The Lady Vols still believe in themselves.
Tennessee (17-9, 9-2 SEC) has had a tough stretch of games. The Lady Vols lost to UConn and LSU and then left Starkville, Mississippi, on Monday with a one-point loss in two overtimes to Mississippi State. But as March inches closer and closer, Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper has yet to see the team’s belief wane.
“I think that’s the first thing that’s good to hear,” Harper said Friday. “I think that’s honest, I think that’s really sincere.”
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Tennessee had a few extra days to recover and regroup from Monday’s loss without an SEC game Thursday. Harper hopes the extra day of practice and rest will be valuable both physically and mentally for her team.
“Those (practices) are good for us to really continue to push them,” Harper said, “and as long as they’ll continue to allow us to push them, and to still believe, to still have that – I think the morale is good. It’s a tough stretch, it just is. You can look, a lot of teams across the country this time of year have to regroup.”
There are only five games left in the regular season to get ready for March. Harper said the area Tennessee has the most room for improvement is on defense, both overall as a team and individually.
But just as important is being consistent when it comes to turnovers. The Lady Vols have had several low-turnover games but then tallied 23 on Monday, and it cost them.
“There’s a lot there, whether that’s adding new things, putting wrinkles in or just getting good at what we’re supposed to be good at,” Harper said.
Being good at what they’re supposed to be good at is where Tennessee fell short Monday. In a tight game against MSU, the Lady Vols weren’t consistent with the basics when it came to defense, effort on the boards and taking care of the ball.
In a two-overtime game that Tennessee lost by a single point, it could have been any play that made the difference. Harper said that has led to both motivation and frustration this week, because the same problems were a common denominator in the past three losses.
“We’ve said the same things after our UConn loss, after our LSU loss as well,” Harper said. “I think our players understand it, but now the last inch is a mile type thing. It’s one play. It’s that one inch, but the effort and the focus and the consistency that it’s going to take to get that last inch, is not easy. And that’s where we’ve got to figure out a way to get there.”