Tennessee to take on Ball State

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A year ago Angie Bjorklund, a freshman playing in her first NCAA tourney, was dealing with the mental and physical fatigue of a long season. This year she's a stalwart in the starting lineup, a player that Pat Summitt said was "in a good place." Bjorklund's sharp-shooting, which abandoned her late last season, will be vital when the Lady Vols open tonight against Ball State.

Pat Summitt wasn't just talking about Angie Bjorklund's place in the lineup. She meant the total state, referring to Bjorklund's mental and physical well being and where she spent a good portion of this season – in Pratt Pavilion lofting jump shots.

"I think Angie has been the most dedicated to her game, and that's why she's playing the way she's playing," Summitt said. "If every player on our basketball team would have followed her to Pratt Pavilion and put in the time and reps and gotten in the shots and worked on their game, our team would be a lot better. And she has done it.

"I think because she's been doing it other players have gone in, but the freshmen they just don't know what it takes, the investment, and I think she's been the best example on our basketball team. I'm meeting with all of our players and she just seems to be in a really good place. I like that."

Bjorklund can relate to the learning curve of a first-year player. She moved into the starting lineup as a freshman with a veteran team, came off the bench in the NCAA tourney – her outside shot was still such a breakout threat that other teams devoted a defender to her – and, by her admission, hit a wall and staggered to the finish line.

The adjustment of freshmen occurs on and off the court as they undergo mandatory study hall and class attendance – if the plane wheels touch down from a road trip at 2 a.m., they are still in 8 a.m. classes – three-hour practices, strenuous conditioning sessions and a long regular season against what is usually the toughest schedule in the country.

This year 70 percent of the roster is made up of first-year players, so only Bjorklund, fellow sophomore Sydney Smallbone and senior Alex Fuller have NCAA Tournament experience.

No. 5 seed Tennessee, 22-10, takes on No. 12 seed Ball State, 25-8, at approximately 9:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday (ESPN2) at E.A. Diddle Arena. No. 4 seed Iowa State, 24-8, plays No. 13 seed East Tennessee State, 20-10, in the first game at 7 p.m. EDT. The winners meet Tuesday night for a Sweet 16 berth and the right to advance to the Berkeley Region in Northern California.

The two teams from the Volunteer State are staying at the same Holiday Inn near the Western Kentucky campus – along with Lady Vols fans booked there, too – and ETSU Coach Karen Kemp said the Lady Bucs would welcome the support of orange-clad fans in the arena on Sunday.

"We're trying to smile and be nice to all of those Lady Vol fans," Kemp said with a smile. "We hope to see a lot of orange in the stands."

The Lady Vol team also would like to see plenty of orange in the arena. This year's young team – three freshmen will be in the starting lineup with Bjorklund and Fuller – has thrived on the energy of its fans. Summitt has noted several times that she thought the fan support made a difference in the outcome of games.

"I think it's a little overwhelming for freshmen to come in this program, have to get in great shape, the weight work, the sprint training and then the hard practices," Summitt said. "It takes a toll on them mentally. Physically, yes, we ask a lot, but players who are physically strong will give it to fatigue and that's what we fight at times."

Bjorklund fought it a year ago. This year she visited with a sports psychologist before the season started. She also credits having a year in the program – she knows what to expect, she knows the system, and she knows how to pace herself.

"You have to trust what you did in preseason that it's going to carry you through," Bjorklund said. "You have to go all out every possession and trust what we've done to prepare for this. I think for me just having a year under my belt has been amazing. That experience has really helped me.

"I realize my strength through God. I say, ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthen me.' I focus on that. I put my trust in what I've done throughout the season. I am going all out every possession because I know God is going to give me the strength to play 40 minutes if I need to. We ran a lot. (Heather Mason) has never run any team as much as she ran us. We're going to be ready."

Bjorklund and Fuller will be expected to fulfill leadership roles tonight to help keep the freshmen settled. It does help that all seven first-year players gained experience in Little Rock, Ark., in the SEC tourney.

"The SEC was kind of like the starting point where a lot was on the line them so I think that was good before coming into the NCAA Tournament," freshman Alicia Manning said. "But there's a little bit more on the line. I think all around, individually and as a team, everyone's confidence is right where it needs to be."

Fuller also points to the Lady Vols schedule as a benefit. Tennessee played 16 teams that made the field of 64 – six SEC foes plus DePaul, Duke, Gonzaga, Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Stanford, Texas, Virginia and Western Carolina in out of conference matchups.

"Of course it helps them as far as experience and everything like that but we've all played in big games so we knew what to expect," Fuller said. "I think everyone knows what that's like now."

Summitt, whose coaching philosophy is to challenge her team and schedule across different conferences to expose players to various styles of offense and defense, ended up with 10 losses entering the NCAA tourney – the most since 1997 – but she has no intention of changing that approach.

