As Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick sat on the bench in the first half due to an illness that almost prevented her from making Saturday's contest, she didn't look well.

The Lady Vols on the court didn't look much better.

Their first half play was shoddy, and Tennessee went into halftime with only a two point lead over their NCAA first round opponent Northwestern State, while shooting a measly 22.6 percent from the floor.

In the second half, however, Warlick returned to a familiar position. An upright one, stomping and yelling just as she had in every game as head coach prior to her sickness.

And just as their coach had rebounded, so did the Lady Vols, as they outscored their opponent 48-26 in the final 20 minutes en route to a 70-46 victory over the Northwestern State Lady Demons at Thompson-Boling Arena to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"There was a lot more energy," senior guard Meighan Simmons said. "Holly was up and she was moving, and I feel like when Holly is up and she's moving and communicating and she's positive and she's getting into the game, it makes us play even harder. Everything else just fell into place after that.

"Everybody just came out and played their role in the second half."

That final period resurgence was fueled by an early run, as the Lady Vols scored 12 unanswered points and managed to keep Northwestern State off the board for a 5:08 stretch after the Lady Demons knotted it up at 22 at the 18:43 mark.

From then on, Tennessee never let the lead get below double digits.

"We got huge stops and that's what we needed," junior forward Cierra Burdick said. "That's what is going to win these games and we know that. That's why we've gotten this No. 1 seed, that's why we won the (SEC) tournament, so it's just a matter of keying into what we need to do and getting those defensive stops."

The first half, however, was not nearly as pretty.

After jumping out to an 11-2 run and hitting on five of their first six field goal attempts, the Lady Vols let a game that looked to be firmly in their grasp get away from them.

"I think we went away from our defensive assignments," junior center Isabelle Harrison said, "and we might have gotten a little comfortable."

Following their hot start out the gates, the Lady Vols only made two shots in the final 16:01 of the opening period, but it didn't prove costly as Northwestern State shot a lowly 28.6 percent in the first half, letting UT off the hook.

"These kids were jacked up to play in this environment," Northwestern State co-head coach Brooke Stoehr said. "When we settled down, I still think we got great looks, we just didn't knock them down today. Scoot (Stoehr) and I looked at each other at halftime and said we should be up. That was a little disappointing."

But even with UT not having its best shooting night, especially in the first half, the Lady Vols relied heavily on their size advantage to dominate the glass, something that Warlick believes got Tennessee rolling in the final stanza.

"We rebounded the basketball and then pushed," Warlick said. "That's our game and we got the opportunity to do that when we crashed the boards. And we took good shots in the second half. We made layups, and we made jumpers.

"It was a little bit of the nerves, and we played a good basketball team."

Tennessee's slow start probably wasn't helped by the fact that it hadn't played since March 9, when the team defeated Kentucky for the SEC championship, something Burdick acknowledged following Saturday's victory.

"It's something that every team has dealt with and we don't want to make excuses, but I think it does play a part in it," Burdick said. "Going two weeks without playing a game, we haven't done that since the beginning of the season, so we were a little rusty.

"It's just a matter of dusting that rust off and getting back into it and coming out ready to play for a full 40 minutes on Monday."

As for Monday's contest, Tennessee will host St. John's, who hit a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to defeat USC, for an opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16.