she does admire the players' ability to buckle down in crunch time and find the fortitude to win a ball game.

"They do," Summitt said. "As I told them, ‘As mad as I was at you throughout the game you guys pretty much find a way to win when you've got your backs against a wall.' That's a real positive."

MUST SEE TV: CBS will air the Tennessee-Memphis men's game on Saturday afternoon and the local affiliate, WVLT-TV, will have an hour-long preview show broadcast live from the arena before the game, which tips at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

Pat Summitt recorded an interview Wednesday that will be aired during the show in which she discussed her young team, the countdown to 1,000, her friendship with Bruce Pearl, the Lady Vol logo and the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

WBCA PINK GAME: The Tennessee-Duke game on Feb. 16 will be part of the WBCA's 2009 Pink Zone campaign, aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer.

"This is one of the most exciting games of the year. Not only are we playing a great team, but we will be promoting an important cause," Pat Summitt said. "This game is set for a national stage on ESPN2, and our fans will have the opportunity to show the country their commitment to breast cancer awareness."

As part of the LIVE PINK campaign, a mobile mammography unit will be on site providing mammograms from 5 to 7 p.m. on the day of the game.

"This is such a great opportunity for us to partner with community organizations that work year-round to promote breast cancer awareness and support those who have been diagnosed with the disease," said Joan Cronan, women's athletics director. "We are working with the Knoxville affiliate of the Susan G. Komen foundation to host two breast cancer survivors that night as guest coaches.

"Anyone can submit their story to survivorstory@komenknoxville.org, and the committee will pick two to participate that night."

The pink campaign is especially important to Summitt because longtime friend Kay Yow, the coach of N.C. State, has been hospitalized for treatment of breast cancer, which she has battled for years.

"It should be a great stage for women's basketball, but it's even bigger and better for the cause," Summitt said. "Right now with Coach Yow she's on my heart every day because she is battling for her life.

"I think a lot of people are recognizing how many people throughout this country are affected by cancer and particularly breast cancer. I'm glad that we can be a part of it."

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