Last season Stricklen injured her right knee against Alabama on Feb. 12, 2009. She was back in the lineup four days later for the game against Duke. Tennessee is in exams this week, so the next game is not until this coming Sunday in New York against Rutgers.
The rest of the team went through a 2.5-hour session with a heavy emphasis on defense. Assistant Head Coach Dean Lockwood presented portions of his scouting report for the upcoming game against the Scarlet Knights because he will be out recruiting Tuesday with Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick, and Coach Pat Summitt wanted the team to tackle part of its strategy with him present on the court.
"That's his scout so we wanted to get in as much as we could," Summitt said. "(Tuesday) will be a lighter day. We'll focus on our zone defense. We guarded all the man stuff, so we'll guard the zone concepts."
"They run a lot of stuff so we're going to come back and do more, but what we wanted to do was get the main thrust of what we're going to see the most of and get our kids feeling how they're going to go through defending it," Lockwood said.
The players also have DVDs of various game clips – both of Tennessee and of opponents – that they have requested for extra study. Summitt reminded the team that two future opponents, Rutgers and Florida, were on television Monday evening, and the players said they would watch.
"They're always coming in wanting DVDs to watch the breakdown tapes of the games," Summitt said. "They've just committed. They're invested, and we had a miserable year to get to where we are now, but it's paid off. That goes back to their off-season commitment."
"We addressed a couple of things and moved on (in practice to preparation for Rutgers)," Summitt said.
Transition defense was among the issues.
"I think we've got to get better in our transition defense, just the point of pickup," Summitt said. "I thought they got deep on us too many times (Sunday). They came in here and they were going to hunt paint points. We contemplated whether or not to go zone, but I thought we needed – and I agreed with Holly on this – to get down on defense and go after people. I liked what I saw for the most part."
Summitt was pleased with the guard play in terms of offensive production – Stricklen was selected Monday as SEC Player of the Week after shooting 60.9 percent and averaging 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in the wins over George Washington and Texas – but she wants better decision-making at the point position.
"Stricklen, and I talked to her about this, she didn't have a great game at the point," Summitt said. "She didn't slice the floor. She played on the sideline, and she played with Angie (Bjorklund). I said, ‘You've got to play with everybody.' "
Summitt went home to watch the game film, and she also called her mentor, retired UCLA and Olympic coach, Billie Moore.
"Once I got home I called Coach Moore, and she said, ‘What is going on with your guard play?' " Summitt said with a smile.
The coach was smiling because she recognizes the paradox – a rather harsh assessment after a 20-point win in which the team shot 52.5 percent and a scorching 57.1 percent in the second half – but it demonstrates how much higher the bar has been raised this season.
"I went through every possession and I told her to come in and we watched it," Summitt said. "Then, I watched with Bree. Bree has got to understand her size does not allow her to get paint points deep. Then she tried to force it, and then she had a little attitude, which sent me over the edge."
Bass played 10 minutes in the second half, didn't attempt a shot and had three turnovers, two assists and a rebound. A couple of times in Sunday's game she seemed visibly frustrated.
"I told her, ‘You've got to handle your role. You're a backup. But be glad you're the backup right now because A-Town (Alicia Manning) could be the backup. Kamiko (Williams) could be the backup. So, you'd better get your head on straight,' " Summitt said.
"Last year she started (13 games), and I told her we're going to start big. I like the big lineup we have. I like the way we're starting games, and that's not going to change. That doesn't mean she's not going to get playing time. She doesn't play as big as she needs to play. She's got to play bigger. She's got to get up in people's grill and bring pressure to them and not get beat off the dribble."
Warlick, a former point guard at Tennessee, often spends extra time talking to Bass at practice in what is both instructional and positive in nature.
"I think she's just got to go with the flow of the game," Warlick said. "She doesn't need to come in and think she has to hit a home run. She just has got to get us in an offense and make an easy pass and maintain what we have or take us to the next step. I think sometimes she thinks she has to come in and make an instant impact on her own. If she will settle down and play and not worry about making a huge difference when she comes in … that is all I am trying to get her to do.
"Just settle down and play the way I've seen her play. Play with poise and take what the defense gives you. And she's normally been good at that."
