Tennessee split their games this week, as the Lady Vols traveled on Thursday to old rival UConn and hosted LSU for “We Back Pat” night on Sunday.
Tennessee played well in both games but were only able to get the victory in their weekend matchup.
Here’s how the Lady Vols graded out.
Rennia Davis: A
The junior guard posted very impressive numbers this week in two very tough games. Against the #3 Huskies, Davis recorded 16 points on 50% shooting from the field along with eight rebounds in 36 minutes in Tennessee’s 45-60 loss.
Three days later, Davis exploded for 30 points on 69% shooting. She also tallied eight rebounds and notched 4 steals as she led the Lady Vols to top the Tigers’ 63-58. Davis also drew eight fouls against LSU and made the most of the opportunity as she went a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
These numbers along with her 16 points and a game-winner against Alabama earlier in the week were good enough to garner SEC Player of the Week for Rennia Davis.
Outside of Davis, Tennessee’s backcourt played well, but struggled in a few key areas.
Jordan Horston combined to shoot 4-21 between the two games, but she did her best to make up for it in passing with 13 assists on the week.
Jazmine Massengill helped on the offensive end, putting up 11 points against UConn and seven against LSU. She also brought down a combined 10 rebounds.
What really stood out was the backcourt’s ability to force bad shots by the opposition. Opposing guards only shot 29% from the field in the two games this week and had a combined 18 turnovers. What the backcourt lacked in scoring, they made up for on the defensive end.
The Lady Vols entered Sunday’s matchup against the Tigers as the top rebounding team in the SEC, averaging almost 50 boards a game. Tennessee struggled heavily on the glass against a much smaller LSU team who out-rebounded the Lady Vols 45-32.
Tennessee only has one player under six foot, while the Tigers only have four players over six foot and have eleven under the mark. This should have given the Lady Vols a massive advantage on the boards, but Tennessee was not able to take advantage of it.
The Huskies game had a much closer rebounding margin, as UConn only had two more rebounds than the Lady Vols did.
The frontcourt also struggled mightily on the offensive end shooting 32% from the field between the two games. Tennessee did not seem to take advantage of the height difference on the offensive end against LSU either as the entire frontcourt combined for just 21 points despite the Lady Vols towering over the Tigers.
The offense overall shot just 38% between the two games which is almost 10% lower the Tennessee’s average on the season. These percentages were helped greatly by Rennia Davis as she shot 7-14 against UConn and 9-13 against LSU.
The Lady Vols were plagued by the turnover bug against the Huskies as they gave the opposition the ball 27 times that game compared to UConn’s 11 turnovers. Had Tennessee been able to keep possession of the ball, they might have been able to put away the #3 team since they were up 31-28 at the half, but were outscored 32-14 in the second half largely due to turnovers.
Despite losing one game by 15 and only winning the other by five, the Lady Vols’ defense was actually very good this week. They held the Huskies offense to just 60 points when they average 78.6 points per game this season and kept the Tigers to just 58 when they average 66.
The defense mustered 13 steals and 13 blocks in the two games and kept the opponents to just 32% shooting from the field and 30% shooting from behind the three-point line.
Tennessee was also able to keep LSU’s top scorer, guard Khayla Pointer, to 12 points on 4-14 shooting and kept UConn’s top scorer, forward Megan Walker, to just nine points on 3-15 shooting.
The Tennessee bench racked up the minutes in the two games last week.
Junior forward Jaiden McCoy did not play in the Huskies game, but she picked up 21 minutes in the game against the Tigers as she filled in for Tamri Key when Coach Kellie Harper decided to match LSU’s smaller lineup. McCoy finished with five points and four rebounds to go along with a +10 in the plus/minus column.
Rae Burrell played a combined 36 minutes and had 14 points. She also tacked on ten rebounds. Senior Kamera Harris picked up 28 minutes this week, tallying just one point and one steal, but had a +8 in the Tigers game.
Harper had a game plan to shut down the high powered scorers that UConn and LSU bolstered and she effectively did just that. Both team’s top scorers were limited to tough nights shooting and did not enjoy the success they were used to seeing.
Coach Harper instilled her game plan in her players who ran it quite successfully, but a coach can neither prevent turnovers nor coach in easy shots, and both of those got the best of the Lady Vols against the Huskies.
Harper’s decision to run a small lineup against the Tigers rather than abusing the height difference was a questionable one, but it worked out in the end and that is what matters.
Free Throws: F
The Lady Vols shot a terrible 53% from the free throw line between the two games. If you take out Rennia Davis’s 10-10 performance against LSU, that number drops to just 33%. Tennessee is already 11th out of 14 in the conference in free throw percentage at 65% on the season.
Against UConn, the Lady Vols only reached the line seven times, of which they made just two. In comparison, the Huskies shot 15 times and made 10, which from many coaches’ eyes is still a rough day.
Tennessee faced two very tough opponents this week and had some very promising moments in each of those games. The Lady Vols came out of the gates swinging against the #3 team in the country and held their own until halftime where the Huskies got the best of the Lady Vols. Turnovers plagued the loss, and poor free throw shooting and inability to reach the line loomed over Tennessee as their opponent pulled away with the lead in the second half.
Three days later, the Lady Vols entered a slugfest with the LSU Tigers on “We Back Pat” Night at the Summitt. Tennessee was able to get the best of the Tigers behind Rennia Davis’s 30-point night, but the Lady Vols struggled to utilize the height advantage as they ran a smaller lineup on the court for most of the game. Six-foot-five center Tamari Key only played 15 minutes.
This kept the Tigers in the game longer than Harper would have liked as LSU was able to out-rebound UT and took advantage of this putting up 21 second chance points. Tennessee’s defense came up big in both games, effectively limiting both team’s top scorers to a bad shooting night and forcing bad shots all around.
If Tennessee can limit its turnovers and bad shots, get to the line more and make more of its free throws, the Lady Vols could be a huge problem for the league come tournament time.