Mercedes Russell had 15 points and 11 rebounds as No. 23 Tennessee defeated Arkansas 75-57 on Thursday to give Warlick her 100th career coaching victory.
Warlick (100-28) is the 17th Division I women’s coach to win 100 games within her first four seasons. She took over as Tennessee’s coach in 2012 after working as an assistant on Pat Summitt’s staff for 27 seasons.
“I want to thank first (athletic director) Dave Hart,” Warlick said. “He took a chance on me, hiring an assistant coach in a big-time women’s basketball program, and he’s done nothing but support me. ... It’s a great honor. I appreciate it. But it boils down to having surrounded yourself with great people. If I didn’t learn anything (else) from Coach Summitt, I did learn that.”
After the game, the Lady Vols carried Warlick to midcourt, where they handed her flowers and posed for pictures. Warlick said Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes offered congratulations and gave her a cake, setting off one more celebration.
“Draya (Andraya Carter) proceeded to put the cake on my face and neck,” Warlick said. “If I have icing, it wasn’t because I ate it, I promise you.”
Tennessee (14-8, 5-4 SEC) earned a measure of revenge after a 64-59 defeat at Arkansas on Jan. 14, the first time the Lady Vols had fallen to a team with a losing record since 1979. Tennessee blew an 11-point halftime lead and committed a season-high 24 turnovers that night.
The Lady Vols avoided a repeat performance by outscoring Arkansas 21-8 in points off turnovers. Arkansas (9-14, 4-6) had a 27-9 edge in that statistic during their previous meeting.
“I thought the big kid — No. 21 (Russell) — was much better tonight at handling the double-team,” Arkansas coach Jimmy Dykes said. “She only turned it over twice in 34 minutes. She kept the ball moving, where in Fayetteville, the ball went to her and it got stuck. They’re much better attacking the zone than they were a few weeks ago.”
Diamond DeShields ended her recent slump by scoring 15 points without committing any turnovers, while Te’a Cooper had 13 points and Carter added 10. DeShields, the Lady Vols’ leading scorer, had a combined nine turnovers and five points in the two games leading up to this one.
DeShields said she benefited from a chat with her father, former major league baseball player Delino DeShields, who attended Thursday’s game.
“He gave me like a piece of reality,” said DeShields, who has been dealing with shin splints. “He said right now I’ve got to kind of play an old man’s game. He’s like, ‘I know your body’s not feeling great, but you’ve got to understand that you can’t go very fast right now, as fast as you like.‘ That’s one of the reasons why I feel like I was turning the ball over and having problems over the last couple of games. I was just trying to go too fast.”
Jessica Jackson scored 18 points and Devin Cosper had 17 for Arkansas, which lost its fourth straight.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks were seeking their fourth win over a ranked team this season. They beat Tennessee and Texas A&M when both were ranked 13th and knocked off Missouri when it was ranked 24th.
Tennessee: This marked the fourth consecutive game in which Russell had at least 10 rebounds.
Tennessee played a second straight game without usual starting forward Bashaara Graves, who has a sprained ankle. Warlick said Graves could have played “if we needed her,” but the Lady Vols wanted to remain cautious.
“She’s as good a coach as anybody in this league,” Dykes said while discussing the criticism Warlick has received this season as the Lady Vols have slipped from fourth to 23rd in the rankings. “Tennessee’s lucky to have her.”
Arkansas: Hosts Vanderbilt on Monday.
Tennessee: At No. 12 Texas A&M on Sunday.