For Tennessee, there is still plenty of basketball to be played. That is why we shouldn’t think the ship has been righted at this point.
But for now, the Lady Vols have found an answer to that disastrous six-game losing skid. Over a week ago, Tennessee was knocking on the door of irrelevancy, but all of the sudden, they’ve managed an impressive three-game win streak, starting with LSU and then followed by double digit wins over Florida and Vanderbilt this past week.
As the Lady Vols (15-7, 4-5 SEC) get set for a road showdown at No. 6 Mississippi State (21-2, 9-0 SEC), here is a look back at how Tennessee performed in their last two outings:
The unit has been much improved in the last two games, especially since the Lady Vols are finding other ways to score outside of sophomore guard Evina Westbrook.
While Westbrook led the group in scoring with eight points versus Florida, senior guard Meme Jackson, who was sidelined for two and a half games, came through with 17 points against Vanderbilt on Sunday.
Freshman guard Zaay Green, who scored in double figures versus Notre Dame (19) and LSU (10) only scored seven versus the Commodores, but made up for it in rebounds where she was second on the team with 11.
Westbrook still remains the biggest factor as far as the backcourt is concerned, but Tennessee’s recent success should be attributed to more improved and consistent guard play.
Turnovers are still an area of concern, however. Guards committed seven of the 11 total turnovers against Vanderbilt after giving up just four against Florida.
Rennia Davis is back. Plus, the production out of senior forward Cheridene Green, sophomore center Kasiyahna Kushkituah and freshman center Mimi Collins has been paramount as of late for Tennessee.
Davis suffered through an obvious slump during the Lady Vols’ rough stretch, but has seemingly snapped out of it. The sophomore has had back-to-back-to-back double digit scoring games, including 19 versus Florida and 17 against Vanderbilt.
Even more impressive as of late has been Green, who earned her fourth double-double of the season against the Gators with 10 rebounds and 15 points. Green has also recorded seven double-digit rebounds in the last eight games.
Tennessee led wire-to-wire against Florida, and although the Gators hung around, the game was never seriously in doubt as the Lady Vols cruised to a 67-50 win, their largest margin of victory since beating Murray State, 98-77 back on December 28.
Versus Vanderbilt, Tennessee trailed early and needed a timeout after a sloppy start before grabbing the lead and never relinquishing it in the 82-65 win.
In both games, the offense wasn’t exactly a juggernaut. From the field, Tennessee was 26-of-58 against Florida, and didn’t fare much better versus Vanderbilt at 29-of-76.
Rebounding, second-chance points, points in the paint and 80-percent free throw shooting in both games were huge, but the Lady Vols are going to need find a rhythm on the offensive end going forward.
The defense dominated in each of the last two games, out-rebounding Florida’s offense, 37-22 and Vanderbilt’s 33-25.
From beyond the arc, Tennessee held a Gators team known for their three-point shot to 6-of-26 and followed it up by holding the Commodores to 3-of-8, which should come as a welcome sign to head coach Holly Warlick after the Lady Vols defense struggled to defend that point throughout most of the season.
Tennessee didn’t force as many turnovers as they had previously (only eight versus Florida), but they scored 18 points off of 12 Vanderbilt turnovers on Sunday.
The reserves haven’t been huge contributors, but that could be in large part that Davis, Jackson, Zaay Green, Cheridene Green and Kushkituah have been contributing a lot in the last two games.
Still, the bench is where Tennessee is going to have to turn, and has had to turn, throughout this season.
In the last two contests, Mimi Collins has been ahead of the rest of the group, scoring 10 against Vanderbilt along with grabbing six rebounds.
Outside of Collins, freshmen Jazmine Massengill and Rae Burrell have contributed a combined four points in the last two games.
Give Holly Warlick credit. There was a lot of outside noise this team and staff had to deal with during that bad run, but they’ve clapped back with three consecutive wins.
While on paper, LSU, Florida and Vanderbilt served as more than winnable games for Tennessee, the Lady Vols showed a lot of progress in losses to then — No. 1 Notre Dame and Arkansas before winning the next three.
Tennessee is still far from replicating the teams of the past, to be sure. The offense still struggles through long stretches, and against better competition, it will bite them.
For now, Warlick seems to have gotten the team playing better, but there is still a lot of room for improvement both in development and coaching.
The road does not get easier for this Tennessee team, but it has to start somewhere and a three-game win streak is a good place to start as far as confidence is concerned.
The last two games were not flawless performances, but there was plenty of positives that the Lady Vols can build off of before a stretch of games that sees them play at Mississippi State, against No. 16 South Carolina and at No. 20 Texas A&M, among others.