Tennessee left Florida last Sunday buoyed by the poise and determination the Lady Vols summoned to avoid an upset.
They're back on the SEC road at Auburn tonight (TV: CSS, 9 p.m.), advised to produce a women's basketball encore less reliant on dramatics.
UT coach Holly Warlick on Tuesday referred to the Lady Vols' 78-75 overtime victory over the Gators as it related to their preparations for Auburn (13-4, 2-2 SEC).
"I am proud of their effort there," she said, "but as a coach, I have to get them to where they don't get to that point. We play hard all the time and we understand what's important."
The players have seemed receptive to their coach's counsel. The sweat had barely dried on Sunday's victory before Meighan Simmons spoke of doing "the little things" better. When asked to elaborate this week, the junior guard listed virtually all aspects of UT's play.
Rebounding, for one, has been underscored after No. 9 Tennessee (13-3, 4-0) was outrebounded 48-41 by Florida. The margin matched the advantage achieved by defending national champion Baylor against UT on Dec. 18.
Despite a plus-6.4 margin, the Lady Vols' traditional asset is under siege in SEC play. After being outrebounded twice in 12 non-conference games,
they've been outrebounded twice in four league games.
Florida relished the chance to wrest this advantage from UT and did so despite losing leading rebounder Jennifer George in the first half with a shoulder injury.
"Coming into the ball game, not only did Tennessee have the best rebounding in the SEC, they might be the best in the country," Florida coach Amanda Butler said. "That was a battle we were excited for."
Warlick, in turn, wasn't thrilled that guards Simmons and Kamiko Williams combined for just two rebounds. Freshman reserve forward Jasmine Jones, who's already established a single-game high of 11, had two in 19 minutes.
"I think it's a lack of focus, a lack of commitment to rebounding the basketball," Warlick said. "That's something we have to keep pressing in practice and hold them accountable for it. It could be the difference in winning and losing the game."
Similar thinking applies to UT's defense, which wasn't overly effective on Sunday until it came up stout at the end.
"I just think we were not ready," Warlick said. "I'll take the blame for that, but they'll be ready (tonight)."
Lady Vols point guard Ariel Massengale said that SEC opponents, with their athleticism and attacking mind-sets, demand an honest effort.
"It doesn't allow you to take a play off," she said. "Every possession, you have to be ready because you never know when somebody might turn it on."
Statistics indicate that Auburn, under first-year coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, is intent on taking possessions from the opposition. The Tigers are second in the SEC in steals per game (13) and have a plus-6.8 turnover margin. Opponents have committed more turnovers (381) than they have scored baskets (343).
The Lady Vols experienced Williams-Flournoy's defensive tactics when she coached Georgetown to a 68-59 upset of UT on Nov. 27, 2010, at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Hoyas parlayed relentless pressure into 29 turnovers, which translated into 31 points.