Holly Warlick reviews the loss at Missouri
She was an All-American point guard and a longtime associate head coach under former coach Pat Summitt. She was there for the building and maintaining of a program that has won eight national championships.
And she believed that what worked for Summitt could work for her. So she has continued to preach the same virtues — rebounding and defense — in her first season as head coach.
But to those commendable qualities, perhaps she can now add a third — depth.
There was a long list of reasons for Tennessee's 80-63 road loss Sunday afternoon to a Missouri team it beat by 45 points last month at Thompson-Boling Arena. Lackluster effort from a team that has consistently played so hard was most apparent. So was shoddy ball-handling.
But lack of depth was a factor, too.
UT freshman point guard Andraya Carter is out for the season following shoulder surgery. Starting center Isabelle Harrison is out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery last week. Cierra Burdick was playing just her second game after missing eight games with a broken hand.
You knew that going in.
Then, guard Kamiko Williams went out in the second half with an injury. Williams, who made seven of nine field-goal attempts, was sitting on the bench with an ankle packed in ice while Tennessee tried futilely to mount a comeback.
Jasmine Jones didn't see the unhappy ending. She was helped to the locker room with 1:21 to play after injuring a knee.
This isn't the first time a UT team has been sabotaged by injuries. It won't be the last.
But perhaps the impact could be minimized if the Lady Vols changed their recruiting strategy.
Summitt never carried a full complement of players. She viewed too deep of a bench as a threat to team chemistry. That's a valid concern since fewer minutes for more players can result in more unhappy players.
However, the alternative doesn't always result in a Final Four celebration, either.
UT began the season with 11 players on its roster. That's four below the limit. And that's not always enough.
That's not to suggest UT should try to recruit 15 high school All-Americans. Instead, it should recruit a mix of elite prospects, as well as good high school players who would be happy to be a part of a program as renowned as Tennessee's.
Who knows? In a best-case scenario, some of those second-line recruits might eventually develop into contributors. A player or two frustrated by a lack of playing time doesn't have to wreck team chemistry. The situation can be managed. That's part of coaching.
Managing a team decimated by injuries isn't nearly as easy.
There also are positive side effects to a deeper roster. It's more conducive to the full-court, up-tempo game Warlick says she prefers. Playing harder is easier when you're playing fewer minutes.
One more advantage to more players: There's a better chance of one of them having a hot shooting hand.
Another hot hand would have helped against Missouri.