"I think the schedule that we put together for them, while it might have been a little bit over their head when we started into it, right now I think it's one of the best things that happened to this team," Summitt said. "We'll find out when we start playing, but my sense is without those challenges, if we had had a really easy schedule we wouldn't be as tough-minded as we are right now."

The Lady Vols were at ease Saturday. They sat in their locker room on comfy couches for the media portion of the day and then took the practice court for an open hour-long session that was filled with smiles.

"I'm ready," freshman guard Briana Bass said. "I feel like it's been a long time since we played. Everybody is just anxious and ready to go out there and play. We're starting to jell better, and everything is clicking."

A first game in the NCAA tourney could produce some anxiety, but Shekinna Stricklen thinks she and the other freshmen won't have a bad case of nerves.

"I don't think it should be," Stricklen said. "We've played the best teams, we've been in big crowds, so I think we should be ready for it and not be so nervous."

"I think, the nerves, we got those out in the SEC Tournament," Alyssia Brewer said. "I think we all know that we've got to buckle down and do what the coaches ask us. Like she tells us all the time, they give us the answers; it's just us putting it out there on the court."

Kelley Cain watched from the bench a year ago as her right kneecap healed from realignment surgery. She is ready to take the floor for her first NCAA tourney game.

"I'm excited but not about to leap out of my skin," Cain said. "For me it's about time. I'm ready, and it's here."

Bjorklund seemed calm in the locker room Saturday. She selected some snacks from the spread of food for the players and said the newcomers know as well as they can what happens next.

"I think we need to make sure they're ready, and I think we've done a good job of that this past week preparing," Bjorklund said. "We just need to be ready and compete. Just tell them to relax and play their game. There's no pressure. Just play, enjoy it, have fun and work hard.

"I'm excited. This is an exciting time. I'm excited to play, excited to compete. I think everyone is ready."

PROBABLE STARTERS: Pat Summitt seems to have settled on a starting lineup after having to use 12 different ones this season because of injuries and her quest to find competitors.

She is expected to start: Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 freshman forward, No. 40 (13.1 points per game, 5.9 rpg); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 sophomore guard, No. 5 (12.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Glory Johnson, 6'3 freshman forward, No. 25 (10.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg); Alex Fuller, 6'3 redshirt senior forward, No. 2 (7.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg); and Kelley Cain, 6'6 redshirt freshman center, No. 52 (8.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

The five starters got a lot of repetitions together in practice in the break between SEC and NCAA tourneys, and they have been clicking better of late as they spend more time together.

"Definitely, all of us are starting to click more," Bjorklund said. "That's expected. The more you play together, the more you're going to understand each other. Like Kelz, if I set her a screen here that will get me open here, that type of thing. I think these last few days we've done a lot of scrimmaging and not set plays, but three out, one in, four out, one in, set flare screens. That has been really helped us. The more we play together, the more we will flow."

Summitt has been pleased with her core players as the starting five has reached a comfort level it didn't have a month ago.

"I think they're a lot more focused now," Summitt said. "We've got to get our inside game to be more efficient, but if we can establish the inside game and take care of the basketball I like what we can do definitely offensively."

Summitt liked what she saw enough to give the team a tad more freedom offensively, trusting them more to make reads, instead of running set plays.

"Offensively, I think we're showing a little bit more patience and we're trying to give them a little bit more freedom and let them make their decisions in the motion, as well as three-out, two in," Summitt said. "Just give them more freedom and less structure because at this time of the year everybody knows your set plays. So now they've got to go play, so we're giving them a little more freedom to play."

The style of play got a nod of endorsement from Bjorklund, who has been shooting well in practice this week.

"I really like it," Bjorklund said. "I think that's important that we've really worked on that this past week in practice."

Ball State's lineup is in stark contrast to Tennessee's in terms of longevity. Four of the five starters opened every game, and the fifth started all but one.

Ball State Coach Kelly Packard is expected to start: Kiley Jarrett, 5'4 senior guard, No. 12 (8.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg), hails from Bloomington, Ind., averages 5.0 assists per game and has 428 for her career and 165 this season, has started all 33 games this season; Porchia Green, 5'8 senior guard, No. 3 (12.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg), hails from Indianapolis, Ind., First Team All-Mid-America Conference and MAC Defensive Player of the Year, started all 33 games; Audrey McDonald, 5'8 junior guard, No. 33 (11.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg), hails from Kokomo, Ind., hit seven 3-pointers against Robert Morris and six against Kent State, has made 91 threes on the season and 234 for her career, has started all 33 games; Emily Maggert, 6'1 junior forward, No. 41 (13.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg), hails from Paris, Ill., made the MAC All-Conference Team, started 32 of 33 games after being MAC Sixth Player of the Year as sophomore, ranks 21st in the country in field goal percentage at 54.2 percent, had 17 rebounds against Central Michigan; and Danielle Gratton, 6'1 junior forward, No. 35 (12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg), hails from Bethel Park, Pa., first season at Ball State after transferring from Illinois, hit the 3-pointer to tie the game, 51-51, against Bowling Green and propel the Cardinals into the NCAA tourney, leads the team in free throw percentage at 89.4, started all 33 games.

Ball State is making its first appearance in the NCAA tourney, and Packard said it's been on the "heart list" of her players.

"I haven't had to motivate them this week," Packard said. "The opportunity is their motivation."

Packard realizes playing Tennessee – and meeting Summitt – could result in a wide-eyed reaction for her team, so she addressed it for herself and her players.

"There was the opportunity (Saturday) morning in an administrative meeting to meet her and we got to visit a little bit," Packard said. "Hopefully I got my wow and awe out then. There was some. How could there not be? You look at what she's accomplished in the women's game and the fact that she's done it for the length of time that she's done it, and she's remained passionate. There's no doubt about her passion if you watch her coach."

Packard also told her players to appreciate Tennessee's tradition and then focus on Ball State's debut in the tourney.

"It is the realization of our seniors and career aspirations for them during their collegiate experience," Packard said. "You look at Tennessee and you'd better carve out a lot of time to read about their tradition. … That's what we talked to our team about this week, which is after we recognize the great tradition, then we have to make it about Ball State. We have to make it about what we've been doing all season long and how we've invested our time and how that time has resulted in the opportunity that now stands before us."

This will be Ball State's second game in E.A. Diddle Arena this season. The Cardinals beat Western Kentucky on Dec. 20, 2008, in overtime, 72-71, after falling behind by 17 points.

"We went into that game knowing the tradition Western Kentucky has had and knowing that they have been in the NCAA Tournament," Jarrett said. "We knew how important that game was and being able to come into their home and seeing the crowd that they had, it was a huge stepping stone for us."

Playing Tennessee is another step for a program trying to get a foothold in postseason.

"It is something that you dream about from when you were a little girl – making it to the NCAA Tournament and not only being here but being able to play Tennessee and the great team that they are," Jarrett said.

"Right now the team is just looking at it as another game, and we are going to go out and play our hardest," Gratton said. "We realize it's Tennessee and the history, but at the same time that is why you play the game. We're just excited and anxious to get out there and play them."

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Ball State game. Here is his assessment.

When Ball State has the ball: Tennessee needs to be ready for the ball to be launched at long range.

"They are very good at shooting threes," Lockwood said. "They are taking over 20 a game; they're making over seven a game. They've got five players that at any one point in time that they can put in the game they can all make threes, so we have to guard the arc. They run very good half-court offense. They throw a lot of different sets and looks at you.

"They've got a couple of kids, (Audrey) McDonald and (Danielle) Gratton, who can really, really shoot and they use them off a lot off flares, back screens, ball screens, pick-and-pop action. (Emily) Maggert is their leading scorer, and she's a very good midrange scorer. (Porchia) Green is a driver who is very, very adept at driving the ball. The balance in their scoring is very, very good. Their five starters, they've got four kids in double figures and the other kid very, very close. They just have very good balanced scoring. They're a team that plays very good half-court offense, plays very well together, and they play to each other's strengths very well. The main theme is we've got to guard the arc."

Defensively, the Cardinals have primarily been in man, but Lockwood expects to see some zone, too, because of Tennessee's size.

"They've played man the majority of the stuff we've seen and the people we've talked to, but they do have a two-three zone in their arsenal," Lockwood said. "I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see it. I think they probably will test the waters with their man to see because that's taken them to 14-2 in their conference and it's put them in the NCAA Tournament so I don't think they're just going to go away from it, but I do think we'll see some zone."

The question for Ball State is if the man defense can be effective against Tennessee, especially inside.

"That's the million dollar question because that's who they've been," Lockwood said. "We've got questions in our camp (defensively) as we go into each game. I think one of their tests is going to be, ‘Can we stop Tennessee solely with our man-to-man defense?' They've played MAC opponents where they've gotten up and pressured. They're not a play in the lane type team. They go up and deny. They'll deny wings.

"Green is the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. I told our team she's their version of what Nicky (Anosike) was to us. She is the tough kid. She is the kid who says, ‘Who's the leading scorer?' She good for one steal a game where she rips you and goes in for a layup. That's their identity. They're asking the question, ‘Can we do this against Tennessee?' I don't know. I'd like to think that it's going to be tough for them, but we'll see."

When Tennessee has the ball: The Lady Vols offensive strategy has been tweaked but is basically the same operating principle – move the ball through the posts.

"Old theme – try to play through our middle, play through our inside," Lockwood said. "I think we are going to have to make some shots. I can foresee them doubling and doing some things where we have to make some shots but definitely we want to get our posts touches. We'd be crazy, especially the way Kelley (Cain) is playing right now. Overall, Alex (Fuller) is very solid. I know she didn't have a great (SEC) tournament, but she's been solid for us. We want to play through our middle."

