Taber Spani's minutes, scoring up in SEC play

Tennessee's Taber Spani attempts to score while followed by Missouri's Kyley Simmons at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, January 10, 2013. Tennessee defeats Missouri, 84-39. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee's Taber Spani attempts to score while followed by Missouri's Kyley Simmons at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday, January 10, 2013. Tennessee defeats Missouri, 84-39. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Lady Vols hug Pat Summitt before their Alabama game

More variety has resulted in more scoring for Taber Spani.

Heading into Thursday's game at Vanderbilt, Tennessee's senior wing player is averaging 12.5 points per game in SEC play — nearly four points better than her season average of 8.8.

Spani said that her scoring doesn't signify major improvement with her back issues.

"I don't want to say there's a big difference physically," she said Tuesday. "It's just understanding it's crunch time. Every game counts. You just have to deal with it."

The increase does coincide with her becoming a starter after sophomore forward Cierra Burdick went down with a fractured right hand on New Year's Eve. Spani is averaging 31.5 minutes per game in the SEC, compared to 23.7 overall.

Above all, Spani attributes the scoring upgrade to an expanded mind-set.

"I've just understood that I have to step up my offensive game," she said, "and I've tried to do it in a variety of ways, because it hasn't necessarily been the three ball."

Since making four 3-pointers in the conference opener at South Carolina on Jan. 3, Spani is 4 for 18 (22.2 percent) from long range in the other five league games. Last Sunday, she missed both of her 3-point attempts. But she still managed to score 14 points against Alabama on an assortment of jumpers and layups, along with two free throws.

Spani, who's shooting 41.5 percent from the floor for the season, is shooting 49.2 percent (29 for 59) in conference play. Despite the recent cold snap from behind the arc, her 3-point shooting also is more accurate in conference play than overall (34.8-31.1).

"Just try to have a scorer's mentality and understand people are going play me to defend the three," she said.

Marciniak Speaking: Former Tennessee point guard Michelle Marciniak will be the guest speaker today at the Big Orange Tipoff Club at Calhoun's on the River.

Marciniak was named the most valuable player of the Women's Final Four in 1996 after helping lead the Lady Vols to the national championship.

Lunch will be served beginning at 11 a.m. and the program will begin at noon.

Burdick Update: After another examination on Monday, Burdick remains on schedule to return by early February from her hand injury.

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Comments » 19

voloffaith writes:

Taber Spani a lovely ,inside and out ,young lady.....yes her cousin was K.State qb Klein. She loves Jesus and exudes his character...yet does play hard and hurt...Help conquer the dorettes this Thursday.....

oldster writes:

In the first few games it was evident in the way she was moving that Taber's back was hurting her. She was moving as if she were afraid to move it. She is now moving fluidly. I have noticed something that is attached to the top, back part of her shorts. I have wondered if it is an electrical stimulator or something similar to help with spasms, etc.

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Taber Spani a lovely ,inside and out ,young lady.....yes her cousin was K.State qb Klein. She loves Jesus and exudes his character...yet does play hard and hurt...Help conquer the dorettes this Thursday.....

I believe that's her brother n law.

voloffaith writes:

in response to maxvolfan#217855:

I believe that's her brother n law.

Yes you are correct........"Brother in law...' who sang that?

OKEMOoftheMOUNTAIN writes:

Loving' this team!!

tonyvick#213307 writes:

When Taber plays with the upmost confidence she can will this team to win.

wigmeister writes:

She is one of the keys to victory. Hope she is healthy enough to continue contributing.

ps11824 writes:

I would be so happy to see Taber have one of those games where everything she touches turns to points on the scoreboard. She has been diligent since she stepped onto the court for the Lady Vols, playing with pain for the most part, but never, as far as I could see, complaining. She seems to maintain a calm demeanor. She works hard. Reminds me of a player, Brynae Laxton, a Tennessee gal, who played back in 95-97, always coming off the bench and giving 100%.

Laxton worked hard, but never got a lot of praise, so it seemed. I wonder where she is now, what she is doing?

maxvolfan#217855 writes:

Taber has played very well this year. She is shooting from everywhere on the court and not just waiting behind the 3 pt line.
I really like this short bench. Five players has a double figure scoring avg. in SEC play. Jasmine J is playing fierce D and Kamiko bring a different problem for opponents to defend.

Charlie Creme put out his bracket prediction and they have the Vols a #3 seed in Knoxville for round one and two in the same bracket as Uconn. Right now Uconn is not the team to play. I much rather them play a Stanford or ND . There is not a team I hate more than Uconn but u got to respect there game. They are a well oiled machine. Without Kelly Faris their team would be good , with her they are unstoppable. Our Vols must play smart ball. Scoring is not a problem for this team. Turnovers and defense is. I say keep Jasmine James out there early or start her to establish defense early. Our defense has jumpstarted our offense.

lemme_axya_this writes:

in response to ps11824:

I would be so happy to see Taber have one of those games where everything she touches turns to points on the scoreboard. She has been diligent since she stepped onto the court for the Lady Vols, playing with pain for the most part, but never, as far as I could see, complaining. She seems to maintain a calm demeanor. She works hard. Reminds me of a player, Brynae Laxton, a Tennessee gal, who played back in 95-97, always coming off the bench and giving 100%.

Laxton worked hard, but never got a lot of praise, so it seemed. I wonder where she is now, what she is doing?

She is a doctor in Oak Ridge, Tn.

dunc writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Yes you are correct........"Brother in law...' who sang that?

