Lady Vols get ready for Sooners

The Lady Vols returned to the practice court Saturday to get ready for the "Big Monday" matchup with Oklahoma. The team held its own workout Friday when Pat Summitt was out of town for Kay Yow's funeral and made 1,000 free throws to atone for all the missed ones in the last game. Tennessee will hold a short shooting session at home Sunday and then travel to Oklahoma City.

Pat Summitt likely will stick with the same starters from the last game – Shekinna Stricklen, Angie Bjorklund, Alicia Manning, Glory Johnson and Alex Fuller – in a lineup that has size on the perimeter. Kelley Cain, a 6'6 redshirt freshman center, had a solid practice Saturday as she continues to come back from a knee injury and would be a big addition to the rotation Monday.

"Kelley looked good today," Summitt said after practice Saturday. With us going against Courtney (Paris) that is definitely a key for us to have her healthy in that game and ready to play."

Sophomore forward Vicki Baugh participated in part of practice but had to pull herself before the end for knee treatment and ice.

"She went longer today," Summitt said.

As far as whether or not Baugh could play Monday or next week, Summitt said, "I have no idea. That's Jenny's call totally."

Summitt returned to Knoxville after attending the funeral for Kay Yow in North Carolina on Friday. Yow taped a video message that was played inside the Cary, N.C., church at the servce.

"Leave it up to Kay to come up with that," Summitt said. "It was so quiet and all eyes on Kay. When she told us the story that she told and in particular when she didn't want to go to this meeting because she didn't have a relationship with the Lord, she did this on video to say to everyone, ‘Take it from me. You've got to make sure that you have a relationship with Jesus Christ. You've got to do it.' She didn't give us an option.

"It was not emotional when she spoke. It was touching. It was emotional when the pastor spoke. That to me was the most emotional part of the day. But when Kay spoke it was touching. It was powerful. I think she without question had an impact on several people in that audience, me included."

Summitt had to get back in basketball mode Saturday, as she was greeted by one scheduled media interview after another that started with an appearance on ESPN GameDay in Thompson-Boling Arena at 11:30 a.m., a taped interview on "The Summitt" court for ESPN's Sunday Conversation, local and Nashville television media after a lengthy practice and a live appearance on ESPN during the Vols-Gators game later that night.

The attention has ascended to Rocky Top because Summitt is on the precipice of 1,000 career wins – uncharted territory in NCAA basketball – but she is focused on trying to get her team ready to face the Sooners in Oklahoma City on Monday (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. Eastern).

The players held a shooting workout Friday in Summitt's absence before participating in their scheduled weight lifting and conditioning session.

"We had a mini-practice where we made 1,000 free throws as a team, because we missed I don't know how many free throws in our last game," senior forward Alex Fuller said. "That was our theme of (Friday) was 1,000."

That's a theme Summitt could support as she tries to both accommodate the soaring interest in the milestone – Bobby Knight and Brent Musburger will call the game Monday – and carve out practice time with her team.

"Coach Knight and I go way back," Summitt said. "I was around him a lot (during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles), and I got to watch him coach and teach and inspire. He has great intensity and I have great intensity and I'm sure a lot of people think that we coach a lot alike, but I think what we have in common is our expectations and the discipline. For him to be on this game I think he's going to tell it like he sees it, and I have no problem with that. Obviously he's there because he is Bob Knight and because we do have a past in which we shared a lot on the basketball court from the PanAms to the Olympics.

"He's watched the women quite a bit, and his wife, Karen (who coached in high school), he told me today was a huge fan of our program. He said she's just anxious to see this game as well. He's definitely been in touch and watched a lot of women's basketball and certainly watched our program."

Summitt's approach to the 1,000th win is to know it's going to come and not focus on when but rather is her team ready.

"We're going to get it," Summitt said. "It's going to happen sometimes. Right now the main thing is our team and how we play."

That certainly wasn't an issue Saturday as the team went 2.5 hours at Pratt Pavilion in both full and half-court drills in an upbeat session. Cain's mobility was noticeably improved, and she added an hour to her workout by shooting free throws.

Tennessee once again has the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country, and Summitt kept the out-of-conference games interspersed with the SEC ones instead of taking two bye games like other league teams do, even with her young team. In addition to Oklahoma, Tennessee will play Duke on Feb. 16 in another "Big Monday" game.

"I think I would rather play," Fuller said. "Our strength of schedule is tops in the country. I think that kind of defines the program."

"We want to play against the best and I like to play outside the league even during the (conference) schedule," Summitt said. "I think it's important to go against some of the best teams in the country."

That means taking on No. 2 Oklahoma in Oklahoma City at the Ford Center. The Sooners are led by twins Courtney Paris and Ashley Paris and have won 14 consecutive games, including coming back from 26 points down at halftime against then-No. 9 and now No. 7 Cal.

"It's all about trying to get ready for Oklahoma, getting ready for Courtney and Ashley and company," Summitt said. "They're good. They're ranked second. We've got to bring our ‘A' game."

Tennessee will step right back into SEC play with Georgia coming to Knoxville on Thursday and then a trip to Florida on Sunday in what will be an important week, especially in terms of conference positioning.

"It's extremely important because we have three games in a week," Fuller said. "It's important to keep ourselves healthy, to stay focused on what we need to do and to win these three games."

Saturday's practice focused on rebounding, transition defense and offensive movement.

"Right now the first thing on my mind is trying to be a better team and be competitive with Oklahoma and try to get a great road win," Summitt said. "That would be huge for us. After that obviously get back into SEC play. To me it's all about those things that really matter the most.

"I hope our kids will not put pressure on themselves but to feel like, ‘Hey, we're the underdog, let's go fight as hard as we can and see what happens.' "

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