Tennessee to take on Auburn today

Pat Summitt, Daedra Charles-Furlow (RTN photo)

Auburn is sitting atop the SEC standings while Tennessee – which will start four freshmen – is looking up in an unaccustomed position for the Lady Vols. Assistant Coach Daedra Charles-Furlow, who was on the Tigers' sideline a season ago, prepared a stellar scouting report for the game, according to Pat Summitt, who said she would be "surprised and disappointed" if the team is not ready Sunday.

"They're undefeated and I'm excited about that, because that's typically been us and now we're in a reverse role so we'll see what we can do," Pat Summitt said. "Hopefully we can bring energy and get some good things done there."

No. 10/12 Tennessee (15-3, 4-1) takes on No. 6/5 Auburn (19-0, 4-0) at 3 p.m. Eastern (Lady Vol Radio Network; TV: CSS) at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Assistant Coach Daedra Charles-Furlow, who was on Auburn Coach Nell Fortner's staff last season, handled the scouting report for this afternoon's game and presented it to the team in practice sessions on Friday and Saturday.

"This was Daedra's scout and she did a great job presenting everything and she has challenged this group," Summitt said. "I'll be surprised and disappointed if we don't come ready to play."

Although Auburn is the higher ranked and undefeated team, Tennessee, because of its long-term success in the SEC, remains the signature league win.

"They'll play at a different level against us," Summitt said.

As of Friday the game was close to being a sellout. Coliseum capacity is 10,500. The record at the coliseum for a women's game is 7,150 when Tennessee and Auburn played on Jan. 6, 1989.

Auburn's last win in the series was at a neutral site on March 2, 1997 when the Tigers won four consecutive games to seize the SEC tourney title. The Tigers' last win over Tennessee at Auburn was on Jan. 19, 1991.

Fortner said in her media teleconference on Friday that the keys to beating the Lady Vols were confidence and game experience. This year's Auburn team has both.

"I really think that you have to have a team that has some confidence about themselves and some experience in playing Tennessee and right now that is what we have," Fortner said. "You don't have that every year with your team, but this year this particular team has it because I have three players on the floor that have started since they were freshmen and now they're seniors, so they have a lot of history with Tennessee.

"They haven't beaten them, but they have stepped on the floor with Tennessee with a lot of experience, history, and they understand what is going on here."

Tennessee, on the other hand, will open the game with four true freshmen facing Auburn for the first time in their college careers. The fifth starter is redshirt senior Alex Fuller, who will have her hands full directing traffic. Fuller is averaging 10.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in SEC play.

"She's been a bastion of consistency and stability the last few games for us," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "Early, she was having her share of struggles but to her credit, didn't panic, didn't change her demeanor, didn't change her practice approach. She stayed consistent and like a veteran you know you go through certain pockets of where things aren't going as well, but she stayed the course.

"She continued to do things that she knew were fundamental and sound and right and to her credit she's been a bastion of stability for us in terms of the effort she puts forth and the result she gets. The thing that we love is that you know what you're going to get. We love her for that."

Sophomore sharpshooter Angie Bjorklund has been suspended for the start Sunday for forgetting to take her shoes to practice Saturday. That slipup might be forgiven in other seasons but with Summitt trying to get a young team to focus she decided to act.

"I say this every day, ‘Every moment is a teaching moment.' I have got to get them to get it right," Summitt said. "When you have a young basketball and we've struggled, we've struggled to play hard for 40 minutes, we've yet to do that, I just can't accept a sophomore not getting on the bus with her basketball shoes. I was like how can a basketball player get on the bus and not have her shoes?"

The bus turned around to return to the Lady Vols' hotel in Opelika, Ala., so that the shoes could be retrieved and then the team continued to the coliseum in Auburn.

"We turned around and came back," Summitt said. "We started practice about 45 minutes late.

"I told her, ‘We have too many young kids and we've got to get it right, and you're not going to start.' And she said, ‘I understand, Coach, and I'm sorry.' And she apologized to the team."

