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Tennessee Lady Vols learn it's not easy being defending champs

January 12, 2009 |  6:45 pm

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt listens to freshman guard Briana Bass during a timeout in Sunday's game against Vanderbilt.

The Tennessee Lady Vols keep dropping in the Associated Press poll, falling to 13th in the latest one -- their lowest ranking in 23 years. (They dropped to 15th in 1986.) Today's slide was the result of a loss to Vanderbilt on Sunday, 74-58.

Perhaps here is the positive to take away from this. What other woman coach from any sport gets the media's attention for as long as Tennessee's Pat Summitt has? Then again, Tennessee is the defending NCAA champion.

Summitt, though, has a lot of teaching to do this season, now that she doesn't have Candace Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle, Shannon Bobbitt or Nicky Anosike. That teaching includes trying to get sophomore guard Angie Bjorklund to take charge of the floor, to dominate the opponent.

On Sunday, the talented Bjorklund struggled, and ended up with only 5 points in 36 minutes.

A week ago, Tennessee was playing Rutgers and found itself trailing by 20 points at the half. What would Summitt say to her players at halftime? Well, CBS showed what she said in the locker room. And it included her calling out Bjorkland for not shooting enough.

The Lady Vols came out strong in the second half of that game, eventually grabbing the lead and winning the game in the closing seconds. Bjorkland ended up with 12 points, a steal and a blocked shot in 33 minutes, much of it coming on her improved play in that second half. No doubt, the Vols' resurgence left Rutgers' head coach Vivian Stringer frustrated.

Yet how many of those halftime speeches does Summitt have in her back pocket? Here is a video profile of the team by SEC-TV shot before the season started. It could be a long season, or at least a bumpy one.

-- Debbie Goffa

Photo: Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt listens to freshman guard Briana Bass during a timeout in Sunday's game against Vanderbilt. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press

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