KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Lady Vols will try to turnaround a three-game losing streak on Thursday when the team travels to Tuscaloosa to play the Crimson Tide (9 p.m. SEC Network).
Tennessee returned to practice on Tuesday in Thompson-Boling Arena. After losing three games by a combined eight points, Holly Warlick said the little things have stacked up against the Lady Vols.
"Our defense has got to step up and be more consistent, finish lay ups in traffic, get focused a little more on our free throws," Warlick said.
The Lady Vols have shot less than 40 percent from the field in all three losses, have missed 29 combined free throws and are averaging 16.6 turnovers per game.
Tennessee has a young team that is still learning how to close games in SEC play, about 70 percent of the minutes played for the Lady Vols come from freshmen or sophomores.
"There is going to be a time when we get down and we come back and we're ahead and we need to sustain it," said Warlick. "So you just keep reminding them, again I keep saying, defense and rebounding can solve a lot of problems."
Holly Warlick on Criticism
Of course, there has been some criticism of Warlick and the team from fans, especially on social media, following this three-game losing streak, the first for the Lady Vols as a program since February of 1986. Warlick addressed it on Wednesday before practice.
"No one is ever going to be Pat and her record is great it stands, but I'm going to keep pushing this team the best I know," said Warlick. "I can't get caught up in the criticism, I mean, it is what it is, social media is social media, all I'm going to look at is the positive on this team and continue to move forward and get this team in the right place. I wish our kids, I know our kids are out reading stuff and I hate it because I think that fills their heads full of stuff, but they choose to do it. I choose not to read it."
"My mom still tells me I'm a great coach," she joked.
What about Alabama?
The Lady Vols find themselves in a tough position against this Alabama team. On paper, Tennessee is the better squad, but the Lady Vols have lost four straight games to Alabama. The last time Tennessee won in Tuscaloosa was 2014.
The Crimson Tide are 9-8 this season. Statistically, the Tide are eighth in the SEC in scoring (69.1 ppg) and make about seven threes per contest. Alabama has proven to be just as prone to mistakes as the Lady Vols have however. Alabama ranks first in the conference in turnovers per game (16.9) with the Lady Vols a close second (16.8).
Alabama has also lost its last three games, and in conference play averages just 58 points per game. Florida State transfer Jasmine Walker leads the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) followed by junior guard Cierra Johnson (13.5 ppg).
After the trip to Tuscaloosa, the Lady Vols will begin a stretch of four home games, which includes a matchup against No. 1 Notre Dame.