Holly Warlick on Lady Vols' dramatic win at LSU.
Rather than concentrate solely on strategy, Tennessee's Holly Warlick asked the Lady Vols two questions before Thursday night's game at LSU.
What do you have in you?
How are you going to compete?
"I sound like a broken record," she said, "but that's all we talked about before the game."
Her inquiries reflected a prevailing theme of her first season as the Tennessee women's basketball coach. No matter how repetitive, they were relevant after Sunday's 80-63 upset loss at Missouri.
The Lady Vols replied with an effort that was determined and daring. They persevered through 14 lead changes to beat the Lady Tigers 64-62, overcoming a 62-59 deficit inside the final 31 seconds.
"I was thinking we still had time on our clock to get where we wanted and to win the game or at least go into overtime," said UT's Bashaara Graves, who scored UT's final two baskets.
After LSU's Bianca Lutley missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, Tennessee's time management began with forgoing a 3-point attempt. Instead, point guard Ariel Massengale got the ball to Graves for a layup with 15 seconds left.
Theresa Plaisance, who led LSU with 20 points, repeated Lutley's free throw miss to give UT its chance. Cierra Burdick's free throw with seven seconds left tied the score.
Then No. 12 Tennessee (18-5, 9-1 SEC) literally took its chance, pressuring the Lady Tigers' inbounds play. Meighan Simmons, who led UT with 18 points, created a turnover by deflecting the ball to Graves.
"We wanted to attack," Warlick said. "... We wanted to go for the ball. We knew we had the jump ball (arrow)."
Plaisance blocked Graves' first attempt at a winner, leaving the freshman forward sprawled on the floor. Her second attempt was contested but crept over the rim with a second left.
Tennessee vs LSU, Feb. 7, 2013
"Holly said to make this game be proof that Missouri was a fluke," Burdick said. "We wanted to come out and just do the best we could. We still have a lot to work on and a lot of improvement to make. I think this is a great statement game to let everyone know that Tennessee isn't going to quit."
The hard-earned victory also said that Tennessee has issues on defense and rebounding leading into Sunday's game against Ole Miss at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols couldn't prevent LSU from shooting 59.3 percent (16 for 27) from the floor in the second half. So they shot 60 percent (15 for 25). The Lady Tigers' 15-7 edge in second-chance points could have been pivotal.
Warlick conceded that the victory was "a little bittersweet," considering her friend and former colleague Nikki Caldwell coaches LSU.
"I love her like a sister," Warlick said. "I recruited her. I coached her. I got the opportunity to work with her. It's a little difficult, but when you cross that line, we compete."