Kamiko Williams talks about an inspirational team meeting
DAYTON, Ohio — Lauren Avant puts all of her trust in the Tennessee coaching staff. And she’s not alone either.
“We have full confidence in them,” the freshman guard said Friday morning, “and we think they have confidence in us as well.”
Teammate Alyssia Brewer essentially agreed in discussing her possible deployment on Saturday (TV: ESPN, noon) for top-seed Tennessee (33-2) against No. 4 seed Ohio State (24-9) in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at University of Dayton Arena.
“It’s up to whatever coach wants to do,” Brewer said, “what her game strategy is.”
Two Lady Vols who didn’t play in Monday night’s second-round game await their Dayton Regional semifinal marching orders against the Buckeyes, confident that their coaches will make the right call.
That doesn’t make their call any easier, however.
During her weekly teleconference on Wednesday, UT coach Pat Summitt seemed torn about the use of her team’s depth. When talking about defense and rebounding she said, “We may have to shorten our lineup a little and that won’t bother me.”
Moments later, she said that managing expectations might be best served by expanding the lineup.
“I would like to be able to keep people fresh,’’ Summitt said. “Our depth can work to our advantage and has in the past.”
One way or another, Ohio State coach Jim Foster didn’t seem overly concerned. He noted several teams within Tennessee’s team and indicated that the Buckeyes are prepared for all of them.
“They can play a big team; they can play a small team; they can play a quick team,” he said. “The good thing is that we’ve played against all of the above.”
UT assistant coach Mickie DeMoss favors using a combination of all of the above and said that the Lady Vols did a good job throughout the SEC tournament. But Monday’s game was their most competitive in weeks and DeMoss indicated that they lost track of utilizing at least one player.
“Avant’s probably the one player that we look back on in that game and thought somewhere we could’ve inserted her,’’ DeMoss said. “But every time it came up it was like ‘OK, now who are we going to take out?’
“She just didn’t get into the rotation. I don’t think it was intentional. It was just the way the game was.”
Tennessee’s players took a noteworthy step this week to reaffirm their readiness. At the suggestion of former Lady Vol Alberta Auguste, who played on two national championship teams, they convened a team meeting and signed off on a commitment to such basic competitive principles as trusting each other, knowing their roles and accountability.
“They’ve floated around the entire season,’’ guard Taber Spani said of the aforementioned principles. “To have them on paper, we can come together and make sure those standards are being met.
“When you do something collectively like that, it’s a lot stronger than just trying to do something individually.”
On Friday, forward Alicia Manning was perusing an Ohio State’s box score from its second-round game against Georgia and noting that the Buckeyes essentially played only five players. Reason enough for her to suggest a “high-octane” approach today.
Teammate Glory Johnson was more emphatic on the dais in the interview room.
“They have a huge post presence just like ours, but we have more,’’ she said. “So try to use that to our advantage. Wear out their posts. Try to push it back at them. They can’t run with us. I know for sure they can’t run with us.”
If Johnson has her way, fellow post player Brewer better be ready to play. She might not be alone.
“We’ve got to be a little more aggressive with our substitutions, still get them in,’’ DeMoss said. “Hopefully midway through the second half we can start seeing a difference.”
Dan Fleser covers Lady Vols basketball. He may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/fleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser/