Coach Summitt Talks About The Lady Vols Upcoming Games

On Kentucky game on Sunday…

“Our Kentucky game was two very different halves. The first half, we didn’t bring the level of intensity, particularly not getting on the offensive boards. We didn’t shoot the ball well and it is hard to look good when you don’t shoot well and don’t get put-backs. In the second half, it was one of our better games in terms of overall intensity. We picked up our rebounding and did a much better job on both ends of the floor. Our defense got us some easy transition baskets. That is where this team is the most effective - on the open floor. I was pleased with how we played in the last 20 minutes.”

On Mississippi State…

“Going back on the road to Mississippi State, the biggest thing for us is defending the dribble drive. They can break you down and take you off the dribble. That will be a good challenge for us and something we continue to work on daily. We will have to continue to keep people in front of us and work on our defensive boards. From an offensive standpoint, just stay very, very aggressive in the open floor.”

On keeping your Tennessee team focused on Mississippi State…

“We went through a little bit of that at Ole Miss, but managed to keep our intensity. As I continue to tell them, this is more about us and what we have to do and how we play the game and the energy and commitment we bring to get better. We have to become a 40 minute team with a great sense of urgency on each and every possession. That is hard to do sometimes and it has been a little challenging for this team. It is a must for us, but all we can do is talk about it and keep our communication where it needs to be and our commitment where it needs to be.”

On Rutgers…

“It was a very impressive win for Rutgers last night (against Connecticut), seeing the level of intensity that they brought. I thought they executed well when they had to. They were very tough-minded down the stretch in that Connecticut game. The fact that they are coming here and it is a rematch of the NCAA Championship game in Cleveland, and them coming off of a big win, I’m sure they are looking forward to this game. It should be a great environment and a big test for us.”

On Rutgers’ Kia Vaughn…

“After watching her play last year and her game this year, I think Kia has really improved. She has established herself as a go-to player. Especially her physical play and touch around the basket. To me she is definitely a player that has anchored the inside game for Rutgers and has been a big part of the success that they have had. Last night, she held her own against a team that has size and athleticism in the paint. I was very impressed with her play.”

On the possibility of being ranked No. 1 on Monday going into the Rutgers game…

“We have to take care of business on the road at Mississippi State. Hopefully we’ll be inspired and ready to do so. I hadn’t really thought about it. The fact that Rutgers won last night and upset the No. 1 team in the country, that certainly will generate even more excitement for our fans and for women’s basketball fans. If in fact we do go in as the No. 1 team, there will be a lot of people that will tune in and watch that game with tremendous interest. I am hoping we can sell the place out. I thought about it last night when that game was over, if nothing else, maybe we can create an even more exciting environment and get a sellout.”

On the importance of rivalries…

“I think they are all great for the game. It needs to be more than two schools or four schools. The more match-ups that bring national attention and national television exposure, helps us to promote the interest in women’s basketball and continues to excite people to watch. The TV exposure has expanded over the years and that has been tremendous. With TV, there has been a lot of strategic planning in getting key match-ups to have that type of exposure nationally and to help promote our game. I think that is significant in the increased level of interest throughout the country for women’s basketball.”

Are your fans partial to certain rivalries…

“To have a rival that is longstanding is good. For example, we had over 19,000 fans for the Kentucky game last week. For our fans, it is about the SEC opponents. North Carolina coming in earlier in the year, Rutgers next week, and LSU around the corner. Fans are much more educated now and our fans take a lot of interest in making sure they are at the games that they know will be big games and SEC games as well.”

On Rutgers’ coach C. Vivian Stringer…

“Vivian and I are great friends and I have tremendous respect for her. I was very disappointed with what was said (Don Imus comments) after the game last year. We talk a lot. It’s not like we have to play each other two times each year or we don’t always match-up in postseason – it seems like we have a lot, though. I have tremendous respect for Vivian’s passion to promote the game. She is a great teacher of the game and a great competitor. Sometimes it is a little more challenging if someone on the other bench is one of your dearest friends in the game, but she and I know that come game time - it is all business. After that, we can talk about it. We do talk a lot about the game and as I said, we’ve become very good friends.”

On knowing the opponent is a worthy one and that it’ll be a great game…

“Anytime we play Rutgers, I expect it to be a great game and I expect both teams to compete and leave it all on the court. Those are the kinds of games that you look forward to as coaches, as players and as spectators. I am excited that we have this match-up - it is so healthy for us and for the game to put both of these programs on the court with a big stage to continue to compete. They make us better, hopefully we make them better. The ultimate goal is to win national championships and you can’t do that unless you prepare your teams by playing the best and I view Rutgers as one of the very best in the game.”

