Lady Vols Hoops Report: Prep for Mizzou

Lady Vols HC Holly Warlick / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick met with the media on Saturday morning in advance of Sunday’s showdown at Thompson-Boling Arena between the No. 10/10 Lady Vols (12-1, 1-0 SEC) and the Missouri Tigers (12-3, 1-0 SEC). Tip-off is at 2 p.m. ET, with ESPN2 televising.

UT and MU both come into the match-up on four-game winning streaks. The Lady Vols picked up an impressive road win at Auburn, 78-69, while the Tigers took care of Ole Miss, 78-55, at Mizzou Arena on Thursday.

Tennessee leads the all-time series 8-2 and is 4-0 in games played in Knoxville, but Missouri got the win in Columbia last season, holding off the Lady Vols, 77-73.  Tickets are priced as low as $10 are available at AllVols.com.

Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick

On transitioning from Auburn’s style of play to Missouri’s:
“They’re a little similar. (Missouri) won’t press as much, but they’ll shoot the three, and that’s probably the similarity. They’ll spread the floor on us, so they’ll be a challenge for us. (Sophie) Cunningham is just a hard worker and a really great basketball player, so yes, it will be a little different.”

On the challenge of guarding Missouri:
“They run a motion, so it’s not a lot of set plays, and we have to guard concepts. We’ve worked a lot on concepts like flare screens, backdoor cuts, back screens – those type of things. It’s a bit of a challenge because all of them can step out and shoot the three. They spread the floor really wide, so it goes back to why we play Belmont and those type of teams. It’s to get us ready for a team like Missouri.”

On Cierra Porter being back:
“She’s experienced. She plays hard. She’s a great rebounder, so that’s a great addition for them. If you have a starter that’s been out and comes back in, that’s got to be a bonus and a plus and a boost for the team just knowing that she’s available.”

On being mindful of how physically taxing the Auburn game was on some players:
“We were (mindful). We didn’t do a lot yesterday. You have two days to prepare after Thursday’s game, so you have to get back about your daily business, but we didn’t do a lot of up and down. We did a lot of half court things. Mentally you have to be focused. We didn’t get in until 1:30 or 2:00 (a.m.) because our plane was late, so those are the types of things you’ve got to deal with. But they’re out of school. They got to sleep, and they look like they’ve got a lot of energy in there.”

On how big it is to get their first SEC win:
“It’s on the road. It’s at Auburn. Auburn has always been a challenging game for us, so to get that win, it’s huge. It’s a confidence builder. We talked a lot about setting a foundation going into the SEC, so it was big for us.”

On if she knew going into this season they would be so successful at shooting 3-pointers:
“I thought we were capable of shooting the three, probably not as many as we’re shooting and not the percentage, but that we had the capability of doing that. When I saw them in the fall and what they’d done in the summer and working on their range and their ability to score, then I thought we’d be a better offensive shooting team.”

On the effort the team showed at Auburn:
“I was concerned that we had 23 turnovers, but I looked back on it, and we had a couple jump balls; we went into the lane on a free throw once. We had a lot of self-inflicted turnovers that I can live with. We’ve got to clean them up, but I thought we handled their press really, really well, and in the past we’ve struggled with it. I’ll tell you, I was worried about Auburn. I have a lot of respect for them, and for us to come out of there (with a win), and as hard as we played, and as many people as we played, and the productivity we got out of everybody, it’s very reassuring going into tomorrow’s game.”

On if she feels this team will have consistent effort:
“I think that’s us. We’ve seemed to battle all year. When our backs have been against the wall, we’ve seemed to come back and battle. So yeah, I would like to think that is us. We saw a lot of kids getting on the floor, a lot of kids battling and playing hard, so they had a lot of confidence going into that game.”

On the freshmen contributing:
“They’re growing up. Every game I think they grow up, and I’ve played them a lot early for that particular reason. They’re going to have to come in. Someone is going to get in foul trouble or something is going to happen, and I thought Jaz (Jazmine Massengill) came in and did a great job for Evina (at Auburn). And Evina has done a great job of helping Jaz get to that point and have a great prep. I was really proud of Jaz. That’s a tough environment to be in against a pressing team, and I thought she handled it very well.”

On Zaay Green’s performance:
“Here’s what I loved about Zaay (against Auburn): she got two quick fouls and came out and wasn’t happy with herself, but she came back in and played steady. She took great shots. She didn’t take a lot of floaters. Her defense was solid; her rebounding was solid. Zaay brought up the ball just like Jaz did, so that’s an extra guard out there. Zaay is just getting more and more confident and better as each game goes.”

On the team’s conditioning:
“We’re in great shape. When you first start off, I think it takes a while to get your second wind, but I think down the stretch we’re in really good shape. Coach Taylor has done a really good job, and we’ve played a lot of up and down. Now it’s a battle of not overtraining and not getting them hurt, but then keeping them in condition.”

On Rennia Davis’ postgame comment at Auburn about the players and coaches believing in each other:
“I wouldn’t trade these kids for anybody. I told them I get upset by two things: if they don’t play hard and if we don’t listen. But you’ve got to have great leadership. Rennia has stepped up. She’s stepped out of her comfort zone. Rennia is not a natural born leader, and so she’s had to step out. And Meme has stepped up and Evina stepped up. I just love their effort, and I trust them. I do trust them. They’re going to get the best out of their coaching staff, and we want their best.”

On limiting Sophie Cunningham:
“We have to try to limit her touches. She works hard. She gets (points) off rebounds, shooting the three, driving… she’s just tough to guard because she’s a tough kid. She gets it off steals. We’ve got to really try to limit her touches, deny her, make her have to work for the ball. Take the ball at her and maybe get a couple fouls on her. You have to come ready to play when you play Sophie Cunningham because she lays it all on the line. She lays every game on the line, and I respect her for that. She plays the game hard, and that’s how you should play.”

On Missouri’s defense:
“They play passing lanes. They play off of you. They play a little bit of a pack. They protect the basket. They’re very good at protecting the basket and only allowing you to get one shot. We can’t get a little antsy and catch and shoot quick. We’ve got to make the defense move and make them have to work. We want them to have to work. It’s just a matter of are we going to be patient? Are we going to take great shots? Or are we going to take quick shots and be one-and-done? And that’s one thing I thought we did well at Auburn was rebounding the basketball, and that’s what we have to do tomorrow. Rebounding and dominating the boards, it helps us be so successful.”

On Missouri’s offense:
“They’re more methodical (than Auburn). They’ll spread the floor. They run a very good motion offense. They press, but it’s not going to be the get-up-in-your-face pressure every time to try to make you turn it over. I think they press more to delay and disrupt and get you in the half court where you’ve got 15 seconds to run your offense.”

-UT Athletics

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