Team ordered out of locker room

Two Lady Vols players dragged two large bags of gear into Pratt Pavilion on Friday after they were ordered by their coach to clean out their lockers and provide their own practice clothing. They got ready in an upstairs public rest room – they are not allowed to use the locker room in Pratt either – and then met as a team and watched film of the loss to Kentucky.

The players took the floor in an assortment of mismatched shirts and T-shirts – they did wear their team-issued shoes – and went over offensive and defensive sets in both the half and full court before shooting 100 free throws each in a relatively short practice session on the court.

The team will not take the court Saturday and will instead have a film session to get ready for the Mississippi State game on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.

NCAA rules requires that they wear matching Tennessee uniforms so they will look normal for the game, but they will not be in their comfortable locker room beforehand and will instead use one of the spare locker rooms available for visiting teams. The players cleaned out their lockers before Friday's practice and will stash the stuff elsewhere for now.

"Well, since they like to do their own thing we'd thought we'd let them wear their own stuff," Coach Pat Summitt said. "They're in their own clothes. They'll obviously have to wash their own clothes as well. We're going to move them into one of the visitor's locker rooms."

The last time Summitt took such drastic measures was with the 1989-90 team – now-Assistant Coach Daedra Charles-Furlow was a junior on that one – and she had not done it since, not even to the 10-loss 1996-97 squad.

"They're not as competitive as the 1997 team," Summitt said. "The frightening thing is that (Thursday) night we didn't play hard. You can ask them why they play harder in practice than they do in the games? Well it's because the coaches are in control in practice. We can stay here as long as we want to play here. In the game the players are in control."

Practice was preceded by a lengthy meeting in which players and coaches spoke. Senior forward Alex Fuller said part of the reason the meeting went so long was because the film session was extended.

"It was long because we watched more film," Fuller said. "It was basically the same things that we've said in other meetings as far as having everybody to step up. It wasn't really anything different. Everybody said what they had to say, and we came to practice. "I was blunt, but I always am. I didn't change anything that I've said. Stop making excuses. That was my main point of what I said in the meeting. Just stop making excuses."

Fuller and redshirt freshmen center Kelley Cain were visibly frustrated after the 66-56 loss to Kentucky and both said it's time for the six freshmen on the squad to grow up.

"They should be (frustrated)," Summitt said. "They (the freshmen) don't play hard (in every game)."

Did the meeting have any effect that previous ones did not?

"I won't know until we play again and then one game is not going to heal everything," Summitt said. "I am hoping that they will take more accountability for how they play and individually commit to what they want to bring."

Summitt sat down with sophomore Angie Bjorklund, who has struggled with her shot, especially in the past two games against Duke and Kentucky when she was 3-22 from the field.

"I think she's forced a lot," Summitt said. "I watched tape with her today before practice. She saw it. She's fading on her shots, rushing them."

Two shots against Kentucky when Tennessee had pulled to within seven points with 1:37 left in the game were symptomatic of her woes. Bjorklund tried a midrange jumper in traffic and then an off-balance shot from the top of the key. Both were well off target.

"I told her, ‘You've got to play off the dribble some. You've got to get to the free throw line,' " Summitt said.

All of the guards struggled at Kentucky – the steady offense came inside from Cain and Fuller – while the Wildcats were taking it to Tennessee off the bounce and getting to the rim.

Summitt reacted to what she saw as a listless performance by ordering the team out of its locker room. It will remain off limits until after the regular season and will be addressed around the SEC Tournament in early March.

"Spoiled," Summitt said. "They've been spoiled. I think when they got here they obviously got all their gear. They get a lot of stuff and I don't think they quite understood how much they have to invest and giving back to the program constantly.

"As I told them we lead the nation in fan support. Everywhere we go there's the biggest crowd (Kentucky had 6,868, the largest of the season), tour buses. I just don't know that we've handled that very well."

The Lady Vols still seem a tad surprised by the force by which other teams attack them.

"Dean (Lockwood) did a great job of scouting, and he said, ‘What you see on tape is not what you're going to get. Everybody is going to bring their best game against us,' " Summitt said. "You can tell them and tell them but if they haven't figured it out by now … I am not sure that they have. Do we think it's all fixed today? No."

Does the coach have time to fix the issues?

"Right now that's an unknown for me," Summitt said.


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