When Tennessee's Cierra Burdick counts her women's basketball blessings, the sophomore forward doesn't forget a forgettable 80-71 season-opening loss at Chattanooga.
"We learned an enormous amount from that game,'' she said Tuesday before practice at Pratt Pavilion. "I continue to say that it was a blessing in disguise because it really was."
Hard to argue with her assessment, considering Tennessee (3-1) has bounced back since that Nov. 9 opener with three consecutive victories, including road wins at No. 22 Georgia Tech and No. 23 Miami on Sunday. The Lady Vols have recouped their No. 20 ranking in the Associated Press' weekly top 25 poll. The coaches ranked them No. 15 Tuesday in their USA Today/ESPN poll.
Tennessee is back home to face Alcorn State on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena. With only one game this week, the team will practice early this morning and then have Thanksgiving off before returning on Friday.
For sure the players learned after the Chattanooga game that they could survive without their cell phones and computers, etc. When asked about having to "turn in" such devices, Burdick said: "Turn in is not the right word. They were taken from us. Computers, cell phones, iPhones, iPods, everything was taken from us. We were left with nothing but our team, our teammates and our staff, that's it."
Burdick said that the players essentially "were in jail" before a game at Georgia Tech the following Sunday.
"All we did was watch film," Burdick said. "All sources of outside communication were taken from us. We watched film and we bonded as a team."
First-year coach Holly Warlick downplayed the cell phone roundup as merely an extension of the normal routine.
"We do that; we just chose not to give them back after the game," she said. "We just cut off their arm with their cell phone. 'Oh my God, I have got to actually talk to somebody without my cell?' We just thought it was a way to get them focused and get ready to play Georgia Tech after the way we played on Friday night."
Warlick said that the coaches "clarified things and simplified things for each game plan" since Chattanooga. She didn't downplay the players' response.
"I thought their intensity has been really good since the Chattanooga game," she said. "The coaches have been focused, but the players have jumped on board as well."