Summitt did manage a laugh when asked what the total penalty minutes would be for shoe forgetfulness. Briana Bass missed the first eight minutes of the Vanderbilt game for a remark made in a film session, and Alicia Manning started in her place. Manning, a 6'1 freshman guard/forward, will also get the nod Sunday.

Summitt said she would see how the game played out to determine when to bring Bjorklund in, and the punitive action was intended to be for the start of the game only to send a message about preparedness, not a predetermined number of minutes. She also lauded Bjorklund taking "total responsibility" for the error.

With such a young team the theme for this season is learn and get better. Despite the shortcomings Summitt has outlined for several weeks – primarily not playing for 40 minutes and needing more effort on defense and the boards – Summitt said her team is improving.

"You know what? We're getting better," Summitt said. "When you can defend one on one and keep people in front of you it's tough. It's tough to get paint points, it's tough to get putbacks when you're boxing out and that's what we've gotten a little better at but with a young team you may have three people do it and the other two are not as inspired or as committed. So now we're just trying to get them to understand they have to function as a unit. They have to support each other throughout a game and throughout possessions."

Summitt certainly won't ease off the throttle. She scheduled film sessions with Alyssia Brewer and Bass on the road. On her post-game radio show after the 76-67 win over Arkansas, Summitt pointed out that Bass' defense had to improve and Brewer needed to stop picking and choosing when to play hard.

"I met with her and watched tape because I was probably more upset with her than anybody that played that game," Summitt said of Brewer. "I watched tape with her and I watched tape with Bree. Bree has got to take a whole lot more pride in her defense."

Brewer is a key post player off the bench because sophomore forward Vicki Baugh and redshirt freshman center Kelley Cain continue to miss time because of knee mishaps.

"They both got in some reps at practice today," Summitt said Saturday. "They both went through all of scouting and our shooting."

Their availability will be a game-time decision Sunday. Cain, a 6'6 shooter with soft hands, has been a tantalizing piece of the missing post puzzle for Tennessee, and the coaches can't help but think about when she would be available.

"You have those thoughts," Lockwood said. "We don't have the luxury of dwelling on that. You do think that at moments. It's a little bit like a few years ago when we were going down left and right. We're looking around and going, ‘Who's going to show up at practice today?'

"There's an element where you sit there and you say, ‘Gosh, what would be like with all 11 players now? If we had all 11 players at 100 percent of their abilities going full throttle every day, what would we be like?' We say that, but we can't live in that. That's not our reality."

Sunday's reality is that Tennessee enters the contest as the underdog, a role the Lady Vols are not used to in a conference they have dominated for the past decade with pushback from LSU.

Auburn lost to Tennessee, 85-52, last season in Knoxville. Charles-Furlow prepared the scouting report for that game as a member of the Tigers coaching staff.

Charles-Furlow played for Tennessee from 1988 to 1991 and was known as a fierce player, especially on defense and on the boards. She has watched this team's uneven efforts in both aspects of the game and let her displeasure be known Saturday in a way that perhaps only a former player can properly convey.

"Some things were bothering me, and I sort of put it out there," Charles-Furlow said Saturday.

She also remembers how Auburn felt after getting pasted at Thompson-Boling Arena last season and how much a rematch means to those players this Sunday.

"Those kids were hurt. They were disappointed. They were embarrassed," Charles-Furlow said. "I said, ‘Look, this team wants to kick your butt.' I have to get our team focused on what they need to do. This is not a game. They are serious."

Charles-Furlow knows how inspired the Tigers are this season since she was in the losing locker room a year ago.

"Everyone is serious about beating Tennessee but I know how they felt because I felt like, ‘Doggone, we got blown out,' " Charles-Furlow said. "And Tennessee was my scout. We knew everything they were going to do. We couldn't stop it. We were like deer in headlights. We couldn't run our offense."

