Holly Warlick gave a hearty wave as she came down the back hallway to the Lady Vols' locker room, a clear sign that the head coach was feeling much better Sunday.
Warlick, who was afflicted with a severe stomach disorder Saturday and had to get IV fluids at home just to get to the arena, coached with the entry port for the IV line on her hand and addressed the media afterwards looking tired and pale.
Warlick looked much better Sunday and was eager to get her team on the practice court to prepare for the Red Storm.
"It's going to be an up-and-down game," Warlick said. "We have to be on our A-game on the defensive end. I don't think they ever quit, as you saw last night.
"That kid did not mind stepping up and shooting a game-winning three. I think it is going to be a tough task for us. I think they are guard oriented a little bit like the Kentucky guards. They are just quick and they are very well coached."
Briana Brown drained a three pointer with 0.4 seconds left to lift St. John's over Southern Cal, 71-68. The Red Storm trailed nearly the entire game to the Trojans.
Coach Joe Tartamella said his wife made him watch the game-winning shot about 20 times. Danaejah Grant and Eugeneia McPherson said they watched it about 13 times, but Tartamella said it was likely more than that.
Brown had been 0-5 from the field before swishing the corner three.
"That's March Madness," Tennessee's Cierra Burdick said.
The Lady Vols were peppered in the locker room with questions about being prepared for the Red Storm and not repeating Saturday's first half. Tennessee started well at 5-6 from the field but then went 2-25 to close the first half and barely led a No. 16 seed, 22-20.
They restored order in the second half for the 70-46 win over Northwestern State after getting instructions -from Warlick and assistant coach Kyra Elzy.
"Elzy came in, and obviously yelled her head off, and said we weren't playing Lady Vol basketball, and it was unacceptable, which it was," Burdick said. "There is no reason we should have been up only by two at halftime against that team, no disrespect to them, but we're just a better basketball team.
"Holly came in, and really just told us what we needed to do. She broke it down, what we weren't doing, and the changes that we needed to make."
St. John's is guard-oriented, so while the Lady Vols want to push tempo, they also want to get the ball inside.
The Lady Vols had just arrived to the arena when their scheduled media time was slotted Sunday, and they had not yet undergone scouting or practice. Still, several players had watched the second game Saturday and formed their own observations, especially Burdick and point guards Andraya Carter and Jordan Reynolds.
Tartamella specifically mentioned the dynamic young guards – Carter is a redshirt freshman, while Reynolds is a true one – and the ability of Meighan Simmons. The senior has struggled in postseason throughout her Tennessee career, and Saturday was no different as she went 4-15 from the field.
"I think Meighan wants it so much that at times she may take some shots that maybe aren't makeable shots, but in her mind she can make them," Warlick said. "I like how she is playing right now, if she is struggling offensively we will sit her down and get her to relax and then get her into the game."
Warlick did just that in the early in the second half. Simmons struggled again, and took a seat on the bench. Reynolds entered and immediately made something happen, something the freshman knows she has to do to stay on the floor. Simmons reentered later and played a solid game the rest of the way.
Pat Summitt shook up the starting lineup in 2008 when she removed a freshman in Angie Bjorklund, who lost her shot late in the season, and inserted rebounder and defender Alberta Auguste. That season ended in a national title.
But Warlick has no need for such action. Simmons is a seasoned senior, and Reynolds is a freshman, who has settled comfortably into a reserve role. Simmons also is capable of lighting up a team, and Warlick knows it. The two planned to watch film together Sunday.
"I don't want Meighan to feel like the weight of the world is on her, because we have other scoring options," Warlick said.
Simmons smiled when asked about the pressure. Her intent is to help the team – she very much wants to – but she knows she has to get in the flow of the game better. Simmons also said she wanted to get in the passing lanes and let her defense and speed infuse her offense. Simmons is unstoppable in the open floor, and her speed will be needed to counter the guards of the Red Storm.
"They're athletic, and they get to the basket, or they pull up and hit pull-up shots," Warlick said. "I think that we've got to keep people in front of us, and make them make plays over us, and contain penetration. At times, that's been a little bit of a demise for us."
That means Jasmine Jones needs to be ready. The sophomore forward completely flummoxed Northwestern State's point guard – Reynolds said she would not want to be guarded by Jones – and prevented her from getting the ball where she wanted it to go in the second half.
Burdick has her game plan.
"It's just a matter of having a great start, and keeping that great start going, sticking to our principles, playing the way we know we're capable of playing for a full 40 minutes, and that's what it's going to come down to, who can play the best basketball for that full 40," Burdick said.
ST. JOHN'S PRESS CONFERENCE: The Red Storm have video clips that can be viewed by clicking here.
The press conference transcript is available by clicking here.
TENNESSEE PRESS CONFERENCE
INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE
Cierra Burdick assists Jordan Reynolds
Bashaara Graves, Isabelle Harrison
Discuss the Lady Vols getting ready to face St. John's with staff and subscribers by clicking here.