KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Holly Warlick believes Tennessee's bid to return to national title contention is more a mental hurdle than a physical test.
The Lady Vols were rolling going into last season's NCAA tournament. The momentum carried only so far and Tennessee lost in a regional semifinal. Warlick wants to make sure her team doesn't peak too early again.
"I think our team needs to have a little bit more togetherness," the Tennessee coach told The Associated Press. "We have to have a little bit more discipline, a little bit more toughness. I thought we were tough at times, but not all the time. I thought sometimes when our back got against the wall, we folded a little bit."
Tennessee has shown plenty of grit at times. The Lady Vols won last season's Southeastern Conference tournament by erasing double-digit deficits in each of their three games.
But they weren't the same in the NCAA tournament. Tennessee was tied early in the second half of victories over Northwestern State and Southern California before falling 73-62 to Maryland.
The Lady Vols lose leading scorer Meighan Simmons but return everyone else as they chase the Final Four bid that has eluded them since the 2008 national championship. That represents Tennessee's longest Final Four drought since the NCAA started running the tournament in 1982.
"I don't think we played well in any of the three (NCAA tournament) games we played," Warlick said. "The first two, we got by. In the regional semifinals, we couldn't get by with a team like Maryland. For some reason, we weren't as focused. It was almost like we peaked at the SEC tournament."
Warlick is 56-14 since succeeding Pat Summitt, who remains on staff as head coach emeritus after stepping down in 2012 with the most career wins of any men's or women's college basketball coach in history.
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