That Tennessee team has pretty much departed en masse for the WNBA, led by everyone's All-American Candace Parker. But it's the color of the uniform that will trigger the response from an opponent seeking redemption.

"We got blown out on national TV," Charles-Furlow said of that game a year ago. "These kids remember that and they want revenge. I told (the Tennessee players) if you think you're going to be able to walk in and be average, you're wrong from this point on. Y'all are going to have to come ready with your dukes up. I said, ‘If you fall down are you going to get back up or are you just going to lay down? Which one are you going to do?' They said, ‘We're going to get back up.'

"I said, ‘All right, then. It's going to be a fight."

It was a powerful speech, according to Summitt, and one she was likely thrilled to have delivered from a former player, especially one whose reputation is cemented in Lady Vol lore with two national titles and a retired jersey.

Charles-Furlow will have mixed emotions after just being at Auburn a year ago and helping to coach the players on the floor for the Tigers but her loyalty is not divided.

"There are going to be a lot of mixed emotions but there is no question where my heart is," Charles-Furlow said. "I love Tennessee. This is where I went to school. I was coached by Pat. I love the tradition. I won national championships. But then I got an opportunity to work with another family, the Auburn family. They embraced me and I learned a lot under Nell's tutelage. The staff worked together and we all got along. The kids were great. It was a good thing going. This Auburn team has really made a full circle. I have so much respect for them going into this game. They are really getting it done.

"But I'm a competitor. We want to beat them. That's our goal. We're going in here to win this game. All of the liking, I love you and I care about you, we're going to put that aside. I'm here to do my job, and I'm here to help Pat do her job and win this game. That's what it's all about. We can talk, we can laugh, we can hug, we can cry. We can do all of that. But when I go into a match we're going in trying to win.

"I've watched Pat. Pat knows so many people, has so many friends in this game and they shake hands and they talk but once they do that at the center court, they go into their huddles and it's war. I'm going to switch gears."

PROBABLE STARTERS: Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Briana Bass 5'2 freshman guard, No. 1 (4.9 points per game, 1.6 rebounds per game); Alicia Manning 6'1 freshman guard/forward, No. 15 (4.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 freshman guard/forward, No. 40 (13.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg); Glory Johnson, 6'3 freshman forward, No. 25 (12.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg); and Alex Fuller, 6'3 senior forward/center, No. 2 (6.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg).

Auburn Coach Nell Fortner is expected to start: Whitney Boddie, 5'9 senior guard, No. 44 (10.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg), hails from Florence, Ala., had 12 points and 12 assists against Alabama, had a triple double against Sam Houston State on Dec. 5, 2008, with 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, named to All-SEC second team in preseason, also played tennis, soccer and softball in high school, nickname is Zeek, wants X-ray vision as a super power; Alli Smalley, 5'8 sophomore guard, No. 5 (12.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg), hails from Arab, Ala., leads the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage at 46.3 percent, named to All-SEC Freshman Team last year, nickname is Alli as first name is Allison, would like to skydive; Sherell Hobbs, 5'11 senior guard, No. 12 (12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), hails from Huntsville, Ala., went over 1,000 career points this season against Georgia Southern, also pulled down 500th rebound of her career against George Washington, has 214 career steals, sister Reneisha Hobbs, a sophomore, also plays for Auburn, nickname is Rell, favorite quote from Fortner is, ‘Sherell, what's going on with your hair?", super power would be to be invisible; DeWanna Bonner, 6'4 senior guard/forward, No. 24 (20.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg), hails from Fairfield, Ala., has 1,829 career points, second all-time at Auburn behind Becky Jackson with 2,068 (1980-84), preseason player of the year in the SEC, nickname is De or DB, super power would be to fly; and Trevesha Jackson, 6'0 senior forward, No. 1 (7.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg), hails from Auburn, Ala., spent two years at Gulf Coast Community College, was Panhandle Conference Player of the Year, had seven rebounds against Tennessee last season, nickname is Tree or Vesha, wants super power to be flight "because the gas prices are too high and you can get there quicker."

