Holly Warlick happier about effort resulting in 75-40 victory over Davidson
After sending some strong messages with her words and her actions, Tennessee's Holly Warlick sent another with an expression Friday night.
Isabelle Harrison took notice and responded accordingly.
"As soon as I saw a smile on her face," the sophomore center said of her coach, "I could relax and breathe."
Along with being noticeable, a sense of relief was quantified by the Lady Vols' 75-40 women's basketball victory over Davidson.
UT's 26 points off Davidson turnovers and 22 second-chance points before an announced crowd of 11,059 at Thompson-Boling Arena added up to the sort of effort Warlick wanted from her team.
"We were aggressive," she said. "We didn't back up. We wanted to dictate to them. We wanted them having a hard time running their sets.
"I thought in the Stanford game they did what they wanted to do so I wanted us to be aggressive, be physical and just play hard."
A visit from Davidson (4-7) was a much-needed break from games against No. 1 Stanford and No. 3 Baylor, who had combined to give the Lady Vols a two-game losing streak.
The Stanford loss, in particular, had lingered with Warlick. After the team
returned from Christmas break, she renewed her criticism.
She waited until shortly before tipoff Friday to announce sweeping changes in the starting lineup
Out went Harrison, Ariel Massengale and Cierra Burdick. They were replaced by Taber Spani and freshmen Nia Moore and Jasmine Jones, who made their first career starts.
"I said before our two practices when we got back from Christmas that the starting lineup does not exist," Warlick said, "and I'm going to start five players who are the most consistent (in practice) and play the hardest."
No matter, forward Bashaara Graves, who scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, said that she was surprised by the changes. Tennessee's assistant coaches also had to be startled, since Warlick hadn't informed them beforehand of her intentions.
"They weren't questioning me but asking if I was sure that's what I wanted to do," she said.
The new lineup didn't energize UT's start. But the deposed starters seemed to play with a renewed sense of vigor. Harrison scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Burdick had a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds).
Virtually every Lady Vol had a defensive hand in holding Davidson scoreless for more than six minutes midway through the first half.
The Wildcats, the preseason pick to win the Southern Conference, finished with more turnovers (24) than baskets (17). The lone double-figure scorers were forward Sophia Alexsandravicius with 12 points and guard Laura Murray with 11. No other Wildcat scored more than six points.
Davidson coach Michele Savage considered the disparity in points off turnovers and second-chance points and said, "It's very difficult to combat that."
A chastened team proved to be sufficiently defensive. In that sense, Warlick got her point across.
"It makes us happy as a team, and everybody starts loving each other again," Harrison said of the victory. "She's a head coach; she gets mad at us. She does that to see how we respond, and I think we responded well tonight."
Burdick agreed. She also sent a message of sorts herself in referencing Sunday's game against Rutgers (8-3).
"We definitely needed (the win) to build our momentum," she said, "and once we get this win over Rutgers, I think we'll be able to say we're back to where we need to be."