"What's on this has nothing to do with my energy," said Dean Lockwood, who was speaking shortly after the Lady Vols finished a Sunday practice that came about because of poor effort in the previous game against UCLA.
"That has nothing to do with my level of intensity. This is my awareness. This lets me know who I'm guarding and what they can do, as far as the team. But it has nothing to do with the energy and my effort and how much intensity and how much focus. That's self-regulated, and that's what we wanted them to have."
A year ago the coaches would have likely given the team a pass after a game such as the 61-47 win over UCLA. Tennessee won and recovered from a poor start – the Lady Vols trailed by 10 in the first half – to regroup before the half ended and take the lead 65 seconds into the second half.
The scheduled off day would have been left in place, and the team would have gathered Monday, as planned, for a light session to prepare for Tuesday's game. But when Pat Summitt entered the post-game press conference it was apparent this wasn't last year. Even the opposing coach, Nikki Caldwell, had her say about Tennessee's letdown.
"I thought it was great," Summitt said of Caldwell's remarks.
No. 6/5 Tennessee, 5-0, had started the season very well, and Lockwood noted that Saturday's game was the first sign of real slippage, and the team recovered and righted the ship. But the coaches want to set a tone early this season that such a start won't be accepted by the staff, at least not without repercussions.
"(Saturday) was the first opportunity where we could have said, ‘OK, we're not real happy. We could have played better. But let's have a good night, and we'll see you on Monday,' " Lockwood said. "Or we could have said, ‘No, you know what? That first half was unacceptable to play that way. It's unacceptable to not come out with energy in front of any crowd, but certainly a home crowd.
"We came in here (Sunday to practice) because it was an attitude and an approach that we want them to have."
The first opportunity for the players to show that the lesson was absorbed is Tuesday against George Washington, 2-3, at 7 p.m. Eastern (SportSouth, Lady Vol Radio Network) at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The lineup will be altered because Kelley Cain, a 6'6 redshirt sophomore center, is out because of a concussion she suffered against UCLA. Forwards Taber Spani and Glory Johnson will play in the paint, and guards Shekinna Stricklen and Angie Bjorklund will be positioned on the wings.
Sophomore Briana Bass will move into the starting lineup at point guard – she started 13 games last season and has played in every game this season – and she has specific instructions from Summitt about how the team should start the game on offense.
"Pushing tempo, getting us in our offense and then I told her to go spot up (for her shot)," Summitt said.
Summitt was pleased with Bass' on-ball defense – she has been keeping her player in front of her for the most part – and has lauded the pint-sized point guard for her off-season commitment to improve her overall game.
Summitt had some additional advice for Bass when Tennessee has the ball, because Bass has the responsibility to get back on defense if she's not the one shooting.
"She got caught deep in the corner a couple of times (against UCLA), and I told her, ‘Get out of the corner,' " Summitt said. "The ball was away from her, but if the ball goes up, she's in the corner and they're shooting a layup."
Had Cain been available Summitt didn't think she would have changed the lineup, although she was disappointed in Stricklen's play at the point position to start the game.
"Probably not," Summitt said. "I like Stricklen there, but I think there are times when Bree does a better job of pushing tempo."
The team sputtered from the start against UCLA, and Summitt still wasn't sure why.
"First of all the energy level was so low," Summitt said. "Angie and Shekinna, I look at the two of them because I put them in a leadership role and I am like, ‘What's going on?' Literally, Shekinna looked like she was ready to crawl in bed and go to sleep. She had low energy."
That is where Summitt hopes that Bass will make a difference.
"I think she definitely brings us some energy," said Summitt, who has praised Bass for being a good teammate and working hard in practice after the coaches opted to go with Stricklen at point guard to open the season.
"She is all about helping this team," Summitt said.
Tennessee will have just nine players available for Tuesday's game with Cain out of action. Freshman forward Faith Dupree is done for the season with back issues, and junior forward Vicki Baugh is still rehabbing her left knee. Sophomore forward Amber Gray is out for the season to recover from shoulder and brain surgery. All four of those players play in the post.
Smallbone can play in Tennessee's matchup zone defense, and she can hit shots. She also is one of the best lob passers on the team and can feed the ball into the paint. With Cain out, Brewer should expect to play more minutes, and the coaches have implored her to move her feet on defense, run the floor and box out. She sprinted the floor better against UCLA but faltered on defensive positioning and box outs. Brewer is an excellent shooter, and she is one of the better passers on the team, especially in high-low action.
Williams has shown flashes of superb athleticism – she can get to the rim and can shoot off the bounce – but her play is uneven, as is common for first-year players.
"That's a guessing game," Summitt said. "We just have to wait and see."
Manning has played solid minutes in relief, and Summitt also delivered some specific instructions to the second-year player, who has proven to be very versatile by getting reps at point and playing on the wing, about playing to her strengths.
