Lady Vol Angie Bjorklund talks about Ohio State center Jantel Lavender
In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of . . .
Maybe it's because Dean Lockwood isn't as young anymore or that his considerable literary tastes don't favor Alfred Lord Tennyson quotations.
More likely, the thoughts of the Tennessee assistant coach are dominated these days by helping steer the Lady Vols through the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
"This time of year," Lockwood said, "I don't dream about being on a Caribbean island and seeing scantily clad maidens running through sand and surf. I fantasize about five players on the floor at any given time in a (defensive) stance with their heads lower than their opponent's shoulders, talking, communicating, sneakers squeaking. . . . "
Making Lockwood's dream a reality is an ongoing quest for Tennessee (33-2). It takes on more urgency as the Dayton Regional's top seed prepares to face No. 4 seed Ohio State (24-9) in a regional semifinal game Saturday (TV: ESPN, noon).
No. 2 seed Notre Dame and No. 6 Oklahoma meet in the second game of the doubleheader.
The winners play at 7 p.m. Monday (TV: ESPN) for a trip to the Women's Final Four in Indianapolis.
Defense and rebounding are an annual UT obsession at this time of year. This year, defense is taking top priority because it's been more problematic.
Along with bracing for Ohio State center Jantel Lavender, the Lady Vols also have been shoring up their first line of defense this week. Marquette point guard Angel Robinson repeatedly tore through UT's perimeter during Monday night's second-round game, scoring 19 points and dishing out eight assists. After her performance, the Lady Vols appear more vulnerable to Buckeyes point guard Samantha Prahalis, who's among the nation's leaders in assists with 208.
"A lot of teams are going to be pushing it (in transition),'' UT guard Angie Bjorklund said. "I think Marquette did a great job of pushing the ball. We didn't do a very good job of stopping it."
Keeping opposing guards out of the foul lane has been a lingering issue for the Lady Vols this season. UT isn't the only team facing such a challenge. But that doesn't minimize the situation.
"We can mask some things by playing zone and mixing stuff up,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "But bottom line, when we have to get down and defend one on one, that's where the biggest challenge is in the women's game."
The Lady Vols continued working on pressure defenses in practice this week. Their full-court alignment wasn't particularly effective against Marquette and was used sparingly. Forward Glory Johnson suggested that the Lady Vols try again. Specifically, she said, "again and again and again."
"Some teams kind of freak out when you press them randomly,'' Johnson said. "So even if it doesn't work the first time, try it again later in the game."
The Lady Vols also might reconsider using freshman guard Lauren Avant, who's ball-pressure defense was instrumental in a victory at Vanderbilt last month. Avant didn't play against Marquette.
"I wouldn't say that she's not going to have an opportunity to be on the court,'' Summitt said. "It's all about a feel and talking to the staff. I know (assistant) Mickie (DeMoss) is really high on her.
"She seems to be shooting the ball better. It helps when you can play both ends and be efficient."
At this juncture, everyone's thoughts, not just Lockwood's, seem to be tilted toward one end of the court.