Fortner has acknowledged the game has significant importance – especially for an Auburn team seeking to solidify its spot as the top team in the SEC – but she also wanted to not overemphasize a regular season contest.

"There is no doubt that this is a big game Sunday, but the bottom line is it's one more game in our conference schedule," Fortner said. "But it's a big game on the conference schedule. They're looking forward to the game. They respect Tennessee's program and its history, too. We know that it's a big game, but it's still a game."

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Daedra Charles-Furlow handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Auburn game. Here is her assessment.

When Auburn has the ball: "One thing that Nell really stressed was transition, pushing the ball, getting up the floor as quickly as possible," Charles-Furlow said. "That is definitely what they like to do. Also, one of the other key things is their dribble drive penetration. They do a really, really good job of driving the basketball. That's their aim and it's attributed to DeWanna being able to take people off the dribble and it's attributed to Whitney (Boddie).

"Whitney is really good at that and getting her teammates involved. Her vision on the court is stellar. She is, to me, one of the top guards in the country. She may not get the notoriety that DeWanna Bonner is getting but clearly if it's not for Whitney pushing that ball and getting her players involved, her enthusiasm and her no-nonsense attitude, I don't know what kind of team they would be."

Boddie missed the last half of last season for academic reasons and has said the time away from the game reminded her not to take it for granted.

"We lost her after the Christmas break and we saw how bad we missed her. We were a totally different team without Whitney Boddie when I was there last year," Charles-Furlow said. "This kid truly wants to make a statement. This is her last go-around. She wants to leave with a bang."

Defensively, Charles-Furlow expects the Tigers to try some different looks and likely bring some full-court pressure, not so much to stop the ball as to slow it up.

"They're more of a man team but they will mix it up," Charles-Furlow said. "They'll run some zone. If they're getting in trouble, not being able to defend penetration – which we're hoping they have some problems with that – they'll mix it up. They'll slow it up. I would expect they're going to do numerous things to disrupt what we want to do.

"But I think we have to be poised and patient. It's a 40-minute game. Definitely, we want to push tempo. Playing good defense and rebounding is going to be key and getting to that free throw line and hitting our free throws will absolutely be key."

When Tennessee has the ball: The Lady Vols will open with a new starting five, but the goals for the Lady Vols remain the same on offense.

"It's not going to change our game plan because any given night a kid can step up," Charles-Furlow said. "But just because Angie is not starting that doesn't mean we're not going to get her in as soon as possible. But our game is the same – we're looking to attack. We're looking to get on the boards and finish our easy shots. Anything around that rim we need to score. We need to establish our post game right off the bat. I think if we do that we'll be fine.

"If the inside is working, the outside is cooking, we're all on eight cylinders, we'll be good. It's going to be a dogfight. The dogfight is coming. We have to grind."

The defensive principles also remain in place – establish an effective man defense and keep the zone handy.

"I think at some point we're going to mix it up," Charles-Furlow said. "If we're getting hurt by the penetration we'll switch it up but Pat has always been a man team. You take care of your own man. Accountability is huge. You are accountable for your man. If you screw it up you come out."

Q&A WITH PAT: The Tennessee-Memphis men's game was the CBS game on Saturday and the local affiliate, WVLT-TV, did an hour-long preview show that featured an interview with Coach Pat Summitt. Here are her remarks:

Challenges of a young team

"I think having a young team that I have right now they definitely challenge you but they also keep you a lot younger I think because you're invested in them every day," Summitt said. "I'm really enjoying it. Now, I don't enjoy losing. That right there just eats me up inside. But I think that teaching has always been my passion and if I hadn't have made the trip to Tennessee and gotten a job here and got my master's and stayed on I'd probably be coaching a high school team somewhere because that's what I really enjoy is working with young people.

