Holly Warlick on the Lady Vols' loss to Stanford
An obvious item on Tennessee's Christmas wish list is a victory.
In the wake of a 73-60 women's basketball loss to No. 1 Stanford, Holly Warlick was thinking more specifically about the essentials of winning. Tennessee's head coach wants effort — a lot more than she saw in Saturday's performance before a matinee crowd of 13,016 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"Quite frankly, we were never in the game,'' she said. "… The whole game I was in disbelief. We didn't affect Stanford one bit. Credit to them. If you don't take them out of something, they're going to shoot 47 percent. You have to do something to take them out of their rhythm. We didn't."
The Lady Vols certainly didn't do much to deter Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike. The All-American forward led five double-figure scorers with 21 points. The 6-foot-3 junior set new career highs for rebounds (19) and assists (five).
Stanford (11-0) did shoot 47.5 percent from the floor (28 for 59). The double-figure roll call included Amber Orrange with 14, along with six assists. Toni Kokenis and Bonnie Samuelson each scored 11 points and Joslyn Tinkle had 10.
While her scoring didn't match the astounding 42 points her older sister, Nnemkadi, had against Tennessee last season, Ogwumike's play helped Stanford (11-0) win in Knoxville for the first time since Dec. 15, 1996.
Her sister will definitely hear about that.
"One thing Nneka didn't do was get a win here at Tennessee," she said. "So I wanted to one-up her."
The No. 10 Lady Vols (7-3), on the other hand, will be hearing about the importance of defense and rebounding when they return from the holiday break and begin preparations for a Dec. 28 game against Davidson.
Judging by Warlick's postgame comments, they likely got an earful before leaving. Sophomore forward Cierra Burdick, who scored 11 points, was all ears.
"We're playing extremely selfish basketball right now," she said. "Until we make defense a priority, we'll continue to get (losses) like this and continue to get embarrassed."
Freshman forward Bashaara Graves' double-double (15 points and 12 rebounds) and three other double-figure scorers didn't accurately sum up UT's play.
Another poor shooting start doomed the Lady Vols' chances. They made just 10 field goals in the first half and missed their first 12 3-point shots before finishing at 31.9 percent from the floor (22 for 69).
Not even 21 offensive rebounds helped their cause. At one point in the first half, they had 11 offensive boards but just four second-chance points.
Although Tennessee didn't face anything approaching the 17-point deficit to start Tuesday's loss at Baylor, it never led either. In fact, the only tie was 8-8 with 14:44 left in the first half.
After falling behind by as many as 19 points early in second half, UT closed to within 52-43 with 8:43 left, only to see Stanford score the next six points.
Warlick referred to Tennessee's last home game — a 102-57 rout of North Carolina on Dec. 2 — in saying, "If we can compete against North Carolina, why can't we compete against Stanford? It makes entirely no sense to me."
While the game was different than Tuesday's, Burdick detected an echo in her post mortem.
"We're letting our offense dictate our defense," she said. "I feel like I'm a broken record because that's the same exact thing as against Baylor. You would think that we would've went and fixed that. Apparently we haven't.
"That's what hurts so bad."
Dan Fleser covers Tennessee women's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/FleserKNS and http;//blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser.