Stronger cast for Pat Summitt's Lady Vols

Tennessee on roll since last ESPN appearance

Ashley Lott reads a banner about basketball coach Pat Summitt in the hallway of Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday, January 14, 2010.

Photo by Chad Greene

Ashley Lott reads a banner about basketball coach Pat Summitt in the hallway of Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday, January 14, 2010.

Tennessee strolls onto an ESPN stage tonight looking more like a prime-time women's basketball player.

The fifth-ranked Lady Vols (16-2, 4-0 SEC) will line up against SEC/instate rival Vanderbilt (12-5, 3-1) at 8 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena having won seven in a row, including the last three by an average score of 93-44.

Tennessee's 83-40 thrashing of Florida on Thursday night in Gainesville, Fla., left Gators coach Amanda Butler with an identity crisis on her hands.

"We didn't look like the same team we did (Wednesday) in practice,'' she said.

The Lady Vols can relate. They certainly looked out of character in a 65-54 loss at Baylor on Dec. 14.

Tennessee, which has shot 50 percent or better from the floor in five of the past six games, shot a season-low 25 percent against the Lady Bears. Instead of six double-figure scorers, as they've had on average in the seven games since, the Lady Vols had just seven scorers, period.

Rather than cast the longest shadow, as they did with nine blocks against Florida, the Lady Vols were eclipsed by Baylor All-American Brittney Griner, who had nine blocks by herself.

The Baylor loss was the first of two consecutive Tennessee games televised by ESPN2. While they didn't provide the same setting as tonight, which has GameDay as a backdrop, the drama was no less important to the season's narrative.

Five days after being floored by the Lady Bears, the Lady Vols climbed off the deck, overcoming a six-point deficit in the second half and beating Stanford in overtime, 82-72.

Playing with more grit than precision, the Lady Vols rallied against a team that had played in the last three Women's Final Fours, including the national championship game in 2008 and 2010.

These games had a major impact on the Lady Vols' evolution. Nearly one month later, they seem older and wiser.

"We're actually focused on getting rebounds and stopping people on defense,'' center Kelley Cain said, "rather than just go out there and (think) oh maybe we can grab this board every now and then or we can take a break on this defensive play. Now we're like concentrating on both of those two things. I think that's been key in a lot of our victories."

The ripple effect from the Baylor loss was evident during Friday's practice. In one drill, the Lady Vols post players worked on their shot fakes and low-post moves against one the tallest male practice players, who was trying to block their attempts. Call it the Griner drill.

Baylor's 6-foot-8 center first left an indelible mark on Tennessee with 10 blocks in an NCAA tournament game last March, Her latest effort might have resonated more with the coaches. So said UT head coach Pat Summitt.

"I think it's probably had a greater impact on our coaching staff,'' she said. "Because I don't think we were ready to do what we needed to do. I'm not so sure that our team was ready. We just stuck the ball up in the air and we didn't have a good feel and strategy for being able to go at her.

"... We're going to see Griner again. ... We have to make sure our preparation day in and day out is going to allow us to be successful the next time around."

While the Stanford victory doesn't resonate in the same manner, the confidence it engendered is no less important, particularly since there seems to have been some carryover.

"That game, I think, was a little bit of a barometer,'' UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. "... In every conversation people have about the Final Four (Stanford's) in it. So when we beat a team like that, that was kind of an affirmation, I think. You know what: we belong in that conversation, too.

Only prime time players allowed.

Recruiting: Diamond DeShields, a top prospect in the Class of 2013, was spotted watching Friday's practice. She and Class of 2012 prospect Ariel Butts are expected to be at tonight's game.

UT signee Cierra Burdick said that she will be at the game, too.

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Comments » 15

Vol72 writes:

Let's go Lady Vols. You have major recruits in the house in Diamond DeShields and Ariel Butts. I don't know much about Ariel Butts, but I do know that Diamond DeShields is a baller. This girl is athletic, quick, can take you off the dribble, and can get in a stance and play agressive defense. I believe she will choose between Tennessee and UCONN. She is a baller. Come on Lady Vols beat Vandy!

xvolx writes:

Tuomi and Rhoads are players. If Lady Vols aren't ready to play, this could be an upset. Beware.

ladivolfan writes:

The only problem now is waiting these long hours for tip off. Go Lady Vols!

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

Diamond D is a baller. Saw her play. Lets not let this one slip away like the other player from Ga. With these new recuits coming in theres no reason why we shouldnt get 9 and 10 maybe even 11.

