KNOXVILLE — Thursday night, Tennessee's Holly Warlick sounded like a basketball coach who was searching for answers.
The Lady Volunteers had just lost 86-65 at Alabama for their fourth consecutive defeat, the first time the program has dropped that many games in a row since 1970. That was before Pat Summitt had taken over as coach and turned the program into a national power, even before there was an NCAA women's tournament.
Unlike the first three losses in this current skid — those were determined by a total of eight points — the 20th-ranked Lady Vols (12-5, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) were never really in Thursday's game. They trailed for more than 37 minutes of game time, leading just twice (by a point both times) and for a total of 1:14.
The Crimson Tide (10-8, 2-3) made 50 percent of their shots and were 7-for-16 from 3-point range as they won their fifth straight in the series. Alabama outscored Tennessee 26-10 in the fourth quarter.
"We had no energy, no emotion," Warlick said in her postgame interview on the Vol Network. "It was hard to watch."
Defensive adjustments made no difference either.
"We tried zone; we tried man," Warlick said. "We've got to get back on track, because we didn't have it."
Statistics from the losing streak — before falling at Alabama, the Lady Vols lost 66-64 to Missouri on Jan. 6, 73-71 to Kentucky on Jan. 10 and 66-62 at Georgia this past Sunday — show the problem is not singular. Tennessee has shot 36 percent from the field and 25 percent from the free-throw line in its four straight losses, when they have 89 offensive rebounds but only 63 points off those extra shots.
Basically, they can't score.
But now their defense is suspect, too. Alabama became only the second team this season to shoot at least 50 percent against Tennessee, with the first team Stanford, which beat the Lady Vols 95-85 last month in Knoxville. Georgia won with a big third quarter, while Missouri and Alabama just made more plays in the end.
"We're not a good defensive team. We're not a good offensive team," Warlick said. "We're stuck in the mud now, and we've got to get it straightened out. We can't go looking for breaks. We have to play hard and create our own breaks. We're sporadic; we play hard at times.
"I don't have an answer. We didn't play hard, didn't play with energy, any emotion, any heart."
Freshman Rae Burrell, who had 12 points and seven rebounds while setting her season high by playing 32 minutes, agreed the Lady Vols need "a little more heart when we play."
"We just need to come together and figure what needs to be done to move on from this slump," she said.
And soon. The Lady Vols will honor Summitt, who won 1,098 games while leading the Lady Vols from 1974 to 2012 and died in 2016, with two "We Back Pat" games next week. Arkansas comes to Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday and top-ranked Notre Dame visits on Thursday.