Defensively, Tennessee would like to ratchet up the intensity.

"We want to impose our pressure," Lockwood said. "We're probably going to mix that up (in terms of full or three-quarter court or drop back). I don't know with this team right now that we'll lock into one thing, but we're definitely going to want to impose some pressure. We want to really put our man-to-man defense to the test and see if we can do a good job, especially with the shooters, because that has been a challenge for us all year."

Glory Johnson will be sent to the perimeter to guard Ball State in some scenarios, but she can also drop back into the paint.

"A kid like Glory gives us versatility," Lockwood said. "We can switch and do different things because of her ability to guard different positions. She's a big part of the game."

It's relatively new for Johnson – she didn't guard out there in high school – and Tennessee had only called on her for spot perimeter duty this season, but it has been effective. Johnson has the lateral speed to stay with smaller players. The key for Johnson is to handle the multiple screening action that Ball State deploys.

"It's definitely something we've talked about and if I am guarding a shooter I can't leave shooters open," Johnson said. "You have to close out long, instead of short, and knowing who's a shooter and who's going to hurt us on the three-point line rather than who's going to hurt us penetrating."

Shekinna Stricklen also can be a shut-down perimeter defender, but her biomechanics – high waist, long legs – means she has to be in stance, Pat Summitt said. Otherwise, guards with less speed can still take her off the bounce.

"She keeps telling me I've got to stay low and quit fouling," Stricklen said. "Quit reaching and use my arm length and my quickness just to stay in front."

Lockwood compared Ball State to Drake, Tennessee's first round opponent in 2007.

"They remind me so much of Drake – defensively very solid and run very good half-court offense," he said.

In terms of this season Lockwood drew some comparisons with Middle Tennessee – though without an All-American in the mold of Alysha Clark – and Vanderbilt, though without a Christina Wirth or Jennifer Risper.

"They make threes, and they run their stuff very, very well," Lockwood said. "They're very disciplined. They're like a tennis player who doesn't charge the net. They just keep it in play. They're not going to beat themselves. They've got a grittiness to them."

Tennessee had slow starts in its last two first-round games – Drake in 2007 and Oral Roberts in 2008 – and both teams hung with Tennessee for a half before the Lady Vols put the games away in the second half.

"Remember Oral Roberts last year?" Lockwood said. "It was awful. Awful."

That was with four seniors and the No. 1 pick-to-be in the WNBA draft in the lineup, so perhaps a young team with 10 losses would be inclined to not overlook anyone.

"I'd like to think no," Lockwood said. "As my head has hit the pillow each night one of my last thoughts as I drift into never-neverland is I am hoping that that's the case. They do understand that being a fifth seed, we have 10 losses and let's say if we're fortunate enough to get past their game we're the lower seed from this point forward.

"I do think our team does understand to a degree that it's not the same level of respect that this team has had in the tournament the last couple of years. We've got some votes to win."

Alex Fuller said Ball State got the team's attention in the film session.

"We know they're going to come at us," Fuller said. "They're a good team. We've been scouting, and they're a very good team. We can't take anybody for granted."

The reality is that Tennessee's five seed is not particularly relevant in Bowling Green – the jersey name remains a constant in the NCAA Tournament.

"We know every time we step on the floor we're going to get the other team's best shot because we are Tennessee," Pat Summitt said. "It doesn't matter what players wear those uniforms. Every time we take the floor people want to beat the University of Tennessee Lady Vols.

"We're focusing right now on execution. We have to take care of the basketball and certainly we have to defend and rebound. If we do that then this team has a great chance to be successful. If we don't do those things consistently, then we may not be successful. But I have a lot of confidence in where we are and what I think we'll bring."

IOWA STATE VS. EAST TENNESSEE STATE: The first game Sunday will feature two teams with contrasting styles of play. Iowa State wants a deliberate pace. East Tennessee State University wants to run.

"The thing that I'm most impressed with is their ability to score," Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly said. "They have two dynamic scorers in (Siarre) Evans and (TaRonda) Wiles. They are a team that can score off the bounce and they rebound the ball offensively. They play at a fast pace, which is something that we don't see a lot of in the Big 12. … When you see a team that can get offensive rebounds like that and score at a fast pace, you know that we are going to have to do the things that got us here We have been a team that hasn't fouled a lot and that is going to be critical. We are going to have to rebound the ball and certainly be able to score the ball better than we have recently."

Iowa State has three starters in double figures – Heather Ezell, 11.8 ppg; Alison Lacey, 10.6 ppg; and Nicky Wieben, 10.3 ppg – and a fourth, Kelsey Bolte, at 9.7 ppg.