I think that was "Mother in Law," by Ernie K Doe.

utvolfan writes:

in response to ps11824:

I would be so happy to see Taber have one of those games where everything she touches turns to points on the scoreboard. She has been diligent since she stepped onto the court for the Lady Vols, playing with pain for the most part, but never, as far as I could see, complaining. She seems to maintain a calm demeanor. She works hard. Reminds me of a player, Brynae Laxton, a Tennessee gal, who played back in 95-97, always coming off the bench and giving 100%.

Laxton worked hard, but never got a lot of praise, so it seemed. I wonder where she is now, what she is doing?

Brynae Laxton Miley is an M.D. with East Tennessee Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialists and is board certified with the American Board of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. Another Lady Vol still doing well after graduation!

voloffaith writes:

in response to dunc:

I think that was "Mother in Law," by Ernie K Doe.

ding...ding...ding...correct. I got the relationship incorrect....oh Mother...in-law....thanks as you know that info was critical and pivital in navigating 1-23-2013. almost LOL

johnlg00 writes:

in response to maxvolfan#217855:

Taber has played very well this year. She is shooting from everywhere on the court and not just waiting behind the 3 pt line.
I really like this short bench. Five players has a double figure scoring avg. in SEC play. Jasmine J is playing fierce D and Kamiko bring a different problem for opponents to defend.

Charlie Creme put out his bracket prediction and they have the Vols a #3 seed in Knoxville for round one and two in the same bracket as Uconn. Right now Uconn is not the team to play. I much rather them play a Stanford or ND . There is not a team I hate more than Uconn but u got to respect there game. They are a well oiled machine. Without Kelly Faris their team would be good , with her they are unstoppable. Our Vols must play smart ball. Scoring is not a problem for this team. Turnovers and defense is. I say keep Jasmine James out there early or start her to establish defense early. Our defense has jumpstarted our offense.

Good post. I haven't seen every minute of every LV game this season, but Taber has looked much trimmer and more active most of the times I have seen her. I wouldn't have known she was still having back problems just watching her. She has really stepped up her game and become a true leader on this young, exciting team. I especially like the way she is putting the ball on the floor and not settling for the three all the time and has improved her defense.

madrigal writes:

in response to ps11824:

I would be so happy to see Taber have one of those games where everything she touches turns to points on the scoreboard. She has been diligent since she stepped onto the court for the Lady Vols, playing with pain for the most part, but never, as far as I could see, complaining. She seems to maintain a calm demeanor. She works hard. Reminds me of a player, Brynae Laxton, a Tennessee gal, who played back in 95-97, always coming off the bench and giving 100%.

Laxton worked hard, but never got a lot of praise, so it seemed. I wonder where she is now, what she is doing?

Brynae Laxton went on to medical school and is now an ENT doctor in the Oak Ridge area. My son is her patient.

madrigal writes:

Taber Spani, like all the Lady Vols, has the stuff. She's been hurt for most of her career. I'm glad she is getting the chance to play now.

Another player back in the day who worked hard but had injury problems her whole career, was beloved by the crowd, and always made something happen when she did play was Niya Butts....remember her? Now the coach at Arizona. I always thought she would make a coach. It would be nice to have a "Where are they now?" column every once in awhile to keep track of the (at least) 300 former Lady Vols, some of whom are well known, others who are quietly doing something else with their lives.

Volinflan writes:

in response to madrigal:

Taber Spani, like all the Lady Vols, has the stuff. She's been hurt for most of her career. I'm glad she is getting the chance to play now.

Another player back in the day who worked hard but had injury problems her whole career, was beloved by the crowd, and always made something happen when she did play was Niya Butts....remember her? Now the coach at Arizona. I always thought she would make a coach. It would be nice to have a "Where are they now?" column every once in awhile to keep track of the (at least) 300 former Lady Vols, some of whom are well known, others who are quietly doing something else with their lives.

Yes us Volniacs would love to see such an update article. So is Butts "The coach at Arizona" or one of the coaches?

SoddyVol writes:

in response to Volinflan:

Yes us Volniacs would love to see such an update article. So is Butts "The coach at Arizona" or one of the coaches?

Niya Butts is Head Coach at Arizona. She was a very smart student and played(off the bench) at Tenn. during National Championship years, '97 & '98.

ps11824 writes:

madrigal writes:
in response to 98reax:

I would be so happy to see Taber have one of those games where everything she touches turns to points on the scoreboard. She has been diligent since she stepped onto the court for the Lady Vols, playing with pain for the most part, but never, as far as I could see, complaining. She seems to maintain a calm demeanor. She works hard. Reminds me of a player, Brynae Laxton, a Tennessee gal, who played back in 95-97, always coming off the bench and giving 100%.

Laxton worked hard, but never got a lot of praise, so it seemed. I wonder where she is now, what she is doing?

Brynae Laxton went on to medical school and is now an ENT doctor in the Oak Ridge area. My son is her patient. ]]

Thanks, madrigal, it is good to know she is doing well.

On the subject of Niya, she was sidelined with chronic shinsplints. Did they not say she had the legs of an 'old woman', and Laurie Milligan was another really good athlete (point guard) who was hit with the 'old woman' legs. We have had our share of the injury demon at UT, for sure. I still (sit on the edge of my seat in fear) of a star going down with serious injury. That's no way to be, but you know what I'm saying? They are women, and no matter the conditioning, basketball is a contact sport, injury looms...

I'm amazed at how tough they are. Some hits look like 'knockouts.' and they just jump up and carry on like it didn't hurt much.

I can honestly say that I remember (feel) some effects of injuries of my past lingering some 40 years later. Mine were never considered serious. they never are unless they are yours, right? but nevertheless, they haunt me today.

Most times when I feel that pain I can hear my mom's admonitions, "you're gonna to get hurt one of these days if you don't stop playing sports." Mom was a wise woman.

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