KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- With the disappointment of losses to No. 3 Baylor and No. 1 Stanford still weighing heavily on the minds of coaches and players, No. 13/15 Tennessee (7-3) got back to work on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27 in preparation for back-to-back home games with Davidson (4-6)and Rutgers (8-3) on Friday and Sunday.
“The effort we played with against Stanford was unacceptable,” UT Head Coach Holly Warlick said. “It wasn’t about the loss, it was just how we played. You come to play every day, every game as hard as you can, and I thought we didn’t play as hard as we could.”
While the Lady Vols are focused on their upcoming opponents, they also watched game video and took a look in the mirror. The consensus is that two of the program’s calling cards, aggressive defense and relentless rebounding, were not on consistent display in UT’s recent setbacks. As a result, the focus in practices following the break has been on those two areas.
“I think our problem was defense and rebounding, so yesterday (Wednesday practice), we didn’t touch a basketball, as far as our offense. If we’d had practice players here, we wouldn’t have at all. I think the importance of our defense, trusting that if I put pressure on the ball I’m going to have help, finishing the play with a rebound – we didn’t do those things at all against Stanford.
“We can be a great shooting team one night and not the shoot the ball well the next night, but you can always have your defense and rebounding. Always. That should be a staple here at Tennessee.”
Sophomore center Isabelle Harrison said the effects of the Stanford game are still with the team, but she agreed the pair of upcoming contests will allow the team chances to apply lessons learned in live action.
“Definitely, and especially since they are here in TBA (Thompson-Boling Arena), so we can get back into the flow of things, just feel comfortable with our game and get that confidence back up that we built (earlier in the season). I am just really glad we have two chances to play here and show what we learned.”
While the tough schedule resulted in Tennessee taking its lumps in a couple of games, sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale said the losses also provide opportunities for growth as the team pushes ahead into the conference schedule and, later, postseason.
“Playing teams like that early show us where we are, what we need to work on and what we need to do to be a top-five team in the country,” Massengale said. “I think it was a good test for us, being such a young team.
“We had a team meeting yesterday. We just need to get back to the basics and fundamentals and do what we are capable of doing.”
The Lady Vols will have a chance to do just that, as they face Davidson at 7 p.m. on Friday, while Tennessee tangles with Rutgers at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The contest vs. Davidson will be streamed lived on UTSports.com, while the Rutgers game will be broadcast by SportSouth.
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