After two days of recovery following the program's 17th SEC title, the No. 4 Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball team returned to practice at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday where they will host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
While the majority of the team is still recuperating from lost voices this weekend, second-year head coach Holly Warlick wants the squad to continue the celebration from its big win – while also returning to hard work on the court.
"For us, it's always about getting back to defense, taking care of the basketball, rebounding and putting them in tough situations at practice," Warlick said. "Once we figure out who we are playing we will work on a scouting report. We've got to make them understand winning the SEC championship was a big deal, but now it's back to business."
To start this week of practice Jasmine Jones and Ariel Massengale are listed as day-to-day.
Navigating to No. 1
The Lady Vols knew going into the SEC tournament that there was a chance if they ran the table they could possibly draw one of the four No. 1 seeds heading into the NCAA tournament.
And following losses by South Carolina and Louisville in their respective conference tournaments, it seems as if the Lady Vols have a chance at obtaining that goal.
"I am expecting a No. 1 seed," junior forward Cierra Burdick said. "I think we've worked for it and earned it and I'd be surprised if we didn't get one. We are going to play in March and that's what matters.
"It's all a matter of bringing Lady Vol basketball in between those lines and surviving and advancing."
Selection Monday, March 17, will be televised by ESPN starting at 6 p.m. The team will privately watch it at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Throughout the regular season true freshmen Jordan Reynolds and Mercedes Russell received a handful of playing time.
The two Oregon natives combined in the three games of the tournament to shoot 16-of-23 (.696) from the field and hit all eight of their free throws.
"They were big in all three of the games we played," Warlick said. "They just played the game and got up and hit big free throws and shots. They performed outstanding and we needed them to win the games."
Their teammates acknowledged that they have not treated them any different due to their freshman status, as they are just as much a Lady Vol as anyone else on the team.
Burdick said the freshmen didn't receive any handouts due to their age.
"They've earned our respect," Burdick said. "They continue to come in here and work so hard day in and day out. We've pushed them and I think that's why they've been so good down the stretch, because they are use to in these practices."
Cleaning the glass
Tennessee finished the regular season ranked second in the country in rebounding behind the Baylor Bears. UT continued to excel this past weekend as the squad outrebounded its opponents 135-90 and had Burdick, Isabelle Harrison and Bashaara Graves combine for 30 offensive boards.
"It was the most dominating that we have looked physically going up to get the basketball," Warlick said. "We've rebounded well, but probably not with that effort."
Burdick was named to the all-tournament team after corralling double digit rebounds in every game.
"I love rebounding the ball," she said. "I just have a natural act for it. I try to go out there and crash the boards every single chance I have."