The Lady Vols will regroup after Christmas with a game against Lipscomb on Dec. 29 and then the start of SEC play on Jan. 2.
"There is no reason why we couldn't have won this basketball game," Warlick said. "I will go back and watch it and I am sure there is a lot I could do to help them as well."
Ariel Massengale led Tennessee with 17 points and four assists. She was direct with her post-game remark and heaped well-deserved praise on Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, who tallied 32 points and 20 rebounds.
Ogwumike is a physical post player, and the Lady Vols didn't match that intensity. She grabbed 11 boards on offense, the kind that are the proverbial back-breakers because the Lady Vols would get a stop on the first shot, and Ogwumike would get a stick-back. The post players needed better box-outs, and, failing that, needed to match her physical play. Instead, Ogwumike went where she wanted when she wanted, and the Lady Vols did little to impede her.
The Lady Vols opened the game 4-0, and then Stanford scored the next 13 points. Tennessee never took the lead again, but the Lady Vols also never folded, even as Stanford pushed the lead to double digits.
After Andraya Carter drained a three with a little over a minute left, the Lady Vols trailed by just two, 70-68. Tennessee got the stop on the other end, but the rebound was a tie-up and Stanford followed that with an and-one drive from Amber Orrange – she used a high screen from Ogwumike – to take a 73-68 lead. The Lady Vols ran out of time after that play.
"She made a big-time play for them down the stretch," Massengale said.
Indeed Orrange did. But so did Carter – her clutch three set up the thriller of the ending – and that was a good sign for Tennessee. Big-time players make big-time shots and Carter did, as did Cierra Burdick and Meighan Simmons when Tennessee was erasing Stanford's lead.
"I don't want them to hang their heads," Warlick said.
And Tennessee shouldn't. It is December. The Lady Vols haven't won at Maples Pavilion since 2005. There is a lot of time between now and Nashville, the site of the 2014 Women's Final Four.
But the Lady Vols also have quite a bit to watch on film, starting with box-outs, a primary staple of the program that Pat Summitt built.
Tennessee also is at its best in an up-tempo game – and had great success when it ran against Stanford – but rebounding is critical to that style and the Lady Vols got beat on the boards, 43-40.
But Tennessee shot just 35.8 percent overall and 26.7 percent from the arc. The Lady Vols don't have a pure three-point shooter – though sharpshooters are on the way in the next recruiting class – but Simmons, Massengale, Carter and Jordan Reynolds are all capable of knocking down shots.
The Lady Vols have a short roster at 10 players but all the physical tools they need to make a national run. However, mental focus has to be much more fine-tuned. Tennessee had a very manageable 14 turnovers, but they were of the short-circuit kind – travels, three seconds and errant passes without pressure. That is a lack of mental toughness and a team has to develop that to win the way Tennessee wants to win.
The Lady Vols did display fortitude by never folding on the road. Two years ago Tennessee crumbled at Maples Pavilion. This team didn't do that, and both Massengale and Warlick hit the right notes on the post-game radio show.
The Lady Vols need a break and then sessions of Camp Warlick, starting with box-out drills. But they also showed that they can handle pressure, even with a wicked start on the road.
"Don't give up on us," Warlick said.
Holly Warlick video via Lady Vols
Bashaara Graves, Ariel Massengale video via Lady Vols