You would have to go back 23 years to see the last time that the Tennessee women’s basketball team started SEC play 1-2.
The Lady Vols are coming off of back-to-back conference losses to Missouri and Kentucky, respectively. The one thing that Tennessee did not lack in either defeat was fight, and head coach Holly Warlick saw plenty of it, as both games came down to the wire.
“I think this team works hard,” Warlick said. “We are an aggressive team. We make you play fast and we play fast. By no means am I giving up on them.”
Against Kentucky, the Lady Vols certainly didn’t give up. After falling behind 22-5 in the first half, Tennessee managed to outscore the Wildcats in the second half, ultimately coming up short in the final seconds.
On Sunday, the Lady Vols will look to avoid their first 1-3 start in the SEC since the 1984-85 season when they face the Georgia Bulldogs (11-5, 2-1 SEC) at Stegman Coliseum.
In its last two losses, Tennessee has struggled to defend beyond the the three-point line. Against Kentucky, it bit them early, as it did versus Missouri. The Lady Vols surrendered 30-points from deep against the Tigers, and gave up three early three-pointers in the first quarter during Kentucky’s dominant first half run.
Tennessee also found no help at the free-throw line, going just 17-of-29 in a game where they only lost by two.
To keep the losing streak from extending to three-straight, the Lady Vols will have to remedy those issues versus a Georgia team that ranks third in the conference in field goal percentage (68.6-percent).
“We’ve just got to keep learning and putting them to the test,” Warlick said. “We have got to go back to defending one-on-one. We have to continue to get in the gym and shoot free throws. They are getting some great experience.”
While the last two games inside the friendly confines of Thompson-Boling Arena have been anything but friendly, with all three losses coming at home, Tennessee is undefeated on the road this season.
For Warlick, it seems to be a better sense of focus playing on the road, and it has served them well, including in wins at No. 11 Texas and Oklahoma State.
“Maybe it’s less distractions,” Warlick said. “We control more of their time on the road. It has seemed to be that way so far this year. I think the schedule we played early has helped us get focused on the road a little more.”
Although Georgia doesn’t present the offensive challenges that Kentucky did, the Bulldogs have relied on their defense throughout the season.
Down low, Tennessee forwards Cheridene Green and Mimi Collins will have their work cut out for them. Georgia center Jenna Staiti and forward Caliyah Robinson both rank in the top 5 of the SEC in blocks per game with 2.3 and 2.0, respectively. As a team, the Bulldogs ranked third overall with 108 block this season.
In their last outing, the Lady Vols dominated the boards. Tennessee outrebounded Kentucky, 50-32, outscored them in the paint 36-20 and in second chance points, 20-13.
“You’ve got to do something with those boards,” Warlick said. “We missed a lot of shots around the basket. We were physical with them around the basket.”
Tennessee will tip-off against Georgia at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be carried on ESPN.