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March 7, 2019

Holly Warlick

Evina Westbrook

Rennia Davis

Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee-69, LSU-66

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Tennessee. Coach, we'll start with an opening statement.

HOLLY WARLICK: Just have a tremendous amount of respect for LSU and what Nikki has done. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. Our kids showed up. We had grit. We stayed focused. We got in foul trouble, things didn't go well, but we stayed the course.

These two young ladies, they stepped up, made great plays. But that's what great players do. They put their team on their back and they made plays.

Really proud of our team and these two for giving us a chance to play tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes, please.

Q. Rennia, could you talk about the three-point shot with three minutes left in the fourth quarter?
RENNIA DAVIS: I think that just gave us another momentum boost. I think the fourth quarter for us, it's all about finishing games. Every big shot counts. Every defensive stop counts. I think that shot was just a shift in momentum for us.

Q. Rennia, could you talk about what was said at halftime?
RENNIA DAVIS: Just defending without fouling. First half I think three of our starters picked up two fouls pretty quickly. Just staying in the stance without fouling, take care of the ball definitely. Just getting back to Tennessee basketball, which is getting stops on defense and taking good rhythm shots on the offensive end.

Q. Evina, it seemed like LSU had a defensive plan. You two were a big part of it. When it's coming down to that pressure time in the game, you know you're a defensive focus, how do you overcome that and stay focused?
EVINA WESTBROOK: I just think as a team, we knew we had to get stops, primarily on defense. Once we continue to get stops on defense, it just generates our offense with a lot of energy.

I think we just knew as a team we had to get stops. As the momentum kept on going, we were doing a good job on rebounding the ball, boxing out. We came down, were just making shots that I remember making in practice. Hitting shots we practiced over and over again.

It wasn't really like a scary moment for us. We practiced it so much, worked on it so much in practice. Really just took the timeout to just realize that we've been here before, this is a big game, big moment for us, but we weren't really scared from the challenge.

Q. Evina, you had 15 of your 20 total points in the second half. Was that because you had a different feel? Were they giving you different looks?
EVINA WESTBROOK: I knew I had to be more aggressive as the second half went on. My team was giving me confidence. My coaches were giving me confidence. Just going out there and making plays, whatever my team needed me to do.

As soon as I was being more aggressive, it opened up the lane for me to pass more for my bigs to be open, the wings to be open. As a point guard, that's my job, just to make plays.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies. We will continue with questions for coach.

Q. The three players, two fouls first half, you had to use your bench, talk about that.
HOLLY WARLICK: Yeah, we did. We got in foul trouble. Our young kids had to step up. Did some good things. Did some things they normally don't do. I was proud of them because they're in that situation. We have to understand our kids can't get in foul trouble.

But you got to have a strong bench. I will tell you this, this group has gotten the experience throughout our whole season. Had some good confidence in them.

Q. You had 10 turnovers in the first half, five in the third quarter alone. Were you impressed with how the team was able to overcome that sloppy play?
HOLLY WARLICK: We talked a lot about it at halftime. Unforced errors, trying to make a home run, just get it to the open player. We talked a lot about that.

It limited our opportunities to shoot the basketball. Control the tempo, take it when we need it. We got some great fastbreak points, but they were great passes and they were open. We settled down the second half. I wanted us to attack the basket.

I think we shot three, went to the line three times or two times in the first half. That's not us. We got to get great looks by getting in the paint and attacking the basket.

Q. Early in the fourth quarter, there were no turnovers. That's when you made the run to take the lead. How much better is your team when you're taking care of the basketball?
HOLLY WARLICK: Well, it gives you that many more opportunities. We want to play fast, but we want to be smart. I thought the first really two quarters we weren't very smart. When we distribute the basketball, we get people great looks, we're such a better offensive team when we move the ball, distribute the ball, get open looks.

We're not a great team at creating our own look. If I gave one of these kids the ball, just said, Go make a play, we have a hard time doing that. After we've moved the ball a couple of times, we're really solid on the offensive end.

Q. You used the word 'grit'. From watching warmups, the team seemed to be together. Did you get any feeling when you took the lead, the bench erupted?
HOLLY WARLICK: Well, look, these kids, I know they felt pressure today, but they battled, they worked through doing things that were probably uncharacteristic to us. They were so focused in our huddle, all of them. Every time we would change a defense or an offense, they were pretty spot on.

