Second-year head coach Holly Warlick stresses it in every practice-- defense.
In a sport predicated on scoring the most baskets, the Lady Vols' coaching staff believes in their talent on the offensive end, but the other end has required constant pressing.
To change things up, the Lady Vols turned to the 3-2 zone against No. 2 Notre Dame on Jan. 20 instead of the usual man-to-man defense they had employed throughout the season.
While the Irish lit up the Lady Vols for a season-high 86 points, Tennessee continues to turn to the zone, using it frequently in their past two contests – wins over Florida and No. 17 Texas A&M.
"We just had to change our defense some way, some how," senior guard Meighan Simmons said. "I think the 3-2 has really been good to us, and I think we have been consistent with it since the Florida game.
"We just want to continue to keep doing it and I think it is going to help us later on for good 3-point shooting teams because we just have to know where the shooters are and get out and rebound."
While the zone has been successful – Tennessee has allowed 62 points per game in their last two-- the Lady Vols believe in their ability to "play the man" and plan on using both, depending on what the situation of the game dictates.
"We are capable of playing the man, as well," Simmons said. "But since the 3-2 has been so effective lately, we might use that, but I know Holly has some tricks up her sleeve so we might go back to man, we might not. It just depends on what coach wants."
Warlick echoed Simmons but stressed the Lady Vols would not be choosing one defense over the other, especially in their upcoming matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
"I think it is going to be a solid defense for us," Warlick said. "We are not going to go away from the man-to-man, but I think we are going to tweak our zone a little bit. It has a lot of man-to-man principles, so I'm fine with it, but I still think that there is going to be a point where we are going to have to play a solid man-to-man defense and I think against Arkansas we are going to have to do both."
The Lady Vols seem to express an evident boost in confidence on the defensive end when in the zone.
That confidence may be deserved.
In the Florida and Texas A&M games, Tennessee forced the two teams to shoot a combined 38.3 percent, a drastic improvement from the 50 percent the Irish shot against them.
"It appears that it has given us confidence," Warlick said. "When they believe in it and they've run it and we have worked on it, they seem to have confidence in it. So if that's our bread and butter, that's our bread and butter. As long as we come up with stops, I'm good with it."