After last season's 90-47 loss at Tennessee, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Wes Moore described stretches of the game as "embarrassing." The year before was little different as the Lady Vols cruised to a 103-43 win.
When No. 20 Tennessee takes on the Lady Mocs at McKenzie Arena tonight in the season opener for both teams, Moore wants to see his team compete and show some toughness.
"We have to have some toughness and be relentless," he said. "You're going to get knocked down and they're going to make plays; you've got to pick yourself up and keep coming back at them.
"I know that sounds cliche-ish, but I just feel like the last couple of years we have backed down some, and you can't do that against Tennessee."
This is a new Tennessee in some respects. Longtime assistant Holly Warlick has replaced legend Pat Summitt as head coach, and the Lady Vols, who reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last season, are expected to start three freshmen.
Summitt, now the head coach emeritus, is expected to attend tonight's game. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, 5,918 tickets had been sold for the contest.
Moore remembers well Summitt and UT's last visit to the Roundhouse. It's a game that will probably stay with him forever. On Nov. 21, 2008, after trailing by nine early in the second half, UTC led 61-53 with less than six minutes left. The Lady Vols closed the game on a 13-2 run for a 66-63 win.
The Lady Mocs competed well in that game and, perhaps most importantly, didn't let UT pull away from the start. Tennessee scored the game's first 19 points in 2010 and UT led 40-8 with five minutes left in the first half last season.
"They're going to deny passes, they're going to bring the heat and you've got to be able to handle that," Moore said. "Turnovers lead to baskets for them."
The Lady Vols had a 19-6 advantage in points off turnovers last season and a 30-9 advantage in second-change points.