Lady Vols to take on Lady Mocs

Glory Johnson

Tennessee, after one day off, is ready to tip off another game Tuesday evening against the Lady Mocs of Chattanooga. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the Lady Vols.

With several games compacted into a short amount of time, Monday became a combination review-scouting session.

"Both," Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said.

The Lady Vols went over Sunday's 73-52 win over Auburn in the SEC opener and then watched teaching tape on Chattanooga.

No. 6/8 Tennessee (9-3) takes on Chattanooga (8-3) tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern (webcast at the Lady Vols website) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Lady Vols will then again have just one day between games before SEC foe Georgia – the last league team to beat Tennessee, nearly two years and 34 Lady Vol conference wins ago – comes to town Thursday.

Tennessee will play its third game of the week and fourth in eight days on Sunday when the Lady Vols travel to Fayetteville for a matchup with Arkansas. That game is followed by a road matchup with Kentucky next week.

With that slate in mind and a game on Tuesday, the coaches opted for addition by subtraction and nixed a court workout Monday.

"We're not just looking at (Tuesday) or the following day," DeMoss said. "We're looking down the road that we really need our legs and we need a mental break as well."

With classes still out, the players can sleep later Tuesday morning and then go over a thorough scout on the court this afternoon as part of the Chattanooga preparation.

The coaches hope to able to spread minutes throughout the nine available players on Tuesday evening. Taber Spani remains out to rest her left knee, and Kamiko Williams remains out to recover from ACL surgery last July.

"We need to," DeMoss said of the four bench players available. "That's left up to them. We are certainly going to give them that opportunity.

"So, if they go in the game and they do what they're supposed to do, and we don't lose any momentum or we don't lose any ground then they're going to stay in the game."

This will be the Lady Mocs first game since Dec. 22, and features the return to the arena of Faith Dupree, who signed with the Lady Vols out of Webb School of Knoxville in 2009, played in two games before taking a redshirt year because of lower back issues and announced in the fall of 2010 that she would transfer to Chattanooga.

It was an amicable departure, and Dupree continued to practice with the Lady Vols until the end of that fall semester before heading down Interstate 75.

Dupree was part of a three-member signing class that included Spani and Williams. None of the three will be in uniform for Tennessee this evening since Spani and Williams are in recovery mode.

Dupree had to sit out a full year – the NCAA denied various appeals – and became eligible last month. The 6'3 post player has now logged minutes in four games for Chattanooga.

Chattanooga has had extended rest with no games for the past 11 days. Tennessee eschewed a court workout Monday after a physical battle with Auburn that had Lady Vol players in cold whirlpools later.

Glory Johnson took a pounding inside during her 32 minutes against Auburn – she took on a wave of frontline players who rotated in and out for Auburn – and Shekinna Stricklen, who was a tad under the weather, looked leg weary early and still logged 36 minutes.

"Those are our two key players," DeMoss said. "We certainly need those two to be on top of their game. You worry about any of your key players that play a lot of minutes, and Glory is certainly one of them, but fortunately Glory seems like a very durable player.

"She can go. She's got good energy. She knows when she can catch her breath here and there."

Johnson was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds in the wins over Old Dominion and Auburn.

Still, the coaches hope the pair's minutes can be reduced compared to what was needed out of them Sunday.

"Again, it's left up to them," DeMoss said, referring to the bench. "We can put kids in and that can be our game plan, but if we put kids in and they're not doing their job or we start losing or dwindling a lead (then the regulars have to be re-inserted)."

Wanting to make use of the bench is a goal for every game, not just a compacted week of contests.

"We always go in hoping that we can use our bench, especially in the first half," DeMoss said. "We always go in with that mind-set, but we don't know how the game is going to play out.

"We didn't know we were going to go cold for six minutes and not be able to knock a shot down (against Auburn in the first half). But that is always our mind-set that we want to use our bench as early as we possibly can.

"Momentum changes so fast in a basketball game that we'd rather have our starters fresh in the second half."

Tennessee is not a particularly deep team – and especially not now since Spani, who had started the first 10 games, missed the last two.