"I say this is my classroom right here in Thompson-Boling Arena, but it's so true. It's what I know. It's what I love. Fortunately I had a lot of coaches that influenced by life –Billie Moore, who's my Olympic coach and Don Meyer, who right now is battling not only to be a coach but was battling for his life (because of a car wreck last year). I've just been very blessed to be around a lot of great coaches."

Approaching 1,000 wins

"It's a number I can't even imagine, that I've been doing this this long," Summitt said. "There's also a lot of losses, too. Just the number of games that I've been a part of and the fact that I've been able to coach in all of them it's pretty amazing. I feel very, very fortunate."

Her relationship with her players over that time

"They're like daughters," Summitt said. "They're an extended family to me. They come and go but the players that really get it they want to be a part of this program forever, because this is where they got their foundation for life and learned their life skills. You can learn that through basketball, which is a neat opportunity and experience."

Proud of her role in the game's development?

"I'm proud of the University of Tennessee first and foremost, because the administration said yes to women's basketball long before it was the popular thing to do," Summitt said. "I think of the administration and what they provided, not just for women's basketball – that was the jumpstart program – but now you look at our softball team, soccer, swimming and diving, across the board, it's just amazing.

"Everyone knows that logo. That Lady Vol logo is known around the world. It is a great feeling. There's no other program like it and just to be able to be a part of that will be something that I will treasure for the rest of my life."

Her relationship with Coach Bruce Pearl

"Bruce has done such an awesome job and watching them (Tuesday against Vanderbilt) I had to text him and tell him it was the best defense you played all year," Summitt said. "Those guys got down and defended. I'm really proud for him and just the intensity that he has brought, not only on the court but in the community and his passion. He's a great friend, aside from being a great coach."

The anticipation of the Memphis game

"This place will be rocking," Summitt said. "I'm sorry I'm not going to be here to see it but certainly we'll be watching. I think it's going to be an awesome college basketball game and hopefully we're ready to go."

Her team's shooting percentage

"I think we're a team because we're so young at times we're overanxious," Summitt said. "We don't always show up to play as a unit and when you substitute sometimes I think we lose our edge a little bit, but I'm trying to get people experience. It's just a daily process. That's the only thing I can tell you. It's one day at a time, one possession at a time, one game at a time. We can't just turn the dial up and be where we want to be, but we're going to get there. One day at a time."

The inauguration of President Barack Obama

"Watching (Tuesday) I was so in to that whole scene," Summitt said. "It was very touching for me. It was emotional. Barack Obama, what an awesome speaker. Obviously he's a brilliant young man and I think he's going to be a tremendous leader for our country. To see that for the first time in history it was overwhelming.

"I thought about all of these young women and the African-American women here and now there are no barriers. They can do whatever they want to do and be whatever they want to be. He's going to be a great leader for us and that's the most important thing we need right now is someone that is strong and someone that is intelligent and someone that understands how to put together an awesome team."

MARCH TO 1,000: Coach Pat Summitt enters Sunday's game with 998 career wins. Her first opportunity to win No. 1,000 would be against Ole Miss on Thursday if the Lady Vols win Sunday. The games after Ole Miss are against Oklahoma in Oklahoma City and then Georgia in Knoxville.

When Coach Nell Fortner was asked about the approaching milestone she said, "Wow, I guess that makes her really old. Of course I'm kidding. She's a good friend of mine and I can kid like that. She's a phenomenal coach and she's been phenomenal since the first day she started coaching.

HOMEGROWN ROSTER: Auburn is the only team in the AP Top 25 whose entire starting lineup comes from its home state of Alabama.

"When I took the job in 2004, it was a good year for Alabama talent and my staff did a good job of recruiting it hard," Coach Nell Fortner said.