You could tell the kids are together when they're having their own conversation. It's an intelligent conversation about basketball, what we need to do. It did take us grit. It took us a lot to stay focused.

Zaay Green only played 19 minutes. She's a vital part of this basketball team. She was in it, she was the first one off the bench to greet our kids. That's the sign of a great basketball team.

Q. In the first half, Evina took four shots, in the second half had 15 points. How much of an emphasis was put on getting the ball in her hands in the second half?
HOLLY WARLICK: I ran a play to Evina, she attacked the basket, was so deliberate, shot a layup. I'm running everything as much as I can to her because of that mindset.

I put her in a position where they're makable shots for her. In the first half, she had to kind of create her own shots. Once I saw Evina attack the basket, I'm going to go through her and Re. Both of them stepped up. Both of them stepped up.

Q. When you look at the final stats here, points in the paint, second-chance points, you were tied with 14. With the game that close, how big was the free-throw shooting?
HOLLY WARLICK: I was just glad we got to the line. We didn't get to the line. It was huge. Our free-throw shooting has been huge down the stretch.

But I have to go back and watch it, but we had kids down the stretch. Mimi Collins, again, she had another big shot in the corner. Then Re hits a big three. Most of our stuff was in the paint.

Second-chance points, Cheridene had a big rebound and putback. Getting to the free-throw line was huge. At the end I wanted to get the ball in Re's hands. She's one of our best free throw shooters. She stepped up to the line and hit big free throws for us.

Q. Obviously a really good team set for tomorrow. How challenging is it this time of year to turn around and play another good team the next day? What will it take to win tomorrow?
HOLLY WARLICK: It's twofold. We've played a game, Mississippi State hasn't. That I think is an advantage for us. Now, playing back-to-back, very difficult because of how we play, how hard that game was.

We got our eye on being in great condition. There's not a whole lot of scouting you can do. We have to rely on our basketball knowledge, listen to our game plan.

Look, we got beat by Mississippi State by I think 30. I've tried to erase it. We didn't play well down the stretch. We have an opportunity for a rematch which our kids are excited about.

What do you do? You're playing the No. 1 seed in the conference. It is what it is. Our kids just got to step up to the challenge.

Q. Evina talked about how excited she was for that rematch with Mississippi State because she missed the first one. How much of a difference can she make tomorrow?
HOLLY WARLICK: Look what we did today. She took over the game today at one point. It's huge. You have to have somebody on the floor. Look, Jazmine did a great job. She's a freshman in that environment. You have to have someone who has poise, that sees the floor, knows how to run the team, knows who to get the ball to.

Yeah, it was a big loss for her not to play down there. It was a huge loss. But she'll step up and compete. She's a competitor. She'll get the opportunity to play them tomorrow.

Q. Mimi Collins getting back-to-back starts now. How long have you seen her develop into this starter role? How much has her game improved?
HOLLY WARLICK: I just go back and watch tape of when she was first here. She couldn't guard me, and I'm slow. I used to be fast, but I'm slow (smiling).

What was holding Mimi back was her commitment to the defensive end. She made a commitment. She got in the gym and worked with our assistant coaches. Now I have confidence in her. I kept telling her, Mimi, it's not offense I'm worried about. You can play 10, but your player can't score 20.

She took that to heart, stepped up. Obviously she has hit some big offensive plays. She has not been a liability on the defensive end. That's a kid who will get in the gym and is willing to work and get better at what she really wasn't good at. I commend her for that.

To admit that you need to work on it, then get in the gym and work on it, it's awesome.

Q. Y'all talked a lot the other day about one game at a time. NCAA tournament is what it is. Was there a sense of how big this game was as far as the NCAA tournament?
HOLLY WARLICK: Are you asking me or our players (laughter)?

Yes, it was, absolutely. Absolutely. There was a sense of urgency. There's been a sense of urgency throughout. You lose six in a row, you have a sense of urgency. This was. We didn't beat around the bush. We talked about it. We talked about it as a staff. We talked about it as a team.

We didn't say, We have to win this game, but we talked about how hard we need to play. If we do these things, it will take care of themselves. Yeah, my gut was killing me on the way over here. That's me being competitive. You got to be competitive. Today we were competitive when our backs were against the wall. That's what basketball is all about. That's what the tournament is all about.

We're 1-0 in the tournament right now, we're 1-0. We're going to take it and get ready for tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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