East Tennessee State is one of two teams in the sub-regional to have played a game at E.A. Diddle Arena – Ball State is the other – but for the Lady Bucs it was a year ago.

"We hope it is an advantage because we played there during the preseason last year," ETSU Coach Karen Kemp said. "We have seven that played in this arena last year so hopefully that will be a little bit of an advantage before we go out there and practice (Saturday). We'll get back a feel for this place."

ETSU is led by Wiles, a junior forward who averages 16.2 ppg, and Evans, a junior guard who averages 16.6 ppg.

The Lady Bucs played in their first NCAA tourney a year ago – they lost to Oklahoma State but played well – so they hope that experience makes the second trip a little smoother.

"You are motivated when you play in the tournament, and last year gave us confidence," Evans said.

ETSU also was inspired by how the men's team, a No. 16 seed, did against Pitt, a No. 1 seed on Friday. The Bucs trailed by just two, 59-57, with four minutes to go, but fell, 72-62. The Lady Bucs were en route by bus to Bowling Green and tried to watch the game online, but the feed kept buffering, so they switched to Gametracker.

"It was great to see that they didn't back down," sophomore Tara Davis said. "Everyone jokes about a number one seed against a number 16 seed and that they are going to get killed, but the fact that they were confident and handled their business gives us inspiration.

Even Fennelly noted the game should inspire ETSU.

"I'm sure they are a little excited about what their men did," Fennelly said. "That has to give them a little more juice."

Iowa State's scout team pushed the pace in practice this week to get the Cyclones ready for ETSU.

"It is something that we definitely worked on the last couple of days at practice," Wieben said. "Watching film, they get the ball and they just push the ball up the floor really well. I think our scout team did a really good job this week at practice and it was pretty much like a track meet every day at practice. You just have to sprint down the court and pick up your man on defense."

Fennelly deflected a media question about looking ahead to Tennessee – a premature one considering both teams have other games Sunday – and said ETSU was his only focus.

"Everything is about the next 40 minutes," Fennelly said. "We have a lot of things to worry about Sunday night."

Iowa State may want to slow down the tempo but that doesn't mean the Cyclones won't seek to score in transition.

"The game can be played at a quicker pace and fundamentally the right way," Fennelly said.

He also wants his team to play smart defense, avoid fouls and take care of the basketball.

"You turn the ball over against them, it's a layup," Fennelly said. "You can't guard somebody if you see their name on the back of their jersey."

After ETSU lost in the NCAA tourney a year ago the team was back on the practice court a week later preparing for this season.

"Now, we know how it feels to be here, and we've got that experience so now our focus is turning towards winning basketball games," Kemp said. "Last year we were a little happy to be there even though I thought we played well against Oklahoma State. This year, our focus is on going out and playing hard and coming out on top."

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?: Tennessee may have been on spring break this past week but Briana Bass still found herself in a classroom. She was there to meet with Dr. John H. Haas, the director of communication studies at UT, to work on raising her voice.

"Basically all we've been doing is meeting in the classroom and just yelling," Bass said. "I think it's really helped me because now my teammates and the coaches say that they can actually hear me projecting my voice out there on the court. We practice words that I would say on the court like safety, deny, help or any type of the plays, and he would have me yell them and then he would tell me if I needed to get my voice deeper."

Bass yelled help so loudly that passers-by wondered if something was wrong.

"I was way too high and some people were wondering what was going on in the room," Bass said. "They were really curious and trying to see what was going on in the room. They didn't understand. He was telling me the more I yell, like when I try to be loud, the higher-pitched my voice gets and he was training me to stay low."

The higher pitch is hard, and sometimes impossible, for her teammates to hear, so Kerry Howland, who oversees the team's academics, suggested some help.

"Kerry Howland was the one we were talking about it with, and she said, ‘I know just the person to do it. He appreciates our program, and he would be the person to talk to,' " Summitt said. "I said, ‘Just have him come over.' I didn't tell Bree. I surprised her. She was great."

The lessons moved to the basketball court Friday morning as Haas wanted to hear Bass in her environment.

"He wanted her on the court getting her voice up," Summitt said. "He was here and listening to her. He was over watching practice and said that she had really invested it and she's doing what he's teaching her to do and taking ownership of it.

"I think it can have an impact on her leadership as much as anything but also just defensively she's talking more as well. I've been very frustrated with her not speaking up and not calling screens and not being real vocal on the offense, because as a point guard, our guards call everything. With the loud gyms we've be in at times it's been an issue."

Bass was receptive to the lessons, and it made a difference already – her voice was heard over her teammates at practice Friday.

"I would practice, and the practice really did help," Bass said. "He was telling me to get it more from my diaphragm (muscle along the lower ribcage) instead of up here. I think it's really helping me out a whole lot. I feel like I kind of do have more confidence now that my teammates can hear my voice and I am communicating better. I think that does boost up your confidence a little."

