A visit from Delta State brings back memories for Holly Warlick and inspires a question.
"Do we have a winning record against them?'' Tennessee's associate head coach asked.
For the record, Tennessee does at 4-2. Apparently it was a hard-earned advantage.
A women's basketball exhibition game against the Lady Statesmen at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena recalls Tennessee's formative years and one of its toughest early opponents.
Former Lady Vol Warlick has personal experience with the rivalry, having played in all six games against the Cleveland, Miss., school during the latter half of the 1970s.
"That's who all of us were chasing back then,'' she said. "That was one of our biggest rivalries."
In the first meeting between the two schools - on Dec. 17, 1976, at the Mississippi University for Women Christmas Invitational - Delta State was the defending AIAW national champion and ranked No. 1.
Future Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Lusia Harris was a monolith in the middle. Delta State's 6-foot-3 center was compiling career totals of 2,981 points and 1,662 rebounds.
Delta State coach Margaret Wade was at the top of her profession as well. A trophy for player of the year was established in her honor in 1978. It was won by Lady Vol assistant coach Daedra Charles Furlow in 1991.
In 1986, Wade became the first woman inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"She was a gentle, kind lady and truly a lady, but her teams, they just came after you,'' said UT coach Pat Summitt, a fellow hall of famer. "Behind that soft-spoken person was a coach who knew how to recruit players and also motivate. Her teams, they just had a toughness about them."
Delta State won three consecutive national championships 1975-77. The Lady Statesmen won their first two games with Tennessee before the Lady Vols turned the tide for good in 1978.
Judging by her question, Warlick was a little foggy on the outcomes. Or her recall was overshadowed by the actual competition.
"It was always a bloodbath, always,'' she said. "They were way before their time."
The teams last played on Feb. 6, 1979.
Since then, Delta State hasn't drifted away.
The Lady Statesmen moved to NCAA Division II in 1986 and have won three more national championships.
Delta State is ranked No. 3 in the Division II preseason poll and returns three starters from last season's 30-7 team. All-American point guard Sarita "Bug" Cooper recorded an NCAA-leading 289 assists last season.
The Lady Statesmen have enough athleticism and sufficient size to make Tennessee's 124-34 exhibition rout of Carson-Newman College on Thursday a memory.
They will try their best to give the Lady Vols an appreciation for what Warlick experienced.