"No, we're not real deep," DeMoss said. "I think we have some quality depth, but we don't have quantity. On the flip side of it, it's a prime opportunity for these freshmen to get some valuable minutes."

Freshman point guard Ariel Massengale starts. Cierra Burdick relieves on the perimeter, and Isabelle Harrison backs up the post.

"It's a great opportunity if they'll go in and really take advantage of those minutes," DeMoss said.

Burdick is learning the wing spots and has some offensive flair to her game. She has good court vision – she has 15 assists to 13 turnovers – and also possesses a solid midrange game.

Burdick's steepest learning curve is on defense, where she is learning where to be in the various zone and help schemes.

Harrison is a solid defender insider with nine blocks and is active on the boards on both ends. She averages a little over 10 minutes with nearly four rebounds a game.

Harrison's steepest learning curve is on offense, where she gets the ball and has predetermined her next move without scanning the court to find defenders and locate teammates.

"With a lot of freshmen the game is so fast," DeMoss said. "And the way they see it and the way they feel it is very fast to her right now. She has one thing on her mind and that's shoot the ball. She can't (slow down) to kick it out."

Fifth-year player Vicki Baugh, an agile and athletic 6'4 post, adds to the quality of the bench play. But she won't stay out of the starting lineup. That decision also will depend on matchups.

"Where it's going to get us in trouble (bringing Baugh off the bench) is where we play against two bigs like Texas," DeMoss said. "It would have been hard to start this (smaller) lineup against Texas. It would have been hard to start it against Baylor or other teams that have two legit bigs.

"Against Chattanooga, it's the perfect starting lineup."

That means Massengale and Meighan Simmons are in the backcourt with a frontline of Stricklen, Johnson and Alicia Manning, and Baugh – a player Auburn Coach Nell Fortner called Tennessee's ‘X' factor – comes off the bench.

"We need her to rebound, we need her to score, we need her to defend," DeMoss said of Baugh.

Baugh was 0-5 with four turnovers Sunday, but she was 4-4 from the line and grabbed nine boards – second-leading rebounder for the game while playing the sixth-most minutes. The coaches are seeking more consistency game to game.

"We need her to play up to her level," DeMoss said. "She's quality depth, but she's got to produce. She's got to get out there and play the way Vicki is capable of playing. She's got to find that place where she's comfortable."

Manning has always been what coaches call an energy play and with her on the court at the tipoff, it helps set the tone for the two areas the coaches emphasize – defense and board play.

"It's her overall energy – her energy on the boards, her energy on defense, her energy running up and down the floor," DeMoss said. "You know you can rely on A-Town for her energy.

"It produces a lot of things that aren't on the stat sheet, like tips on balls, hustle plays, getting to loose balls on the floor. She's very active.

"Glory and A-Town bring that high energy all the time. And it usually starts on the guards but with us it's the frontline that brings the energy."

Massengale is likely to join that group, and it can be easy to forget the freshman has played in just nine college games while missing five weeks of time this season and preseason because of concussion and then a severely injured finger.

"Massengale is pretty good with her on-ball defense, which I think helps the tone defensively, but I think those two consistently bring the energy and right now that's what we need to get started," DeMoss said.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5 (6.4 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 4.8 assists per game); Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10 (11.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 (16.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg); Alicia Manning, 6'1 senior guard/forward, No. 15 (5.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg); and Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (13.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg).

Chattanooga Coach Wes Moore is expected to start: Tenisha Townsend, 5'6 senior guard, No. 5 (3.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg), hails from Antioch, Tenn., had nine points against Tennessee last season, went to Brentwood Academy, finalist for Miss Basketball, father Theodore Townsend II played football at Austin Peay; Kayla Christopher, 5'9 junior guard, No. 3 (10.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg), hails from Oliver Springs, Tenn., hit 63 three-pointers last season, had a board and an assist against Tennessee, All Southern Conference selection, went to Oliver Springs High School, played for her mother Michelle Christopher, two-time Miss Basketball finalist; Kylie Lambert, 5'11 junior guard. No. 22 (10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), hails from Etowah, Tenn., had four rebounds, two points, two assists against Tennessee, second team All SoCon last season, went to McMinn Central High School; Taylor Hall, 6'1 sophomore forward, No. 31 (9.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg), hails from New Tazewell, Tenn., joined Chattanooga last season after the fall semester so didn't play in the Tennessee game, went to Morristown West High School, Class AAA Miss Basketball in 2010; and Whitney Hood, 6'2 redshirt senior forward, No. 25 (11.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg), hails from Meridian, Miss., All SoCon last season, had 22 points, eight boards against Tennessee, transferred from Clemson in 2009.

