KNOXVILLE — Tennessee coach Holly Warlick realized the 11th-ranked Lady Volunteers would have their hands full against Wichita State.
Warlick knows Wichita State's coaches too well to have expected anything else.
Tennessee squandered most of a 10-point, second-half lead Tuesday before escaping with a 54-51 victory over a Wichita State team whose coaching staff features former Lady Vols Jody Adams and Bridgette Gordon.
"Both of them are very competitive, so I knew what was coming," Warlick said.
Adams, now Wichita State's head coach, was a point guard on Tennessee's 1991 national championship team. Gordon, one of Adams' assistants, played on Tennessee's 1987 and 1989 championship teams and remains the Lady Vols' second-leading career scorer. Gordon's No. 30 jersey hangs from the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters.
Warlick, an assistant coach on Pat Summitt's staff when Adams and Gordon were at Tennessee, gave both of them a bouquet of orange roses in a pregame midcourt ceremony. Adams and Gordon then headed toward the stands and embraced Summitt.
"To have (Summitt) here at the game, it meant a lot," Adams said. "She mentored us for four years. She forced us into being women early on into life. She taught us a lot about life."
Cierra Burdick had 10 points and a career-high 17 rebounds as Tennessee (8-2) withstood Wichita State's late rally to earn its fourth straight victory and end the Shockers' four-game winning streak.
Wichita State (6-3) shot 1 of 13 and scored just two points in the first 9 minutes, 25 seconds of the second half, yet the Shockers clawed their way back from a 10-point deficit.
"I have a bunch of kids that fight," Adams said. "We may bend, but we aren't going to break."
The Shockers cut Tennessee's lead to 52-51 on Kelsey Jacobs' 3-pointer with 23.3 seconds remaining. Ariel Massengale sank two free throws to make it 54-51 with 5.1 seconds left.
Tennessee's Isabelle Harrison stole the ensuing inbounds pass, but Wichita State's Jaleesa Chapel stole it back in the closing seconds. Chapel's desperation shot from about midcourt hit the right side of the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
Harrison had 14 points and nine rebounds, while Alexa Middleton added 10 points for Tennessee. Alex Harden scored 19 points and Alie Decker added 17 for Wichita State.
Tennessee's inability to make free throws and protect the basketball prevented the Lady Vols from putting the game away earlier. In the second half, the Lady Vols committed 13 turnovers and shot 9 of 16 from the foul line.
"We've got to focus, we've got to prepare better," Burdick said. "We can't overlook any team. Wichita State is a great basketball team. We knew they were going to come in firing. They were coached by two former Lady Vols, and they know what it takes to win."
Wichita State: Decker had been averaging just 6.1 points per game before Tuesday. She shot 5 of 8 from 3-point range against Tennessee.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols used their seventh different starting lineup in 10 games this season. This combination included Burdick, Bashaara Graves and Harrison in the frontcourt with Jordan Reynolds and Andraya Carter in the backcourt.
Carter was helped off the floor in the final minute of the game after Harrison inadvertently collided with her. Warlick said Carter had cut her lip but added that "I think she'll be fine." ... Tennessee played the entire game without forward Jasmine Jones, who got hurt Sunday in a 55-45 victory at Rutgers. Warlick said Jones sat out the game "as a precaution."
Wichita State: Hosts Louisiana-Monroe on Friday in the Shocker Winter Classic.
Tennessee: Hosts No. 7 Stanford on Saturday.