"She is the only player on this team that I haven't given a chance to," Coach Pat Summitt said after practice ended Friday. "You look at how many games she hasn't gotten in."
Smallbone didn't check in against Georgia, Vanderbilt and Florida, the last opponents. She has played in 13 of the 18 games so far and tallied a season-high nine points against George Washington. She is averaging 9.6 minutes a game and played a season-high 19 against San Francisco on Dec. 22, 2009.
Smallbone replaces fellow junior Angie Bjorklund, who has struggled in the past three games. Bjorklund was 3-10 from the field in the 53-50 loss against Georgia on Thursday and committed six turnovers. By Bjorklund's own admission, the performance was puzzling.
"I honestly felt like I didn't know how to play basketball there for a couple of possessions," Bjorklund said. "There was one pass where I just threw it out of bounds and I go, ‘I don't know what just happened.' "
Bjorklund is the team's leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, but in the past three games she has shot 28.1 percent (9-32) from the field with six assists and eight turnovers. It's a performance that is bothersome, to say the least, for Bjorklund.
"I've been obviously thinking about it for awhile," said Bjorklund, who sat with sophomore guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen on the charter flight home Thursday and together they watched the game clips. "We watched film last night. We just need to have more flow on offense. (There was) no continuity at all. We were making stops, but we weren't converting."
"Our post game, I am pretty pleased across the board with our post game," Summitt said. "Lyssi and Kelley did a great job. Glory did a great job.
"Our guard play was nonexistent for the most part. Obviously if Shekinna Stricklen is not having a good game it's very hard for us because the ball is in her hands a lot. I thought Angie Bjorklund just gave in to fatigue, did not play her usual game. With that said we've just got to get a lot better with our perimeter game."
Cain was whistled for her fourth foul with 4:13 left in the second half in a game in which she couldn't get a call in her favor despite being held and hooked in the paint throughout the contest.
"People are beating her up," Summitt said. "If I had been Kelley Cain I might have turned around and tried to retaliate, but she kept her composure, which is obviously what I would want her to do. But I am very upset about how the game ended up.
"Down the stretch I thought Kelley Cain did a great job. The fouls that took her out of the game really affected the outcome of our game. I will tell you that point blank. It really bothered me, but you've got to move on. Once they blow the whistle you've got to take what they give you."
As Cain walked away after the foul call, official Joe Cunningham gave her a technical. That was number five and disqualified her from the game.
"I am not happy with the call down the stretch at the end of the game and Kelley gets taken out of the game because he thought that she said something," Summitt said. "I watched the tape. I read her lips. She did not use any profanity, which I thought she had when the official came over and told me what she said.
"She did not say that. She did not say what he said she said. I am not angry at Kelley. No discipline for her. She did not swear."
Cain was visibly distraught after the game and blamed herself for the loss. Her teammates rallied around her Friday.
"She's good," Bjorklund said. "She was pretty hard on herself about that technical because she wasn't sure exactly what went on. That happens. That kind of stuff happens and like I told her, she was one of the players that stepped up inside, and she did a great job. You can't blame it on one (incident)."
Johnson said she had her back turned and didn't see what happened.
"We kind of talked about it and the miscommunication between her and the refs," Johnson said. "We talked about it and we moved on. We let her know that the technical affected the game, but at the same time it wasn't her fault why we lost the game. It was a lot of things, missed layups and fouls and free throw shots.
"They got to the free throw line 23 times and we got to the line seven times. That's a huge point difference. (But) we've got to play through it."
Tennessee had its chances to separate itself from Georgia but there were four missed layups in the second half. In a game in which neither team ever led by more than four points, those eight points could have been back-breakers.
"I think we worked on slowing them down, which we did, and they used the 30-second shot clock every single time and I think that lulled us to sleep," Bjorklund said. "The lack of energy on defense seemed to turn into lack of energy on offense."
Energy wasn't lacking at practice Friday.
"They always bounce back when we're here because we're running practice," Summitt said. "If they're running practice today it might not have been the same level of intensity, but the coaches are running it.
"That's why we had as hard a practice as we had (Friday). They've got to understand competing hard on every play. We don't always do that. That was my big disappointment."
Tennessee also had an intense practice Monday after the lackluster effort against Vandebilt. That was followed by very short session Tuesday, no court work Wednesday and shoot-around Thursday. By the evening tip time against Georgia, the Lady Vols would have had 72 hours of recovery time from Monday's lengthy session.
"They played like they were stuck in molasses," Summitt said of the guards. "Their feet were just stuck, and we gave them the day off beforehand. When I asked them today in the film room, ‘What did y'all do Wednesday?' They couldn't remember. No one could remember what they did on Wednesday.
"I said, ‘You didn't practice. You flew down there and had a nice meal. That's what they did.' No one could remember."
Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said he thought the question threw the players, who started searching for something tangible.
"They were after what we did do," Lockwood said, which was nothing. "And what you were after was what we didn't do."
Summitt is sticking with Stricklen at point guard, a position she has performed well at this season until the past three games.
"I think watching tape with her and I met with her today," Summitt said Friday of ways to help the sophomore get through her slump. "I think she's putting a lot of pressure on herself. She makes a mistake and it really affects her.
"I told her, ‘You're my point guard, and I'm counting on you, and you're going to have the play the bulk of the minutes. People are coming after you, but what you've got to do is push harder all the time. Put them on their heels.' Last night she and Angie were playing just so tentative."
Briana Bass is the team's only true point guard, but she was on a short leash again after getting doubled and throwing a pass right to a Georgia player. Would the leash get longer for Bass in an upcoming game?
"It's a wait and see," Summitt said. "I am not going to make that decision now."
The Lady Vols won't be off the day before the game this time. They will hold a short practice Saturday at Pratt Pavilion and then take a flight to Baton Rouge. Friday's session was used for defensive drills, offensive sets and an overview of the scouting report. Tennessee was missing one player on the court. Freshman forward Taber Spani, who played just three minutes Thursday because of turf toe, received treatment Friday and did not practice.
"I think for the most part we got some good reps in, went over the things we didn't do to close out that Georgia game," Summitt said. "You've got to make your own breaks, especially when you're on the road."