No. 4 Tennessee focusing on defense, rebounding

Sure, Tennessee had its best shooting performance of the season

in its Southeastern Conference tournament championship win over

Kentucky. That doesn’t mean coach Pat Summitt is completely happy

with how her team played.

The fourth-ranked Lady Volunteers returned to practice this week

with an extra focus on defense and rebounding, the things Summitt

says can get them to an NCAA championship.

”That was a pretty outstanding display of offense,” Summitt

said. ”You’re always trying to find something to get their

attention. When I watched the film I didn’t have any problems

finding out that we were not very good with our defense and we

didn’t rebound the ball.

”We let our offense get the best of us.”

Tennessee (31-2) shot a season-best 56.4 percent from the floor

and hit an SEC tournament and school record 16 3-pointers in a

90-65 win against No. 16 Kentucky in the title game on Sunday.

The victory all but guaranteed the Lady Vols will receive their

21st No. 1 seed when the NCAA bracket is announced on Monday. But

as they learned last season after losing in the reginonal

semifinals to Baylor, a top seed doesn’t guarantee a trip to the

Final Four.

The chance to play for a national championship will only come

from stingy defense and a tough rebounding effort, the kind that

can mask any offensive struggles Tennessee might have.

Despite having a size advantage against Kentucky, the Lady Vols

were outrebounded by the Wildcats 46-41 – only the second time

they’d been outrebounded all season. Tennessee did manage to limit

Kentucky to 27.3 percent shooting, but the Wildcats slipped by the

Lady Vols a few times for some easy layups.

”We want to make sure that they understand that on a given

night when you don’t shoot well, you have to be very focused while

playing great defense,” Summitt said. ”With that said, we’ll go

in and start and look at our lack of commitment on the defense end.

We’ll start with the bad and get with the good. We did a lot of

good things in the tournament.”

Among the good things Tennessee did was shoot 53.1 percent and

beat its three opponents by an average 22 points per game. The Lady

Vols limited their opponents to an average 34.8 percent shooting,

but Florida hit 44 percent of its shots, the best any team has done

against Tennessee all season except for Virginia.

Couple that with 18 turnovers against the Gators and 22 against

Kentucky and a plus-1.7 rebounding margin – a poor showing by a

team that usually outrebounds its opponents by double digits – and

the Lady Vols know they’ve got some work to do before they host

their first-round game on March 19 in Knoxville.

Starting forward Glory Johnson is the lone post player who has

been playing well. The junior averaged 15.3 points and a

team-leading 9.7 rebounds during the tournament.

Fellow starting forward Alyssia Brewer averaged just 5.3 points

and 2.7 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game while center Kelley Cain

had three points and 2.7 rebounds in 13 minutes per game. Forward

Vicki Baugh played limited minutes during the tournament while

resting her surgically reconstructed knee.

”We have to make sure that we are doing a better job overall

playing defense,” Summitt said. ”If Kelley Cain is healthy, and

that’s been a big if for us, that gives us a lot of size in the

post game. We cannot depend on Glory Johnson all the time, and if

we have Vicki Baugh and Lyssi and Kelley, I think we have the

biggest post game in the country.”