Knoxville, Tenn. ((WVLT)— Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick met with members of the media on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's road match-up between the No. 20/17 Lady Vols (12-4, 1-3 SEC) and Alabama (9-8, 1-3 SEC). Tip-off is slated for 8:02 p.m. CT (9:02 ET) at Coleman Coliseum, with the game being carried by the SEC Network and the Lady Vol Radio Network.
The Lady Vols and Crimson Tide both come into the game hoping to get back on the winning track. UT has lost its last three contests to Missouri (66-64), Kentucky (73-71) and Georgia (66-62) by a combined total of eight points. The Crimson Tide enters Thursday night's match-up having lost its last three contests and four of its past five.
This marks the 56th meeting between these programs, with Alabama holding a four-game winning streak over the Lady Vols and taking the past two games in Tuscaloosa. The Lady Vols, however, lead the series, 49-6.
Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick:
On getting back on track:
"Our defense has to step up and be more consistent. We need to finish layups in traffic and really get focused a little bit more, things we will just continue to work on."
On the confidence of the young team:
"I worry about them refocusing. We are going to make mistakes, but we have to learn to regroup and really concentrate on what is getting ready to happen. I think this group dwells on what just happened instead of putting it behind them and getting motivated on what we need to do moving forward."
On talking to her team about confidence:
"We have (talked to them), but I mainly have talked about our ability to defend and really committing on the defensive end. I think our defense spurs a lot of action for us; it helps us get easy layups. It gives us energy, and when we get down and commit to the defensive end it feels like we are a better basketball team."
On if the team will continue to primarily play zone:
"We are going to mix it up more, but our kids are confident with the zone. We have to get back to playing one-on-one, and this gives us a chance to get back as a group. We are going to continue to work on our one-on-one defense. It has to get better."
On if the team is player-led:
"Our leaders are young. I still have to step up at times. Evina (Westbrook) and Rennia (Davis) step up at times, and Meme (Jackson) needs to be more consistent. That just comes with experience as they continue to play. They are going to develop more experience and gain more trust as they continue together."
On who steps up during momentum swings:
"I would love the players to step up and say, 'We are okay, let's go,' but I feel the need to do that as well. If a few could do that, it would be great. At times we do, but it is hard to refocus and get your whole group ready. We are capable of doing that; we just have to be more consistent."
On how important tempo is to the team:
"When we got ahead (last game) and we fought back, our defense spurred a lot of that. Then we went down, got a shot blocked, missed some layups and it plays with our mind a little bit. Make defense a priority, and that in turn for us makes easy shots, which gets our momentum going."
On what makes Alabama tough to play:
"They are big and athletic. I think this team is very respectful of Alabama since we have not beaten them in four times now. Alabama gets up to play us, as everyone does, and we have to match that intensity. We have to come out and treat Alabama like they are everyone else. Why wouldn't we? They win games, they are a solid basketball team, and we have to come to play."
On what impresses her about Alabama:
"They have a kid from junior college that can shoot the ball really well. They are an offensive threat, they penetrate, and they are really quick, athletic kids. So, our job is to keep them in front of us and that has been something that has been hard for us to do this year."
On what caused the team's shooting slump last game:
"I think it was the things we were not doing on the defensive end. That triggered the whole thing. At the end of the third quarter they threw it out to a kid, and she hit a 3-pointer. I just think we let up on the defensive end and then, in turn, it affected our offense. Then we stopped going to the boards, so it was a combination of a bunch of things. One thing seemed to trigger a lot of other things, and that is where we have to learn to refocus. We have to stay in the moment and understand what we have been doing so well that got us where we were."
On finishing shots:
"Half of the shots we took were shots we should have made, and half were contested. We have to go up strong, and when we aren't comfortable, we need to dribble the ball back out. We let their defense affect our shooting, and we can't do that."
On ball movement:
"I thought we got stagnant in our offense. I thought it went well throughout the game, but in the third quarter I think we just stopped attacking the basket."
On playing through emotions:
"We will continue to practice on the things that we need to work on. We have to stay in the moment and stay focused. We are going to continue to talk about that. It is a 40-minute game, and there are going to be runs. We need to answer those runs, and there is going to be a time when we go down and we need to comeback. I keep saying defense and rebounding can solve a lot of problems."
On the past couple of days:
"We had to take off Monday because we have to take a day off (per NCAA rules), but I thought we had a solid practice yesterday. We will see how they do today, and we are going to continue to go hard and not let up. I hope they retain what we teach them from practice to the court. At times we are really good practice players, and we haven't carried it onto the court."
On similarities from last year:
"In comparison to last year, we probably are going through the same thing. We are losing by two, two and four, so as long as we keep learning from this then we will be fine. I understand our confidence might be down, but the only way to get it back up is to get back out here on the basketball court and work hard on defense, work hard on your free throws. And they have done that. I think you will see a different team. They had a good practice yesterday, they are focused today, and when they do that they are a solid basketball team."