Tennessee’s stunning season-opening 80-71 loss at Chattanooga seemed at the time like the worst possible introduction to the post-Pat Summitt era.
The Lady Vols now consider it the spark that set them on the right course. Ever since that disastrous debut, Tennessee has been an entirely different team.
The 20th-ranked Lady Vols (3-1) have followed that upset with three consecutive double-digit triumphs. Two of those wins came on the road against Georgia Tech and Miami, who both were ranked at the time. The other victory was a 101-48 pasting of Rice that resembled the dominant performances of Summitt’s best teams.
Summitt, who announced last year she has early-onset dementia, stepped down in April after collecting 1,098 wins, eight national titles and 18 Final Four appearances in her 38 seasons as Tennessee’s head coach. She remains on staff as head coach emeritus while assisting new coach Holly Warlick, who spent 27 seasons as Summitt’s assistant.
“I think we weren’t ready,” Warlick said.
Warlick took immediate steps to correct the problem.
Burdick joked that the team was “in jail” after the Chattanooga game.
The Lady Vols spent the next day watching film and preparing for Georgia Tech. They had no other choice, as they didn’t have much contact with the outside world.
“Computers, cellphones, iPhones, iPods, everything was taken from us,” sophomore forward Cierra Burdick said. “We were left with nothing but our teammates and our staff. That’s it.”
Warlick said she took that step to make sure the team had the right frame of mind for its next game.
NO. 10 MARYLAND 94, AMERICAN 54
In College Park, Md, Tianna Hawkins had 25 points and nine rebounds, Malina Howard added 17 points, and Alicia DeVaughn had 14 to help Maryland (3-1) beat American (0-3).
NO. 18 ST. JOHN’S 71, IONA 55
In New York, Shenneika Smith scored 21 points and Nadirah McKenith added 17 to help St. John’s (3-1) beat Iona (2-3).