Jan. 15, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- On the heels of an 11-point loss at Vanderbilt last Sunday, the #12/10 Lady Vol basketball team (13-3/2-2 SEC) hits the road to take on Mississippi State (14-3/1-2 SEC) in Starkville on Thursday night. CSS will have the telecast at 9 p.m. ET/8 CT, and ESPN3 will provide the stream live on the internet.
LEARNING FROM MISTAKES
Coming off the team's third loss of the season, Tennessee is focusing on improving three aspects of the Lady Vols' game.
"We [talked] about keeping people out of the paint, and communication," Warlick said. "I want communication, I want to get ball pressure and I want to improve our one-on-one defense. Those three things - I think if we can improve those three things we'll have a chance."
Warlick has commended this year's team on great practices, but translating those practices into great games has been a battle.
"I think we've had two great practices (this week) and this is one of the best practice teams I've ever been around," Warlick said. "I think their putting in the time."
"I think there's a disconnect from the practice to the game and maybe between us and that's just something we have to continue to work on. Put them in more game situations - we've been doing that but just stick them in more game situations. I'm going to focus more on our point guards and try to get them a little more prepared for the game, and rely on them to make a little bit more decisions. Calls, defensive calls, what they see, what would work. That doesn't mean I'm going to take it but they're on the floor. They may see things that I don't see."
HANDLING A LOSS
Losing is sometimes looked at as a foreign concept with the Lady Vol program's history. But with each loss, the team and players learn something new.
"I just think you've got to stay on them and you've got to just keep demanding what you want," Warlick said. "Eventually it's going to click. This program was built on rebounding and defense and that's what we have to be solid on. Our offense for the most part is pretty good outside of missing layups and free throws but we've got to make the other end important and we've got to make rebounding a priority as well."
Suffering a loss to an in-state rival has stung the team, but Warlick has directed her squad with tough love and going back to fundamentals.
"I just think you get buy-in from players and if they don't do it, you sit them down and so sometimes it's a little tough love," Warlick said. "That's what I feel and that's how I feel. You've just got to keep working at it and going back to the drawing board and just going back to fundamentals and basics and that's what we've done really the last two days."
Despite the three losses, the coaching staff is still demanding excellence from all 11 donning the Orange & White.
"I think they're hard on themselves," Warlick said. "I think they see how hard we take it and they know what they need to do now whether they do it or not - they are basketball savvy and they are basketball smart. They know what they should've done and what they didn't do. As long as these losses are learning experiences and can help us be a better team, then we'll take it."
STEPPING UP TO LEAD
As the lone senior on this year's squad, Meighan Simmons carries the weight for the team.
"I think Meighan is putting pressure on herself because she's a senior and she wants this team to do so well," Warlick said. "If you look at Meighan and her games, I think a lot of people say she isn't a team player. But if you look at our games, you see her passing the ball and getting in the offensive flow more. I have a lot of respect for Meighan, what she's going through, how she's leading and what she's trying to do with this team."
"I think the leaders that we have understand that they can't take days off. Izzy's (Harrison) our emotional leader inside and she can't get into foul trouble. (Ariel) Massengale can't have the game that she has and I think she understands that. Like it or not, that's what comes with leadership and being in that position, so I think they pretty much understand their role and how valuable it is to the team now."
Everyone on the team, not just the players, is learning to lead in their respective roles.
"It's a learning experience for me," Warlick said. "It's the second year, a year and a half being a head coach and I learn on a daily basis, I learn every game and hopefully I'll be prepared to just keep preparing for the future. I think that's what they're doing too. I think it's all a learning experience and if we can learn from it and not dwell on it but learn from it and move ahead I think we'll be fine."