Bass can hit shots from outside, and she has spent extra time before and after practice getting in shots, especially on "The Gun," an automatic ball feeder.
"We come in and shoot early," Warlick said. "She is a very good shooter and at times when she gets in the game she hesitates as to whether she should shoot or not. I told her, ‘Bree, if you're open you've got to take the shot.' She's got to figure out how she can get into a better rhythm and be more consistent, and that's what she's doing."
Summitt was pleased with the post play for the most part.
"Kelley Cain," Summitt said when asked what else stood out in the game film. "Kelley and Glory (Johnson) both have really responded well."
Summitt wants Alyssia Brewer to be able to be consistent off the bench. With Vicki Baugh, Faith Dupree and Amber Gray out of action, Tennessee is very thin in the post and has converted Taber Spani and Alicia Manning into power forwards at times for depth reasons.
Brewer is often in the paint when Bass is on the floor, and she needs to get sealed and present a target, as Cain does, to help out the point guard, who wants to get the ball inside.
"If we can get Lyssi to give us some quality time that offsets not having Baugh, with Glory in there as well," Summitt said. "Lyssi has got to get lower all the time to defend better."
Brewer started the game because Summitt was not certain of Cain's status or how long she would be able to play. Cain had missed the previous game because of a concussion.
"At shoot-around (Sunday afternoon) I thought Kelley wasn't even going to be able to play and Jenny (Moshak) said she would go to pre-game and get some rest," Summitt said. "She got dizzy at practice. I said, ‘Did you have enough to eat?' She said, ‘I think I did, but I'm going to pre-game (to get something to eat).' "
Cain went to the Lady Vols volleyball game on Saturday and was seen there by the team physician, who cleared her to play Sunday. After the dizziness, Dr. Rebecca Morgan examined Cain again on Sunday right before the game, and she checked out fine again. Cain didn't have any symptoms during the game despite getting hit again in the head – and none on Monday as she participated in the entire practice – so whatever caused her lightheadedness, perhaps the need for rest or something to eat, wasn't concussion-related. She was 6-6 from the field and grabbed six rebounds in just 17 minutes of play.
After practice ended, Summitt was told that the Lady Vols had moved into the No. 4 spot in the AP poll, up from No. 6, after two teams ranked ahead of them, North Carolina and Ohio State, lost last week.
"We don't talk about where we're ranked," Summitt said of the team's reaction.
Cain said the same thing in preseason and noted that the team wasn't even aware of its ranking in the polls.
"That and a buck will get you a USA Today," Lockwood said of Tennessee's climb by two spots.
"It's way too early," said Lockwood, who added he was watching an ESPN interview with Syracuse's Jim Boeheim a couple of weeks ago and the line of questioning was about certain teams having early success. "He said, ‘Guys, it is way too early to get excited about anything in college basketball.' That to me is exactly how I feel right now. We like some of the things we've seen. We certainly know we're an improved team. There's no doubt we're an improved team."
Tennessee set some dubious records last season in terms of shooting percentage, losses, NCAA seeding and AP rankings.
"We knew with seven freshmen that we were going to have those moments," Lockwood said. "You get what you get. That being said, we're better. We clearly see areas of the game where we've improved. But do we also see some areas for continued improvement that are much needed? Yes, we do. Do we see some individuals who can shore up and keep getting better? Yes. That would help our team even that much more.
"One of the things that Pat's talked about that I so agree with is that we have to lengthen our bench. We have to get our bench personnel so that everyone of those players is ready to contribute in some fashion at any point in time. We can't have, ‘Oh, well, they're good this game but not that game,' or ‘They're good in that situation, but not that.' We've got the type of team this year that we need people ready to play at any given moment in time.' You don't know what we're going to face or what our circumstances will be."
Tennessee has already had injury issues – Baugh continues her comeback from ACL surgery and has not played this season and freshman forward Faith Dupree is out for the season with back issues. Lockwood said basketball circumstances, such as early foul trouble for a starter, means Bass, Brewer, Manning, Sydney Smallbone or Kamiko Williams need to be ready to come in at any time.
"That's something that we have to show consistency in our bench personnel that they can come in and really be ready to deliver the goods when the goods are needed," Lockwood said.