Bass was the only one to get voice coaching, but Summitt has noticed an escalation in the communication among two other guards, Shekinna Stricklen and Angie Bjorklund.

"Stricklen is not real vocal, and she's become more vocal," Summitt said. "Angie talks more (but) I think our post people are more vocal than our guards."

The chatter can be for the players' safety, too. Twice this season players have run headlong into screens because a teammate didn't warn them. Bass went down hard in the road game against Florida, and Glory Johnson hit the deck and had to leave the game in the first half at LSU.

"We definitely talk about calling screens," Johnson said. "I was the one that should have called a screen for Bree and Kelley's the one that should have called a screen for me, but we talk about it, we apologize. We definitely talk a lot more than we used to. It was kind of rough coming back in the game after that kind of hit, because I was kind of dizzy and trying to refocus."

A vocal point guard is a must for the team.

"You can hear Bree; she is definitely working on her vocal skills," Johnson said. "That's something that would help the team a lot. You have to have your point guard talking. If people can't hear what your point guard is doing that's kind of chaotic. It definitely helps solve a lot of the confusion on the court."

Angie Bjorklund, Kelley Cain and Alex Fuller joined Pat Summitt at Saturday's press conference, and they noted that Summitt fielded most of the questions from the media.

"Good," Summitt said. "Rest your voice, and you can raise it up."

INJURY UPDATE: Glory Johnson has been getting rehab for her sprained left thumb and is doing better, according to Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine.

"She's good," Moshak said. "Her rehab is going very well. She has full range of motion. Her pain is going down. She's getting stronger. She's playing with the putty. It's good."

Moshak said the rest of the team had no serious matters, and the team was healthy for postseason.

"Little things we're staying on top of; it's all good," Moshak said.

Sophomore forward Vicki Baugh, who is out for the season after having ACL surgery on her left knee a month ago, is ahead of her rehab schedule and has 100 percent range of motion. She was able to do leg extensions with 15 pounds this week during her sideline rehab.

"We get to start some weight-bearing stuff in a few days, so we figure with where she is right now non-weight-bearing, we'll be able to rock and roll there," Moshak said. "It's very good to have that much weight (wrapped around her ankle) considering she's non-weight-bearing (meaning she is sitting down and not supporting her own weight). That is why I am saying our transition from non-weight-bearing to weight-bearing will be very smooth and progress very quickly, because she is so much ahead in the strength area right now."

FAMILIAR FOES: Briana Bass and Sydney Smallbone both hail from the state of Indiana so a perusal of the Cardinals roster revealed some very familiar names.

"I know four in the starting lineup," Bass said, referring to Audrey McDonald, Kiley Jarrett and Porchia Green, all of whom she played against, and Emily Maggert, who she played with on an AAU team.

Smallbone, who played on an Indiana All-Star team, went against McDonald.

"She's the only one I'm really familiar with it," Smallbone said. "Other than that I don't really know them, but I've heard of them. I think it's going to be fun."

THE SAME AGE AS WHO?: The team enjoyed the screening of "The Cinderella Season," on the bus en route to Bowling Green. One of their favorite parts was the scenes with Tyler Summitt, the now 18-year-old son of Pat Summitt, who was 6 years old when the documentary was made about the 1997 team. The freshmen were the same age when the 1997 team won the national title despite 10 losses.

"If they can do it we can do it," Briana Bass said. "It reminded us so much of us. The stuff that Pat would say and the stuff that was going on, it was just like us. It was cool to see. I had never seen it before."

An early scene in the movie shows the team working out on the track early in the morning. They now use the indoor football complex.

"I'm glad we don't run on the track anymore," Bass said. "We saw Tyler and everything. It was really cool. It makes us feel better because everybody else gets yelled at."

Freshman Glory Johnson thought Summitt eased up a little on the 1997 team.

"She was definitely just as intense, but she seemed a little bit more calm with that group," Johnson said. "It's definitely a good thing to see that a team can go through that much and still pull it off, can go through that many obstacles during the season and still be playing hard and coming hard with passion every practice, every game and being able to admit their mistakes in the game with what they did wrong.

"That kind of boosts our confidence a little bit knowing that we did do a lot of things wrong, and we have lost more games than we expected at the beginning of the season and knowing that it can happen. We can still pull it off. We still have another chance to play."

Freshman Shekinna Stricklen also was watching the film for the first time.

"I really liked it," Stricklen said. "Some of the things she told them she still tells us today. I really enjoyed it, like Glory said, seeing them go through all that and still win the whole thing."

Amber Gray, another first-year player, got a first look.

"I thought it was really good from the standpoint of we've been through a lot of the same things that they went through and just to see how they stayed positive and worked it out at the end shows that we can do it, too," Gray said. "There were definitely parts that we were laughing at just to see how old school everything was – the shorts and the hair – and to see how little Tyler was. It was helpful for us. The first thing that we said was she says the exact same things to them as she was saying to us."

