Women's Basketball SEC Tournament vs. Mississippi State (copy)

#15, Cheridene Green defends against #15, Teaira McCowan from Mississippi State during the SEC Tournament against Mississippi State on Friday March 8, 2019 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. 

The Tennessee women’s basketball team wrapped up a largely forgettable season on Saturday afternoon with a loss to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was just the team’s second first round loss in history, and the first since 2009.

The Lady Vols finished 19-13, posting a 7-9 record in conference play. It’s the first time since 1985 they have had less than 20 wins. Here are the final grades from the season as a whole:

Backcourt

The guard play from Tennessee this year has been inconsistent, to say the least. Evina Westbrook is tied for the lead in points, averaging 14.9 per game, but her play was streaky. In the past five games, she failed to reach double-digit scoring in three of them.

She also amassed a total of 101 turnovers. The guards were responsible for 285 of the team’s 509 turnovers for the season. They did manage 360 assists, though.

Outside of Westbrook, contributions from the guards were negligible at times. Meme Jackson, a senior leader on the team, managed just around 11 points per game. She was the only other guard to average in double figures.

Though Tennessee likes to play inside out, it should have gotten more meaningful play from one of its more veteran, and talented, groups.

Grade: D

Frontcourt

Rennia Davis is arguably Tennessee’s best player, and it showed to close the season. She finished the past 13 games scoring in double figures, averaging 17.5 points per game during that stretch.

Cheridene Green was a force in the paint, especially in regards to rebounding. She pulled down over 10 boards 11 times this season, and led the team in that category with 244 total rebounds. Outside of this pair, though, contributions from the rest of the frontcourt were sporadic.

Freshman Mimi Collins finished the year well, scoring in double-digits in three of the past six games. She also showed versatility, hitting quite a few 3-point shots in clutch moments this year.

The frontcourt was certainly the strongest part of this Lady Vols team, though it only had a couple of consistent players.

Grade: B

Offense

The Lady Vols finished third in the conference in points per game, averaging 74.6. There was a time early in the season when they averaged over 80 points per game, and were top 10 in the entire nation.

They scored above 75 points on nine occasions before conference play began, including three instances in which they scored above 90 points. They only reached that margin four times in conference play, without breaking the 90 point barrier.

The team’s offensive efficiency trailed off when the quality of the opponents started to increase. The offense tended to go completely stagnant at times, allowing opponents to make a large run to put the game away.

Though when the offense clicked, it looked like one of the best in the nation, those moments of stagnation really ended up dooming Tennessee.

Grade: C-

Defense

The pride of Tennessee to start the season was its defense. That was the area that players and coaches alike boasted the most on, and all claimed that they would play with a defense-first mentality.

And for the most part, it didn’t live up to the billing.

Though it got off to a hot start, holding the first three opponents under 50 points, it tended to shrink away when the competition got tougher. The Lady Vols allowed around 69 points per game, which is good for 260th in the nation.

Additionally, they allowed opponents a 41.5-percent shooting clip, the 250th worst mark in the nation. They also occupied the 186th spot in the nation in turnovers forced, with about 15 per game.

The only redeeming factor for the defense was Tennessee’s rebounding efforts. They finished 12th in the nation in that category, with an average of 43.0 rebounds per game.

Grade: D+

Bench

With only 11 players healthy this season, the Lady Vols barely had enough players for a consistent rotation. This means that the players coming off of the bench would have to provide some quality minutes.

The bench did not live up to the call. The reserve players combined for just 17.9 points per game. Collins was the most prolific player off of the bench, and she even earned a starting spot near the end of the season.

She averaged 5.5 points per game. The bench players also turned the ball over 135 times, compared to just 74 assists. With such a thin team, the bench needed to be significantly better than it was.

Grade: D

Coaching

Head coach Holly Warlick was fired on Wednesday after seven years at the helm of the program. That should say enough about the state of the coaching staff this season.

Though youth might play into it, the Lady Vols never really responded well from adversity. It seemed as if the team got worse as the year went on, instead of the normal improvement that tends to happen as a season unfolds.

At times, the team looked uninspired, and played with minimal effort. All of this reflects poorly on the coaching staff.

Grade: D

Overall

A case could be made that this is the worst season in Tennessee history. A lot of history was made, and almost none of it was positive. The six game losing streak tied for worst in the team’s history.

This was the first season since the team’s inception that it had a losing record in conference play. Though they made the tournament, the Lady Vols were on the bubble for a large part of the year. For the first time in team history, they lost to Missouri and Vanderbilt at home.

The list of negatives goes on and on, and there really is not much to redeem it.

Grade: F

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