Freshman Evina Westbrook and Head Coach Holly Warlick met with members of the media prior to No. 7/7 Tennessee's practice on Wednesday. The Lady Vols (13-0, 1-0 SEC) are preparing for their SEC home opener against Auburn (10-3, 1-0 SEC) on Thursday.
Answering questions from the media, Westbrook shared her thoughts on what has prompted her recent increase in scoring and how she has adjusted to college basketball. Warlick's answers included discussion on how the team is preparing for Auburn's press and what returning player she feels has elevated her game the most this season.
Tennessee will host Auburn at 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena. The game is available for viewing online via SECN+.
Head Coach Holly Warlick
On what she expects from Auburn based on last year's game:
"Auburn is a pressing, active-zone team. They're difficult to play. (Last year) we got up by 20, and then we relaxed, and then they made a swing and beat us by 20. It's a four-quarter game, and we played great one quarter and held on the second quarter down there, and then in the third and the fourth we were not very good. I don't think any lead against Auburn is comfortable. We've got to turn people over, we've got to take care of the ball, and we've got to move the ball and attack their press. (Those are) things we've been working on, so I think we're going to be ready for them."
On if the team will go over what went wrong in last year's game against Auburn:
"Absolutely. That's Auburn, that's their style. We'll talk about their style and how they disrupted us. They said we got tired down there, so we're going to bring that up. We're going to have to be in good condition because when you get pressed for 40 minutes, it takes a toll on you. We're going to have to be ready and have everyone ready, and I think the biggest thing for us is taking care of the basketball."
On addressing the turnovers from Kentucky:
"I thought we made some passes that were more difficult than we needed. We can't make soft passes against Auburn, that's going to be a steal as well. It has to be a deliberate, on-the-money pass. We did some things in Kentucky that we haven't been doing, and we've watched it. We'll correct it, and we'll have a better outcome against Auburn."
On how freshmen guards will handle the press:
"Our guards have handled the pressure (thus far). They've handled the pressure, so we've got the ability to dribble through a press. We've got the ability to pass. I think they're intelligent. We've worked on it, we've worked on it all year. They're prepared, and the great thing is they don't have to break it on their own. We're trying to get people in spots where we can break it and attack."
On Auburn's style of play:
"I think they score a lot out of their defense. For us, we want to get them to play in a half-court offense. They've got a freshman inside who is really doing well and rebounding the ball well. (They have) guards that can attack. If we can get them in a half-court game, I think that would be great for us."
On how much fun the team is having:
"They've had a lot of fun. Winning is fun. They're playing hard, and they're playing together. Any time you have a great feel for each other on the court, it is fun. They're college students – sometimes they want to practice, sometimes they don't. But they're extremely competitive, and that's what I love about them. When game time comes they're ready to play, and they're focused. The freshmen are in tune, and that's a tribute to the upperclassmen. They love to play, and I know they're going to be extremely excited to get back in here and play in front of the home crowd."
On who she feels is the most improved returning player:
"Probably Meme Jackson (is the most improved returning player). Meme was used sparingly last year and was inconsistent. I think Meme has elevated her game. She's elevated her confidence; she's elevated her leadership. I think we play a lot off her energy, so I've just been really proud of what Meme has done and the consistency she's had. That's from being consistent in practice. She has played really, really hard in practice, and that's carried over into her game."
Freshman Guard Evina Westbrook
On recent increase in scoring:
"It's really just looking for my shot. If the defense is going to leave me open, I'm going to look for my shot as well. My primary focus as a point guard is to get the team started, but at the same time I have to look for my own shot, so it's just a combination of both."
On her biggest adjustment from high school to college:
"I would say (the biggest difference is) the pace of the game and the intensity and really just the IQ of basketball players all around. My team has a great IQ, and we're all learning so well how to play together. It's been amazing so far."
On figuring out her role was on this team:
"I think I kind of knew, honestly, from the first practice what my role was going to be, so I really just had to adjust from there. It really makes the games a lot easier."
On if she's surprised to be undefeated this far into the season:
"(I'm) not really (surprised). We've worked really hard to get to where we are, and we just have to continue working."
On finding areas to improve upon even at 13-0:
"Our coaches put it into our head every day that we have to stay humble and hungry. We have to work even harder than before because we have a huge target on our back being 13-0. We just have to keep up the intensity and maintain being humble at all times."
On her first SEC game:
"I loved it. How many fans we had – the fans that we have are amazingly crazy. Over the break we've had so many fans come out and support us, and I love it. It really does impact us."
On preparation for Auburn:
"We worked a lot on their pressing yesterday and all their trapping and those sorts of things that they do. We're definitely getting prepared, and I think we'll be fine… Teams are going to have their ups and downs, but at the same time, we just have to remain level headed."
On the camaraderie on the team:
"I think we all really enjoy playing with each other. You can just kind of tell with how we interact with each other on the bench or on the court. The chemistry is just there."
On how much fun the season has been thus far:
"Personally, I'm having so much fun. Right now, I just love coming to practice and then in a couple days, playing a game. I think everyone else feels the same. We're around each other 24/7, and I love it… This is my favorite part of the year. We come in and just hoop, and that's it."
On how Tennessee attracted three Oregon players:
"I don't know what it is (about Tennessee), but obviously it's something because there are three of us on the team. Honestly, I think the fan base has a lot to do with it, just showing how much the fans care for us and how they show their love for women's basketball. Looking back in the past years, there have been a lot of players coming from Oregon, but I think that just comes back to the history of this school."