One thing that stood out with the 1997 team was the level of crying – sobbing really – after losses. The 2009 team hasn't lost it like that.

"We've had some breakdowns after games, but it was nothing like that," Gray said. "We kept it together, and we show our emotions differently."

Sophomore Sydney Smallbone also had never seen the HBO documentary.

"I felt like it was really good because that team obviously went through their ups and downs," Smallbone said. "And we've gone through our ups and down so just to see that – it is possible to make such a great run in the tournament and win a championship with 10 losses. There are a lot of similarities between them and us so it was good to watch it."

Freshman Alicia Manning – she had not seen it either – noted how Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick hasn't changed much and also says the same things. She also noticed Jenny Moshak's hair.

"I thought it was funny, well, some of it, like Holly and Tyler and Jenny with her hairdo," Manning said. "It was permed, and it was funny seeing her do the conditioning stuff (instead of Heather Mason)."

Manning also was struck by the parallels between the teams.

"I thought it was interesting," Manning said. "We'd been talking to the coaches about wanting to see it for awhile. We did think it was pretty funny that she still says the same stuff and talks to the players the same way for the most part. Watching the players and how they talk and stuff was pretty funny, too."

"We were the same age as Tyler," Alyssia Brewer said. "Same coach, different team. Same words, whether it's encouragement of being yelled at. I thought it was great. There are so many similarities between us and that team, but there also are differences. We're not as old as that team, but we can accomplish the same thing that they did."

Sophomore Vicki Baugh joined the list of new watchers.

"It was the perfect video to show this team," Baugh said. "There were just so many similarities, and we've been through the same struggles they have and they came and won it, and I just think that should inspire this team to want to do the same thing. And, also it's cool because UConn was undefeated, and they beat UConn."

Angie Bjorklund, who lives the farthest distance from Tennessee in Spokane Valley, Wash., had actually seen the film while in middle school during her fascination with all things Lady Vol.

"We were kind of laughing because a lot of comments Coach was making were the same," Bjorklund said. "It's just different names on the back of the uniforms (which came off the jerseys in 2004-05). There are definitely a lot of similarities and hopefully history repeats itself."

When told the players were marveling at how she still said the same things, Summitt just smiled.

"I do," Summitt said. "Do you want me to change?"

As far as the freshmen being the same age as her son in 1997, "they were laughing about that," Summitt said.

Does that make her feel like …

"Like, old?" Summitt said. "It was interesting to watch. We got a lot of good laughs in."

Summitt also has no intention of changing in 2009.

"Just like this team we came together and said, ‘This is it. We have to pull together, and we have to figure out a way to win,' " Summitt said. "Looking back I stayed very positive with them when we got into postseason workouts, and I think for the most part we've been very positive with this group. Because this group is very talented. They're also very young. … They're not focusing on winning and losing. They're focusing on what they have to do and living in the moment to do it. That's what we did with that team and that's what we're going to do with this team.

"Our staff is going to work as hard as we can from the bench, and when they're on the floor then they've got to work as hard as they can."

POST COLLISIONS: Freshman Alyssia Brewer, a 6'3 forward, got to go against 6'6 redshirt freshman center Kelley Cain in practice this week, and it was an eye-opener.

Brewer has a tendency to drift out of the paint – she faced the basket in high school – and Pat Summitt wants her on the interior.

"From an offensive standpoint we need more players that are invested in getting paint points," Summitt said. "Lyssi Brewer has got to do that. Kelley Cain, she was abusing her in the paint (on offense), and when we turned it around Lyssi was off the block. Why? Because she was going against someone 6'6. I told her, ‘If you score over her, you can score on anybody in the game.' We've got to get the ball inside."

Cain offered some quick tips on both sides of the ball for Brewer, who did much better after Summitt ordered her to stay inside.

"There's not really going to be anybody else that's like Kelley, and it's very beneficial for me to be able to do that," Brewer said. "Kelley, in some instances, is unstoppable in some areas so me being able to get that practice against her for a week has helped me out a lot. Kelley was helping me every day in practice."

Brewer didn't go against Cain before the SEC tourney – the male practice players were available – and she played her best basketball of the season in terms of high-post drives, catching the ball deep in the paint and going strong to the basket.

During the break between tournaments a tired Tennessee team got to both rest and reinforce principles at practice.

"I think it helped us out a lot," Brewer said. "We were able to get a lot of things done in practice and I thought we were focused at every one of those practices."

Brewer is confident her postseason mindset will remain in place.

"Definitely," Brewer said. "It's what the team needs. We need everybody to step it up. I'm ready to do that."

‘ARE WE READY?': Pat Summitt heard from two former Lady Vols this week – Candace Parker and Alexis Hornbuckle.

"Candace and Alexis both called me and wanted to talk about our team, wanted to talk about our draw," Summitt said. "I think our former players have always been invested and they want to make sure this team is focused."