ON TAP: All 12 SEC teams are in action Sunday. The other matchups are: Georgia at Alabama; Arkansas at Mississippi State; Ole Miss at Florida; LSU at Kentucky; and Vanderbilt at South Carolina.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tennessee leads the series with Auburn, 32-8. Three of the Tigers' wins against the Lady Vols have come at home in 1987, 1989 and 1991. The last win was the SEC tourney in Chattanooga in 1997. Tennessee has since won 16 consecutive games and needed overtime to win in 2004 at home. Three of the last six games were decided by 10 points. … Tennessee is 13-0 in games played on January 25 with seven of those wins coming on the road. The last win on this date was against Vanderbilt, 67-57, in 2007 in Nashville. … Auburn is 6-4 all-time when playing the No. 10 team in the Associated Press poll. The last time Auburn played No. 10 was Jan. 13, 2008, when the Tigers beat Georgia, 82-52. The Tigers beat the Lady Vols, 66-60, on Feb. 8, 1986, when Tennessee was ranked No. 10. … Auburn is 63-1 when scoring 70 or more points in the Nell Fortner era. The only time Auburn has lost when scoring at least 70 points was on Jan. 20, 2005, vs. No. 7 Tennessee, 71-81. When scoring less than 70 points, Auburn is 27-52 during the Fortner era. … BY THE NUMBERS: Tennessee averages 73.2 points per game and allows 62.3 points. Auburn averages 80.5 points and allows 60.1. The Lady Vols are shooting 40.8 percent overall, 34.2 percent from behind the arc and 68.3 percent from the free throw line. The Tigers are shooting 48.3 percent overall, 44.0 percent from behind the arc and 67.6 percent from the line. Tennessee averages 44.8 rebounds per game for a +7.3 margin. Auburn averages 41.5 boards for a +6.4 margin. The Lady Vols average 12.8 assists and 16.4 turnovers a game. The Tigers average 16.5 assists and 15.2 turnovers. Tennessee averages 9.0 steals and 4.9 blocks. Auburn averages 11.1 steals and 5.8 blocks.

RIP KAY YOW: Longtime N.C. State Kay Yow died Saturday morning after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. Yow was a longtime friend of Pat Summitt's and coached with her on the U.S. National Team at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984.

"I was a young coach of 32 when I was asked to coach the 1984 Olympic Team," Summitt said. "When I decided who my number one assistant would be, I knew that I had to choose someone who would be loyal … who knew the game … someone I could trust and someone with great wisdom. When it came time to make that decision, I picked Kay Yow.

"Kay had great wisdom. She had a special way of telling you things that you really didn't want to hear but needed to. Kay was not a ‘yes' woman. She accepted the challenge of helping me to bring home the first gold medal to the United States in women's basketball. It was a daunting task but Kay made it so much easier by helping to relieve the pressure.

"She was an excellent communicator and had such a great rapport with our Olympic players. I learned so much from her on how to better communicate with your players. She definitely always knew the pulse of our team and had a calmness about her that was so settling to me as a young coach trying to bring home the gold while playing in front of the home team USA fans.

"Those memories that I shared with Kay will last a lifetime, and I will always look back at them fondly and think of her."

Summitt, who gave a phone interview with ESPN and whose cracking voice made it clear that she was emotionally upset by the news of Yow's passing, said, "My heart goes out to the Yow family and the N.C. State Wolfpack nation on the passing of a truly remarkable lady and a dear friend in Kay Yow.

"In the two decades she fought the disease, Kay never allowed herself to be victimized by cancer. Kay never pitied herself. Instead, she tried to bring awareness to the horrible disease that was robbing her of her life. Through her foundation in conjunction with the Women's Basketball Coaches Association – The Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, in partnership with The V Foundation for Cancer Research, she did all that she could do to help others. That was just Kay.

"Helping to get the cancer fund off the ground put Kay on a mission. She fought for cancer funding the same way she fought the disease … positive and determined every step of the way.

"Kay was passionate about life and coaching. She was a giver and she gave so much to every life she touched. She made a difference in the lives of so many people, not just the life lessons she shared with her student-athletes at Elon or North Carolina State."

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