While the No. 10 Lady Vols have already put the Kentucky loss behind in their rear view mirror, they will come across yet another challenge Thursday night as they face a defensive-minded Auburn Tigers team at home.
After Tennessee turned the ball over 22 times in their loss Sunday — well above their season average of 17.1 (236th in NCAA) — the team has spent the past two practices focusing on limiting unforced errors and getting back to the way they know they are capable of playing.
"It's all about taking care of the ball," redshirt freshman point guard Andraya Carter said. "When we come out and we are under control, we're having fun, and playing hard. That's when Lady Vol basketball shows. We want that to be a standard not a moment."
When they go up against the Tigers (14-11, 5-7 SEC) Carter said the Lady Vols expect to see a team that will try to expose their weakness and go for the ball.
This season, Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy's team ranks third in the SEC in steals per game and 15th nationally with 10.7 swipes per contest. Guards Hasina Muhammad and Tyrese Tanner both average more than two steals a game and have combined for 94 this year.
"Auburn is a great defensive team," Lady Vols assistant coach Jolette Law said. "Their motto is defensive chaos and they like to run multiple defenses. I told all the players to expect and see some sort of press for 40 minutes.
"They let their defense create their offense."
Law has held the players accountable throughout the season with her infamous ball rack strategy.
"If you watch practice you'll know she has a ball rack out," junior forward Cierra Burdick said. "Whether we miss box outs or turn the ball over, she has five balls on the rack, and if all of those balls are off the rack then we are running. We have to have great leadership."
On offense, the Lady Vols (20-5, 9-3 SEC) will look to continue and feed the post. Strong play from Isabelle Harrison, who has averaged 16.7 points per game, 10.8 rebounds and shot .596 (28-of-47 FG) in her last four contests, has powered UT as of late.
While they will see different looks from their opposition on defense, Burdick said the Lady Vols do not expect to change the way they go out and compete.
"They throw so many defenses at you just trying to confuse you," Burdick said. "We have to stay within our system and play together. Playing together as a team is what is going to win this game."
Throughout the season Tennessee has found its niche as bounce-back team, having not lost two straight contests year. However, Burdick admitted the team realizes there is no easy night in conference play.
"We have to come out on our court – or on the road – with a great intensity no matter who we are playing," Burdick said. "I think we have learned that the hard way at times this year. It's just a matter of bouncing back and we've got an opportunity to do so against a good Auburn basketball team."
For the Lady Vols to win the regular season conference championship they will need to win out and will also need Kentucky to beat Texas A&M and South Carolina, which would set up a regular season finale matchup for UT with the Gamecocks to determine the No. 1 seed going into the SEC Tournament.
For now, the Lady Vols are focused solely on one opponent: Auburn.
"We are a great team and I still have faith in us," Burdick said. "We can do some great things and I think our best is yet to come."