Lady Vols rout Alabama State, improve to 8-0 in 104-51 blowout

Coach Holly Warlick on Tennessee's athletic director transition: 'Our administration wants to get it right'

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick watches her team play Alabama State during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

KNOXVILLE - Holly Warlick began her University of Tennessee basketball career as a player in 1976 - the year before Johnny Majors took over as head coach of the football program - and she has spent only four years away from the university since.

But even with her decades of service to the Lady Vols, the sixth-year head coach does not fancy herself to be an athletic administrator.

"I'm hired to coach basketball," she said when asked about Tennessee's athletic director transition after her team's 104-51 win over Alabama State at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday. "Our administration wants to get it right, and we're going to allow them to do that."

Warlick is now working for her third boss since taking over for the legendary Pat Summitt in 2012. Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer was named athletic director Friday, replacing John Currie, who was suspended with pay after just eight months on the job. The change came after the search to replace fired football coach Butch Jones turned disastrous.

"I have a great relationship with Phillip," Warlick said. "He did great as the football coach, and he's been a great ambassador for us. I think everybody wants to get it right. I think they've got people in place that are trying to get it right. But I will tell you this: My concern is just keeping this basketball team focused. We've got a great thing going."

The greatest thing the No. 12 Lady Vols (8-0) had going Sunday was an uncanny ability to protect the basketball while playing at warp speed against the visiting Lady Hornets (1-7). Tennessee committed no turnovers during the first half and took a 61-26 lead into the break.

The Lady Vols used the second half to knock the rust off a rarely used zone defense. Offensively, Tennessee committed only four turnovers in the second half and came in well below Warlick's pregame goal of having 11 or fewer turnovers.

"We could have lost our focus with the score, but I thought we stayed focused and played hard," Warlick said.

The Lady Vols host Troy (4-1) on Wednesday. Troy, which beat Alabama State 93-63 on Nov. 16, has already faced a Southeastern Conference program this season, losing 96-93 to Ole Miss on Nov. 21.

Tennessee hosts Texas next Sunday, then hits the road for games against Long Beach State and Stanford before opening SEC play Dec. 31 at Kentucky.

Summitt spent the majority of her tenure working for longtime Tennessee women's athletic director Joan Cronan. Such continuity in leadership has not been part of Warlick's time in charge of Lady Vols basketball.

"We've got some outstanding coaches here at the University of Tennessee, and we pull for one another, we talk with each other," Warlick said. "The soccer team had a great year, the softball team had a number one-ranked recruiting class. Look, I love this university and I think the administration, they're trying to get it how they feel is right. We're going to leave it to them, because that's what they do. They're hired to do that.

"I'm hired to coach basketball and win basketball games, and I'm going to stick to what I was hired to do."

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