The two, who led Tennessee to back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008, had the same question: "Coach, are we ready?" Summitt said.

"I reassured them we're ready. I don't feel pressure. Right now all I feel is an opportunity to go out and work hard and help our team as best we can as a coaching staff. We give our players energy as a coaching staff. I think that's important. If I have to do that I'll do everything except put on my old cheerleading outfit. But I will cheer, and so will Dean and Holly and Daedra. We'll motivate, we'll cheer, we'll inspire, we'll encourage, we'll challenge, whatever we have to do.

"I don't think about losing. I think about preparing a team to win. We have to get it done on the court. It's all about whether or not we bring our commitment to our scouting report defense, and we defend and rebound, and we take care of the basketball. I like where we are. I like our preparation going into this particular game."

Tennessee takes the underdog role in this postseason – Parker, Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta Auguste were trying to repeat in their last season – and it's one that Summitt has embraced.

"It's quite different than the last couple of seasons when we had such a veteran team," Summitt said. "I have been in situations many, many times where we were the underdog, as we are here. But at the same time, I feel that that is a motivation and it's obviously worked to our benefit in the past on many occasions because I do think that at this point in the year our team understands the competitiveness they must have and the fight that they must bring. No way do I want to coach effort in the game (Sunday), no way.

"They know what they have to do and have to bring it. Sometimes when they're in the role, although I don't know how our freshmen will respond, but when you are in the underdog role I do think it takes a little bit of pressure versus being in the role of you're expected to win the national championship."

Alex Fuller said last year's team didn't feel pressure to repeat. That team had calmness about it.

"Honestly, not really, because we knew what each other was going to bring in every game throughout the tournament, so I don't think there was that much pressure," Fuller said. "We were a veteran team last year so everybody knew what to expect."

Fuller, the lone senior, came back to lead this young team and said she doesn't feel more pressure this year.

"No, not at all," Fuller said. "It's how you look at the situation. If you put too much pressure on yourself then you're performance is going to be low. I think keeping our team on a balanced level, that's going to help us throughout the tournament."

Summitt had fretted about her team's focus but she saw a different mindset this week after the brackets were announced.

"Since the selection show I think for whatever reason it got our team focused," Summitt said. "I always expect that from upperclassmen but with such a young basketball team I didn't know what might happen. Alex has been a terrific leader. I've said a number of times she's probably the top five – that's 35 years of having leadership. I give her a lot of credit for getting this team focused.

"I think Angie (Bjorklund) has really stepped her play up. She's playing with tremendous confidence. She helps us tremendously from the perimeter game to open up the post game. Kelley (Cain) has really had an impact on how we're playing. I think the three of them that are sitting up here with me today, they have to be the ones to let all those freshmen know what you've got to do and how you've got to do it. I think they're all invested in helping them come along and we've made great strides because of that.

"But our freshmen are really going to have to contribute for us to win here. I've seen a lot of them really grow with their game, with just their overall commitment to what they have to do on the floor. Players that came in that were very quiet are now a lot more vocal. I think our communication and our understanding of how we want to play on both ends of the floor, I just think we've grown a lot. That's what I'm looking for. We want to leave everything on the court. I think most of them do (know). We'll find out. I may put a couple out there and maybe they don't get it. If they don't get it, then they don't play. If everybody gets it there's a lot of depth.

"I think they're all excited, and I think that's good. I want them to have energy and excitement. This is a special time of the year for any team that's in this tournament. It's one and done if you don't get it done. I just feel like with our team right now they are anxious to play, and we may be bouncing off the walls early, but hopefully we can get them to calm down and execute."

MATCHING CLOTHES: The players wore Tennessee-issued practice gear Saturday with blue shorts and orange shirts. It was the first time they have been allowed to wear school clothes since the loss to Kentucky a month ago.

The players had been providing their own clothes, and it was a mish-mash of shorts and T-shirts from high school. Shekinna Stricklen said she was out of clothes this week, a predicament brought on by spring break in which the freshmen had to move out of the dorm and into a Knoxville hotel. They lost access to a washing machine.

"I ran out of clothes to wear," said Stricklen, as Glory Johnson laughed. "They were picking at me. I washed my clothes by hand and had to hang them up in the bathroom."

Kelley Cain can relate to the nomadic lifestyle of the freshmen – they also had to stay in a hotel before going home for Christmas when the dorms closed and right after the holidays, too – because she lived on campus a year ago. She now shares an off-campus apartment with Vicki Baugh and Sydney Smallbone.

"We did that last year," Cain said. "We've been through that, so we're allowed to laugh at them."

The players had their clean and matching clothes waiting for them in Bowling Green.

"I'm really excited about that," Stricklen said.

There is, of course, only one way to ensure that the team managers resume laundry service.

"Keep winning," Stricken said.


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