Lady Vols ready for SEC play

Tennessee opens up league play Thursday at No. 18 South Carolina.

Knoxville, TN - November 25, 2012: guard Meighan Simmons #10 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers during the game between Alcorn State Lady Braves and the Tennessee Lady Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- Coming off two wins at Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee kicks off the new year on the road at South Carolina for the beginning of Southeastern Conference action.

"I loved our intensity (in the Rutgers game)," head coach Holly Warlick said. "If we bring the intensity like we did on the defensive end like I know we can, it's exciting."

"It's a grueling conference. It's a conference that we have to come ready to play every night. To open up at South Carolina there, and then to come back and play Georgia...it's a tough road, but we started out the year sort of the same with three of our four games on the road so our pre-conference schedule will help us."

The Lady Vols will start league play without sophomore forward Cierra Burdick who fractured her fourth metacarpal in her shooting hand on Dec. 31, but UT will have Jasmine Phillips back in the lineup.

Tennessee has had steady results from freshman Bashaara Graves, who just earned her third SEC Freshman of the Week honor after posting her sixth career double-double against Rutgers.

"Anybody that comes to Tennessee, especially the freshmen, they come in hungry," junior guard Meighan Simmons said. "I'm not surprised, I think she's (Graves) doing an amazing job. She works hard. She gives 110 percent every day in practice. She's a silent assassin. She doesn't say much or try to have any confrontation. She just works. I think that's really what has helped her this year."

"I have to be tough," Graves said. "You're in Division I basketball and you're in the hardest conference, so you have to deal with things that like. I think I'm ready for that and conference play."

UT faces the Gamecocks at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 3, in Columbia. The game will be broadcast on SportsSouth and streamed on ESPN3.

"It's an opportunity for us to come out and play South Carolin tough there," Warlick said. "They beat us here last year. If somebody thinks going to South Carolina is a pushover, they're crazy. They have the mindset of their coach and play with heart."


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