Feb. 20, 2013
The Lady Vols welcome the Auburn Tigers to Thompson-Boling Arena Thursday evening for a 7 p.m. ET tipoff. Tennessee then travels to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on the Razorbacks Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Last Time Around
Tennessee meets Auburn for the second time this season after a 75-66 victory in Auburn, Ala., on Jan. 17. But the first go-around wasn't an easy one.
"I thought Auburn played exceptionally well," head coach Holly Warlick said. "We let them have too many second chance points. We did not defend very well and we waited till about the last nine minutes to play and bring a lot of energy. We were really flat for whatever reason. Jasmine Jones got us ignited and then we started playing the way we should be playing. We cannot do that Thursday, we have to come out and play. I do not care what their record is, Auburn is going to play hard against us. We need to play our opponent as hard as we can play."
"I remember we got into a little tight bond in the middle of the second half but we ended up coming back and playing really hard and everyone was making big plays," junior guard Meighan Simmons said. "We really came together as a team and pulled the win out."
The team is ready for the challenges the Lady Tigers will bring Thursday.
"I think they're going to come out with more intensively on the defensive end and make us play fast," Simmons said. "We have to stay composed and make sure we take care of the ball early on, because they can get in your grill and play very good defense. Like I said, we need to take care of the ball, make easy baskets, share the ball, move the ball around, and make sure we get everybody involved."
" They go inside and they have great three point shooters and strong inside play so we are going to have to be really creative in how we are guarding the low post, whether we are going to double, play behind, or front," Warlick said. "We have a challenge ahead of us."
Bring on the Defense
The Lady Vols are averaging 79.2 points per game, while outscoring their opponents by more than 16 points per game. But Warlick wants to see Tennessee step it up on the other side of the ball.
"Well we have to get better, that is the bottom line," Warlick said. "I think they understand and know that so we are going to continue to work on it until it clicks for 40-minutes. We have our moments when we look really good and then we have mental lapses and let downs so we are going to continue to work on it every day."
"It is extremely critical," sophomore forward Cierra Burdick said. "I think it is clear that we can put the ball in the basket and we have the talent with Meighan Simmons, Bashaara Graves and Taber Spani. We can easily put the ball in the basket, but we need to get stops and Missouri is a great example of that. The ball is not going to fall every single night. We need to be able to get stops on the defensive end we have to continue to get better on the defensive side of things and I think we will be pretty good."
UT has focused and emphasized the defensive components of the team's game over the past week.
"It has been 100 percent," Burdick said. "We have not played any offense at all in practice this week. It has really been a defensive mindset and we have really worked to focus on talking and communicating and getting help-side defense. Those have been the emphasis this week."
With sophomore center Isabelle Harrison out since the end of January, the Lady Vols have come together to fill her void.
"I think we have had to step up and do different things," Warlick said. "People have played different positions. You see Kamiko Williams at the four, we would not normally play a guard at the four spot. I think people have had to step up and take up the slack. That is part of a solid team and I think we have done that for the most part. We had to do that with Cierra (Burdick), we had to do that with Andraya Carter went out so it seems like this season we have had to step up and reinvent this team, but they are becoming pretty good at it."
"I am down low for almost the majority of the game now so it is a difference but it is what I played in high school and USA basketball so it is not that big of a transition," Burdick said. "I do have to get used to the physical play down there. Us wing players just stand out there and shoot the ball. We are not really down here getting beat up at the post so I really respect them so much more for that because I am now down there."