DES MOINES, IOWA — The unseasonably warm Midwest weather hasn't been reflected by Tennessee's shooting.
Through two tournament games, the Lady Vols are a chilly 38.8 percent from the floor (50-for-129). In advance of today's (TV: ESPN, 12:04 p.m.) Des Moines (Iowa) Regional semifinal game against Kansas, the Lady Vols reemphasized going inside in search of better shots.
"Getting (the post players) early touches and get them going,'' point guard Briana Bass said. "I think we definitely feed off that."
The strategy doesn't constitute a fail-safe formula. Forward Glory Johnson shot 2-for-9 from the floor against DePaul last Monday. But center Vicki Baugh was 8-for-11 and forward Shekinna Stricklen hit a clutch second-half shot off the dribble from close range to thwart a Blue Demons' rally.
"I think ever since I've gotten here the philosophy has been the first four minutes pound it inside; everything else opens up,'' guard Taber Spani said. "I think it sets the tone that we're attacking early.
"We're going to come at you early. We're not going to settle (for shots). I think at times up in Chicago, we settled."
Burdick's Back: The postseason has meant more than bigger games for Cierra Burdick. It also has meant more medication.
UT's freshman forward has been dealing with lower-back pain for much of the season.
"They don't know what's causing it," Burdick said. "But they upped my medication (anti-inflammatory and pain) for the tournament.
"It doesn't affect me in games. I notice it more when I get up in the morning."
Senior Catalysts: UT isn't likely to change its starting lineup at this juncture of the tournament. They've had too much success since they switched to an all-senior starting five.
The Lady Vols first employed the lineup against Florida in the last regular-season game and have continued to do so through the SEC tournament and the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. They have won six consecutive games with the lineup.
The lineup was conceived with defense in mind. It also has enabled the seniors to set the tone for the game.
"I love it," said senior Alicia Manning. "And not just because I'm in the lineup.
"We're all comfortable with it."
Better Beware: Tennessee's two tournament games in Chicago were very physical and the players were anticipating more of the same in Des Moines.
In case of a change, the coaches will advise the players to be wary of how today's game is officiated. They won't belabor the point. Instead, they will mention it as part of their defensive instructions beforehand.
"We want to play smart without fouling,'' assistant coach Dean Lockwood said, "and we want to be tuned in to how the game's being called."
Slow Success: UT sophomore guard Meighan Simmons is one of the fastest players in college basketball. But speed doesn't help her shooting touch.
"When I rush (my shot), it goes way off," said Simmons.
Intent on slowing down, Simmons had made at least half of her field-goal attempts in seven of her last 12 games. She didn't shoot better than 40 percent from the field in any of the previous 12 games.
Camp Connection: Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson got a firsthand look at Lady Vols basketball when she worked UT's summer camp.
"I was a graduate assistant at Western Illinois," she said. "It was the first summer camp I ever worked.
"I was just so impressed with (UT coach Pat Summitt) and how warm she was."
Henrickson's only camp disappointment was in not winning the competition for the best skit with her "Church Lady" impersonation.
"I thought it was pretty good," she said. "But it didn't win."
More Goodrich: Former Lady Vol Alyssia Brewer played with Kansas point guard Angel Goodrich in AAU basketball. She advised UT point guard Briana Bass to be aware of Goodrich's defense.
"Everybody's hyping up her scoring,'' Bass said. "But her defense is really good, too. She knows how to read people. She's good at getting steals by reading people."
Morning People: The Lady Vols don't seem to be concerned about the 11:04 a.m. (local time) tipoff today. It's better than a 6 a.m. summer workout with strength & conditioning coach Heather Mason.
"Half of us weren't morning people because we knew we had to run with Heather,'' guard Kamiko Williams said.
Big Regional: None of the teams in the Des Moines are lacking in size.
Baylor's 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner obviously has the biggest presence. But the other three teams have some length, as well.
Georgia Tech, which plays Baylor this afternoon, has eight players who are 6-foot-2 or taller. UT has seven 6-1 or taller. Kansas has five 6-2 or taller.