Faith Dupree has come off the bench for the Lady Mocs for four games and tallied 10 points against Western Carolina in just eight minutes. She is averaging 5.5 points and 2.3 boards. Last month was Dupree's first action in a collegiate game since November of 2009.

Another key player for Chattanooga is Meghan Downes, a 5'9 sophomore from Newnan, Ga., who went 4-of-6 from the arc and tallied a career-high 19 points in the 88-80 win at East Tennessee State in the Lady Mocs' last game.

Downes has played in all 11 games this season as has Alex Black, a 5'8 sophomore guard from Memphis who leads the team in assists with 28. She has connected on 88.9 percent of her free throw attempts, second on the team to Christopher's 90.0 percent.

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Chattanooga game. Here is her assessment.

Offensively, the Lady Mocs tend to show a four-out, one-in look.

"Whitney Hood is their low-block player, and it's pretty balanced scoring," DeMoss said. They're going to try and spread us out and penetrate, get us to help, and they can kick out to shooters or skip passes – if we've got a lot of help – they're going to skip it and shoot it.

"If it's one-on-one in the paint, they're going to try to get it in there and let (Hood) go to work."

DeMoss saw a team on film that has gotten better from a year ago.

"They like to run," DeMoss said. "They like to shoot the three. I think they're very improved from last year. They are shooting the ball well, and they are very disciplined on offense.

"They take shots within their own game, and they don't make a lot of mistakes. We're going to have to play good defense against them."

Defensively, Chattanooga has played a lot of man with 2-3 zone mixed in to its schemes, too.

"I would anticipate against us – that's kind of the word out on us right now is to zone us – they're going to throw a lot of zone at us," DeMoss said.

Keys for Tennessee: "We've got to play better one-on-one defense," DeMoss said. "We can't let people get around us and then we're having to help in, and now they're kicking out to shooters. Just lock down our man and not rely on other people to bail us out and help us."

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Chattanooga, 24-6. The Lady Vols' record at home against the Lady Mocs is 12-4. Chattanooga has not beaten Tennessee during the Pat Summitt era. The Lady Mocs' last win in the series, which began in 1924 – Tennessee won 19-4 – was on Jan. 26, 1973, a 58-55 victory in Knoxville at Alumni Gym. … Tennessee is 9-1 in games played on January 3. The last win on this date was against Oklahoma, 96-75, in 2010. The first win on January 3 came against East Tennessee State, 82-59, in 1979. The lone loss on this date was to UCLA, 65-62, in 1981. … Knoxville and Chattanooga share not only a state and a university system but a family when it comes to athletic directors. Dave Hart Jr. arrived on the Knoxville campus this past September. His son, Rick, has guided Chattanooga since May of 2006. The late Dave Hart Sr. was the athletics director at Louisville and then became well known for his tenure at Missouri. … Chattanooga has gone 380 consecutive games with at least one three-pointer, dating back to December 31, 1999, against Appalachian State. Chattanooga broke its own Southern Conference and school single game trey record with 16 treys in a televised game against Georgia Southern on Dec. 4, 2010. The previous record of 15 was reached twice by the Lady Mocs and once by Samford. The most UTC has made in a season was 257, accomplished twice with the latest coming in 2009-10. … Despite a third place finish last season, the Lady Mocs were selected by the Southern Conference coaches and media to take the SoCon crown in 2012. Chattanooga has won 17 regular season titles since the league started women's basketball in 1984 and prior to last year, the Lady Mocs had won 11 consecutive titles.

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