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.