On frustration and challenges of getting teams to return to the Final Four…

“One of the hardest things to do after winning a championship or being in the championship game is to come back and have your players have the same sense of urgency. Sometimes I feel our players are waiting for post-season and that we pick and choose when we play hard. It is very frustrating for coaches, because once you see your team at that level, you won’t lower the bar, you’ll raise it. I know in talking to Vivian, it can be very, very challenging, because they are waiting at times for post season. They don’t see a great need to improve daily – I’m speaking for my own team, certainly not her team. In general, I’ve seen this from teams and talked to coaches who have been in this situation. I feel like I have to motivate rather than teach sometimes, and I prefer to be a teacher.

On advising coach Stringer how to deal with repeating success…

“We have talked; as a matter of fact I talked with her after her win against Connecticut last night. I know Vivian is proud of her team, but at the same time, we are going through very similar situations. Again, it is hard to dial them up when they feel like they are giving their all. Sometimes players think they are giving their absolute best, but as coaches it is our job to bring out the best in them, to motivate and inspire them to do and give more. I know we are going through similar situations. We’ve talked a little bit about it, but not at length. When you have the level of success that these two programs had last year, it is sometimes more challenging the following year.”

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Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer will be at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on Sun., Feb. 10 to kick off the Hall of Fame’s Basketball Collection event, “Get Kids in the Game,” with a one-hour autograph session (5:30-6:30 p.m.). Anyone who donates a basketball to the “Get Kids in the Game” initiative during that hour will have the opportunity to get an autograph from the two Hall of Fame coaches.

The Basketball Collection Event, which is a team effort of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, World Vision, University of Tennessee Women’s Athletics and WIVK, will run from 1-7 p.m. on Sun., Feb. 10 and 7 a.m.- 7 p.m. on Mon., Feb. 11. Individuals are invited to donate new or gently used basketballs for World Vision to distribute to children that do not have access to recreational equipment around the world. Each person who donates a basketball will receive a special $4.00 admission rate to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Baden basketballs can be purchased on site at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame or a monetary donation can be made and basketballs will be purchased and donated in your name.

Coach Summitt and Coach Stringer were inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and 2001, respectively. Their teams met in the 2007 National Championship game and will meet for a rematch in ESPN’s “Big Monday” game at Thompson Boling Arena on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. To cap off the Basketball collection, Baden Sports has agreed to donate one basketball for every point scored during the Tennessee/Rutgers game.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. The “Get Kids in the Game” program, which is fashioned after the success of the World Vision’s soccer ball donation program called “Get a Kick Out of Sharing, ” is an effort to obtain donations of basketballs that will go to children in the United States and around the world.

Your donations will help get kids in the game so they can shoot for hope! World Vision has set a multi-year goal of collecting 250,000 basketballs. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame has set a goal of 2,000 basketballs from the state of Tennessee to add to that cause.

"Knoxville is known as a hotbed of women's basketball with the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the University of Tennessee,” said Mike Lane, who manages World Vision’s “Get Kids in the Game” effort. “We are delighted for the opportunity to partner with both organizations, as well as with WIVK, and the schools in the state of Tennessee to bring great joy to children by providing them with basketballs so they can share in the joy of basketball.”

WIVK will be hosting live remotes Monday from the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, starting with Andy and Alison (WIVK, 107.7) from 6-10 a.m. and ending with Sports Animal (WNML, 99.3/99.1 FM, 990 AM) from 3-7 p.m. Listen to WIVK and the Sports Animal or call (865) 633-9000 for more information.

Discover the past, present and future of women's basketball at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, the world’s only hall of fame dedicated solely to the accomplishments of women’s basketball.

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On Monday, February 11, 2008 Thompson-Bowling Arena will be filled with pink when the #2 Lady Vols host the #4 Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The game is part of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s 2008 Think Pink campaign aimed at raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.

“We’re so excited at the opportunity to be able to promote such an important cause during a game with such a national spotlight,” said Pat Summitt, head coach for the Lady Vol basketball program. “This game is going to give us such a great audience to show the nation that not only Lady Vol fans, but East Tennesseans, support Breast Cancer Awareness.”

As part of the event, the UT Medical Center Mobile Mammography Unit will be on site providing mammograms from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Call 544-9629 to schedule an appointment.

UT coaches Pat Summitt and her staff, along with Bruce Pearl and C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers have kissed and autographed “Kiss for the Cure” cards that will be auctioned off at halftime. Funds raised during the auction will be donated to local organizations that work with cancer patients.

“We are encouraging all fans to ‘Think Pink’ that night,” said Joan Cronan, women’s athletics director. “When you head to Thompson-Boling Arena Monday night, don’t forget to wear your pink.”

Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with breast cancer; and every 13 minutes a woman will die from breast cancer in the United States. This year around 2,030 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer; and of those more than 450 will die. Together the WBCA, UT Lady Vols, Knoxville Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Mary Kay Cosmetics is doing their part to make others aware and contribute to breast cancer research to bring scientists one step closer to finding a cure.

To be part of the largest women’s basketball crowd to show their support for breast cancer awareness visit the Thompson-Boling Arena ticket office, or call (800) 332-VOLS or (865) 656-1200; you can also purchase and print your tickets anytime at www.utladyvols.com.

Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information


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