"Just play within herself, and as I told her (Sunday), ‘You've got one of the best pull-up games on our team,' " Summitt said. "But she tries to get all the way to the hole and not many people are going to give her that, and she doesn't need to be settling for the three ball. Because off the bounce she is very, very good."
Summitt also realized that UCLA – as Associate Coach Holly Warlick said before the game, "It's Tennessee vs. Tennessee" – was very familiar with the Lady Vols with Caldwell and Tasha Butts on the staff. Caldwell said after the game that there were aspects of Tennessee's play that her team was able to exploit.
"They took us off the dribble," Summitt said. "They just went at us, and we didn't defend. They got to the paint. They got open threes. They got what they wanted.
"We weren't just absolutely invested in being a great defensive team and a great rebounding team in that game, but you've got to hand it to UCLA and Nikki and her staff. They scouted us and I can guarantee you they've seen exactly what we've seen."
Both Summitt and Lockwood did note the team's progress, especially from a season ago. Despite the struggles Saturday the coaches were aware that the players recovered and got the win.
"Certainly this team has made progress," Lockwood said. "We're pleased with the progress. We don't want to negate that, but the thing we want them to understand if you want to be at the elite level and to compete for a championship, then you have to go about things a little differently and with a slightly different approach. A normal team would have said, ‘OK, it wasn't our best game, but ho-hum, we won 61-47.'
"If you want to be at a championship level that can't be acceptable. It really can't. It's just like different levels (of any work). If you're qualified to be a sharpshooter, well you can still stay in the Corps if you just hit your target, but if you want to be a sharpshooter, you've got to do dead center. That's just the way it is. We want them to be inner regulated and not regulated by us."
If not, Summitt and her coaches will be waiting with the message that was delivered in the locker room immediately after the game.
"That type of performance is unacceptable," Summitt said.
The players were loose before the game – the same demeanor as before every game – but as the shots wouldn't fall they got tighter and reacted with passes sailing out of bounds and quick shots.
"We were just jump-shooting," Summitt said. "They went from being loose to uptight."
Tennessee regrouped at halftime, shot better in the second half and pounded the boards. A 24-16 rebounding lead in the first half ballooned to 49-35 for the game with 20 coming on offense. Tennessee had 30 second-chance points, almost half of the 61 total.
The coaches liked the final numbers, especially the game's outcome, but they expect more from the players from tip to finish.
"Hold yourself to a higher standard," Lockwood said. "All the scouting stuff we do is for preparation but at the end of the day it's what you bring in your package and individually and team-wise that brings out energy."
Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Briana Bass, 5'2 sophomore guard, No. 1 (0.6 points per game, 0.4 rebounds per game); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 junior guard, No. 5 (15.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.0 assists per game); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 sophomore guard/forward, No. 40 (15.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg); Taber Spani, 6'1 freshman guard/forward, No. 13 (9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 sophomore forward, No. 25 (14.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 steals per game).
George Washington Coach Mike Bozeman is expected to start: Tiana Myers, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 5 (11.6 ppg, 2.0 apg), hails from Camp Springs, Md., scored 20 points this season against Ohio; Janine Davis, 5'8 freshman guard, No. 13 (1.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg), hails from Jamaica, N.Y., got her first career start against Marist, won state title in New York at St. Michael's Academy; Kay-Kay Allums, 5'11 sophomore guard, No. 50 (7.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg), hails from Hugo, Minn., missed 20 games last season because of injury, was 2008 Minnesota Miss Basketball, high school teammate of GW freshman Megan Nipe; Tara Booker, 6'1 sophomore guard/forward, No. 31 (7.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), hails from Galloway, N.J., scored 14 points against Tennessee last season, has hit 55 career three-pointers; and Sara Mostafa, 6'5 sophomore center, No. 44 (9.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg), hails from Galloway, N.J., high school teammate of Booker, has 13 blocks this season, was two blocks shy of a triple double against North Texas this season with 17 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks.
Bozeman was an assistant at George Washington for three years before taking over the top spot last season. The Colonials won their first two games this season before dropping the next three.
George Washington has gotten production from its bench. Freshman Shi-Heria Shipp had 12 points against Michigan State and 14 against Marist in the Junkanoo Jam and is averaging 9.8 points a game and hitting 58.8 percent from the field. She was selected as the Atlantic-10 Conference's Rookie of the Week after her performance at the Jam.
The Colonials' depth took a hit with the loss of freshman guard Danni Jackson, who broke her leg against Michigan State. She had tallied 20 assists in the first four games.
Both teams are very young – neither Tennessee nor George Washington has a senior on the roster. The Colonials' one junior, Ivy Abiona, started 16 times last season and played in all 31 games but is recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the off-season. She is expected back later this season.
SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-George Washington game. Here is his assessment.
When George Washington has the ball: "They're dribble drive," Lockwood said. "They can really, really attack you off the bounce, and we've got to do a good job of staying in front of people. That has been at times our nemesis. So that is going to challenge us.
"They've got a couple of players that get to the paint really well. And they've got a couple of players that are streaky shooters. If they get on a roll they can make some shots. But their main thing is they attack you off the dribble drive. We've got to stay in front of people and play smart defense without fouling. We can't let people get us into the bonus with 13, 14 minutes in the half."
Defensively, "I think we're going to see a lot of zone," Lockwood said. "They play a 2-3 zone. They press a little bit. They mix up their defenses really well. I've seen a few possessions of 1-3-1, but I've mainly seen two things – 2-3 and man-to-man. I think they'll do that to us to keep us off-balance, but I really think we're going to see a lot of zone."
When Tennessee has the ball: Kelley Cain is out for this game because of a concussion, but that doesn't change how Tennessee wants to play – inside-out. That can come from post touches or dribble penetration into the lane from the perimeter.
Lockwood said the Lady Vols also will want to run against George Washington. With Briana Bass opening the game at point guard, Tennessee is quicker as a whole.
Lockwood said Tennessee's inside-out game stagnated against UCLA because of lack of patience on the part of the players.
"Whether it's a cross screen or a down screen we have to let that action materialize," Lockwood said. "Sometimes it was just about to happen, and we'd already be reversing the ball. I think it's a combination of patience and then recognition, just seeing when people are open.
"We got some high-low. Glory (Johnson) made a couple of really nice high-low passes. Post play is like a hole in football – it's only going to be there momentarily – so if you don't strike at the right time that hole closes up and you've got to find something else."
Defensively, "We may do multiple stuff again," Lockwood said. "I'd like to see us stop them man to man. I'd like to see us get in front of them and try to stop them. They'll test us and challenge us one on one.
"There will be spots where we definitely can use that (matchup) zone. We need to keep improving that. We had some gaps in that the other night (against UCLA) that weren't good."
Like the rest of the coaching staff, Lockwood was disappointed with the start of the UCLA game, but he's also not disregarding the other four games played.
"Take out (UCLA), and we've started with pretty good energy," Lockwood said. "You don't want to be frothing at the mouth, like a rabid dog type of thing. There's got to be a balance. We like what the team has given us in that regard. The energy level has been pretty good.
"The attack has been pretty good, and they've also been very aware of the game plan and executing the game plan. They haven't deviated a whole lot. We like the starts that we've been having. We'll see if that was just a blip on the screen."
Lockwood laughed when told that the most energy on display Saturday was when the team was in the locker room at halftime and the Frisbee dogs took the court.
"I saw it on the news," he said. "They were all over the place. I wanted to go find one of those and play with one. Those were great."
ON TAP: Five other SEC teams are in action Tuesday in the following matchups: Auburn at North Carolina A&T; Florida A&M at Florida; UAB at Georgia; Miami (Ohio) at Kentucky; and LSU at Louisiana Tech.
ODDS AND ENDS
Tennessee leads the series with George Washington, 9-0. Three of those wins have come in Knoxville. … Tennessee is 7-3 in games played on December 1. The last game played on this date was a win over Texas, 102-61, in 2005. The first win on this date was in 1979 against North Carolina, 66-55. The three losses on this date were against Texas, 66-65, in 1983; Texas, 74-52, in 1985; and N.C. State, 90-77, in 1990. Tennessee's record in the month of December with Pat Summitt at the helm is 183-45. With the five wins last month Tennessee's record in November is now 104-11. … George Washington will face SEC schools back-to-back this month. The Colonials play at Auburn on Dec. 5. … Lady Vol sophomore Glory Johnson, who shot 40.4 percent from the field last season (109-270), is leading the SEC in field goal percentage this season at 63.8 percent. Through five games, Johnson is 30-47 from the field. Shekinna Stricklen leads the team in free throw percentage at 93.1 percent (27-29), and Angie Bjorklund leads the team in three-point FG percentage at 44.7 percent (17-38). … George Washington played in the postseason WNIT last season after making eight straight NCAA Tournament fields. The Colonials made trips to the Sweet 16 in 2007 and 2008. Mike Bozeman has said he wants GW to play top competition out of conference and six teams on the schedule were in the 2009 NCAA tourney – Michigan State, Marist, Tennessee, Auburn, Rutgers and Villanova. A-10 opponents that made the 64-team field were Charlotte, Xavier and Temple. … George Washington has hit at least one 3-pointer in 125 consecutive games. Tara Booker has hit two from long range in three games this season. Kay-Kay Allums is 5-9 from behind the arc (55.6 percent) this season.