Lady Vols return to practice court

Dean Lockwood

After a film session referred to as "tell the truth Monday," and then two days of practice, the Lady Vols will take off Thanksgiving Day before reassembling to get ready for the upcoming showdown with No. 1-ranked Baylor.

Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood, who enjoys books and is currently reading one written by football coach Pete Carroll, said the book mentions assigning something to every day of the week. After Sunday's 69-64 overtime loss to Virginia, the Lady Vols used Monday for a film session.

"That's where they watched the tape and got gut-level, brutally honest about what happened, why it happened and what needs to improve," Lockwood said. "Our Monday was ‘tell the truth Monday.' We watched the game. We analyzed. We assessed.

"We gave the players sheets and they wrote down comments about how they contributed, what they can do better and where we need to go from here."

The team didn't practice Monday. The players returned to the court Tuesday and Wednesday, and will be off today for Thanksgiving. The players will return to practice Friday.

Tuesday "was an ‘us' day," Lockwood said Wednesday after practice. "It was to tighten up us and get our fundamentals a little tighter. Today we geared a little bit more to Baylor. We did a little bit of Baylor prep and it was some us, as well. It was a combo day." Practice went well this week, but that has been typical for Tennessee. The challenge has been consistent carryover from practice to games.

"We come ready to work every practice, and I think the Virginia game was a wakeup call," redshirt senior forward Vicki Baugh said. "We've been practicing well and we had before the Virginia game. Now it's time to transfer what we do in practice into the games."

Baugh missed the Virginia game because of tightness in her hamstring and IT (iliotibial) band in her left leg. She has since returned to practice and is also undergoing a regimen of stretching and rehab.

"We are finding a way to manage it," said Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine.

Baugh is cleared for practice and this Sunday's game against Baylor (2 p.m. Eastern, ESPN).

Junior forward/guard Taber Spani remains out of practice with a bone bruise to her left knee that she suffered after a collision in the Virginia game. She is being held out of practice.

Spani saw Moshak on Wednesday evening at the volleyball game – the Lady Vols won the SEC regular season title with the defeat of Kentucky – will do some at-home rehab exercises on Thursday and report to Moshak for more rehab Friday morning. Spani is listed as day to day and her status for Sunday's game will be evaluated later.

She was effective against Virginia with 22 points and one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal game for Tennessee.

"After that game we're all angry and we're emotional a little bit and stuff that just happened is fresh and raw," Lockwood said. "You take a day and you look at it and you watch the game. I watched it Sunday night and I watched it again Monday.

"When you've got 24 turnovers you are really shooting yourself in the foot. Then you go 11 of 21 from the free throw line and you're really shooting yourself in the foot. We missed four or five layups that could have been and-one plays or that were just layups. Sooner or later you've got to stack the deck in your favor versus in your deficit. And what we were doing is stacking the deck to our deficit.

"Of the 24 turnovers I think we had seven traveling calls. That is just fundamentals. I looked at them. Every one of them was a walk. We have to tighten that part of our game up.

"We don't have a list of 20 defensive rules. There are three or four basic values, premises, concepts that are central to our defense, that are absolutely paramount to our defense's well-being and execution, and we didn't do them very well."

Freshman post Isabelle Harrison acquitted herself well in the game with six points, seven boards and two blocks in 19 minutes of play.

"She really worked the high post in that game," Lockwood said. "She is going to go in and give you honest effort. Defensively she did a heck of a job. She has to keep working on the fundamental aspects of her game and tighten that up.

"She came in and gave raw, honest effort. What she had in her she gave it."

Lockwood compared what happened Sunday to a 19th century American outlaw operation with Virginia playing the role of town under siege with the Lady Vols ready to plunder.

"You had a team that felt great about themselves and were up for it," Lockwood said. "The town was rallying for two months. The James gang was riding in and they had all their ambush sites planned out. We fell right into the trap."

The Lady Vols didn't run their offensive possession as planned until well into the second half and started the game with quick shots, which didn't loosen up the Cavaliers' zone. In a game pace that suited Virginia with a slow tempo, Tennessee wasted possessions with 24 turnovers – all the more maddening against a zone defense as opposed to an aggressive man scheme when ball security is usually more of an issue – and then allowed the missed shots to cause passivity on the defensive end.

But that was Sunday. Monday's film session flushed the aftermath. Tuesday and Wednesday shifted the focus to the next game.

"We have talked to our team about what they put in their heads, how important it is to put positive thoughts in their head," Lockwood said. "Belief and expectations. You've got to see yourself doing things in a positive way and believe in your heart, ‘I'm capable.'

"At the end of the day at some point it still has to transfer and it has to happen on the court. That is the magic of this whole process."

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