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Dan Fleser | Knoxville News Sentinel | January 25, 2018

Holly Warlick optimistic that Tennessee will 'get back on track'

Warlick: "We're going to straighten it out. This team is special. We're going to get back on track."

Video review has put Tennessee's recent women's basketball struggles in a narrow perspective for the Lady Vols.

Coach Holly Warlick on Wednesday characterized the exercise as if it were an excavation, mentioned the problems caused by the angle of the players' feet on defense or their proximity to a shooter.

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"It's so many different segments," she said, "and it all adds up."

For No. 10 Tennessee (16-3, 4-2 SEC), the toll has been two consecutive losses and three in the last four games, All four games were against ranked opponents, including three in a row against top-10 foes South Carolina, Notre Dame and Mississippi State.

The fallout has resulted in a drop of four spots in the Associated Press Top 25 weekly poll and three spots in the USA Today Coaches' poll. The losses also have spawned criticism on social media, particularly regarding Warlick.

The Lady Vols' focus, though, is trained primarily on the aforementioned segments and how they relate to a game against Ole Miss (11-8, 1-5) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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"It is detail stuff," Warlick said. "You just have to get on it in practice."

Warlick has seen enough to determine that UT would benefit from a longer bench. Seniors Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared are averaging more than 37 minutes in league play. Freshman point guard Evina Westbrook averaged 36 minutes during the past four games.

"Jaime and Mercedes, they could use a little break," Warlick said. "But it starts in practice. We get confidence in (other players) in practice."

Nared, Tennessee's leading scorer at 17.1 points, has shot 32.2 percent from the floor during the the past four games. After shooting 4-for-8 from long range against Texas A&M on Jan. 11, the senior forward has made just one 3-pointer during the past three games.

Her shooting struggles reflect the team's recent penchant for impulsive shooting, yet another detail that's become more evident upon further review.

"She's putting a lot of pressure on herself for this basketball team," Warlick said of Nared. "We talked and watched tape and she had a great practice (Tuesday).

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"Jaime has taken it upon herself to think that she has to do everything and she doesn't. She's got to let her teammates help her."

Despite UT's struggles, Warlick remains steadfast in her overall thoughts about the team and its potential.

"Look, I'm not down on this team at all," she said. "We hit a couple bumps. We're going to straighten it out. This team is special. We're going to get back on track."

Lady Vol homecoming

Former Tennessee point guard Ariel Massengale will be sitting on Ole Miss' bench, serving as the Rebels' graduate manager. It will be her first visit in this capacity.

"I don't know how I'm going to feel," she said. "Memories are going to be going through my mind."

Massengale, who graduated in 2015, recalled UT going through a rough stretch during Warlick's first season as head coach. The Lady Vols lost consecutive games to then-No. 3 Baylor (76-53) and then-No. 1 Stanford (73-60) right before Christmas. They recovered to win 27 games, win the SEC regular-season championship and reach the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament.

"You have to stay the course," Massengale said. "You have to listen to your coaches and you have to keep believing in yourself and your teammates."

This article is written by Dan Fleser from Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tenn.) and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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