UTByrd writes:

I really like what I'm seeing from Glory Johnson as well as the rest of the team. Glory was so taped up the other night she looked like a character in the Mad Max movies. She's really taking a lickin' but keeps on tickin'.
Go Lady VOLS!!!!!

UTByrd writes:

How about nicknaming her Glory "Mad Max" Johnson?
Go Lady VOLS!!!!!

richvol writes:

Beating Stanford a second time will be difficult...as will beating Baylor or UConn. It will take a very tough mindset to go through those teams to a final four or a championship. That's where it is determined however,in the LadyVols minds.

Refuse to lose. That's what the girls displayed when beating Stanford earlier.

martinvol34 writes:

Jeez it's painful watching the men play early in this game. Scottie Hopson is just soft. Reminds me of Vincent Yarbrough. Just not hungry.

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

Wow Pat had a hand in the mens big win. Tonight could be ugly for the Dores

oskie_score writes:

Congrats to the Vols. 1 down, 1 to go.
How about Pat coaching (from the stands) during the men's gm? Gotta love the passion...even after 3+ decades as a HC.
Gino gets/has the better talent and deeper bench BUT Pat is symbolic of the game, the better coach top-to-bottom and the epitome of class...through-and-through. Ring of Honor!
Good luck tonight Lady Vols!

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

in response to oskie_score:

Congrats to the Vols. 1 down, 1 to go.
How about Pat coaching (from the stands) during the men's gm? Gotta love the passion...even after 3+ decades as a HC.
Gino gets/has the better talent and deeper bench BUT Pat is symbolic of the game, the better coach top-to-bottom and the epitome of class...through-and-through. Ring of Honor!
Good luck tonight Lady Vols!

Great points except for one Conns has a very short bench and no room for error.

ps11824 writes:

What was the only men's team he said he would go to if they called him? Was it NC? I wish they would call him. It would be interesting to see if he could coach the men's game. Coach K vs. Coach Ariema. Interesting.

oskie_score writes:

in response to maxvolfan#217855:

Great points except for one Conns has a very short bench and no room for error.

True, this yrs (Lady Huskies) team is not as deep as past yrs---making it the exception, not the norm. In general, Gino's past teams have been able to look to the bench w/out fear of drop off.
Pat is women's basketball pathfinder, and although both have contributed greatly to the sport, Gino will forever look up to Pat who is and always will be the one most revered. IMHO.

UTByrd writes:

in response to oskie_score:

True, this yrs (Lady Huskies) team is not as deep as past yrs---making it the exception, not the norm. In general, Gino's past teams have been able to look to the bench w/out fear of drop off.
Pat is women's basketball pathfinder, and although both have contributed greatly to the sport, Gino will forever look up to Pat who is and always will be the one most revered. IMHO.

Remember when Gino talked about no respect for his team's victory streak because they were women. Rightfully so.
Be that as it may, I have never heard Pat talk of lack of respect when it comes to the all time wins record as it regards the male coaches' accomplishments.
For instance, Bobby Knight is the all time NCAA leader in victories. No, he is the all time men's leader in NCAA victories.
I read an article once that PS's victories were against a high percentage of ranked teams, perhaps 80%?.
I wonder what the percentage is with the male coaches, including Gino.

Go Lady VOLS and Go VOLS!!!!!

oskie_score writes:

in response to UTByrd:

Remember when Gino talked about no respect for his team's victory streak because they were women. Rightfully so.
Be that as it may, I have never heard Pat talk of lack of respect when it comes to the all time wins record as it regards the male coaches' accomplishments.
For instance, Bobby Knight is the all time NCAA leader in victories. No, he is the all time men's leader in NCAA victories.
I read an article once that PS's victories were against a high percentage of ranked teams, perhaps 80%?.
I wonder what the percentage is with the male coaches, including Gino.

Go Lady VOLS and Go VOLS!!!!!

Respect will never be confused with affection when speaking of GA. Gino likes to stir the pot.

We all know that respect is earned and there is no question that the greatest minds in and of basketball, men and women alike, have unquestioned respect for Pat.
As for women's basketball, be it college or Pro, it goes w/out saying that the game has transcended to great heights over a relatively short period in time. I believe Pat's success has broadened awareness for the game but she would be the first to recognize that the games pioneers are the ones who truly deserve the credit for what and where the game is today.

Coaching and talent levels continue to rise. IMHO, parity is AND would be very good for the sport.

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