To say that this final two game stretch for the Tennessee women’s basketball team is important would be an understatement. With the end of the regular season just around the corner, and the SEC Tournament looming, the Lady Vols are on the bubble in regards to their NCAA Tournament status.
Every single game from here on out has a new magnitude of importance, even if the opponents aren’t the highest of quality, and the team certainly understands that.
“We definitely look ahead as a team, and we understand that we need to win these games,” forward Rennia Davis said. “But right now, we are taking it game by game and trying to get better.”
As it stands, Tennessee is a nine-seed in the NCAA Tournament, set to play Arizona State in the first round in Waco, Texas. The Lady Vols will have a chance to improve on this draw Thursday when they welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores to the Summitt.
Vanderbilt has just one win in the SEC, posting an overall conference record of 1-13. Its lone win came on January 24 against Ole Miss, the other team the Lady Vols are set to face to close the season.
The Commodores are 1-13 on the road as well, picking up a win earlier in the season at Ball State. They have already faced Tennessee once this season, in Nashville, in a contest that saw Tennessee leave victorious, 82-65.
At that time, the Lady Vols were in the midst of a three-game conference winning streak, after surviving one of the worst skids in team history. This season has been characterized by streaks, and they’re on the tail end of a bad one right now.
Tennessee has dropped its last two contests, both in conference, by double-digits. Vanderbilt provides a good opportunity to bounce back.
“I think we just need to focus in practice and take it a day at a time,” forward Cheridene Green said. “That’s what we need to do.”
The biggest issue plaguing Tennessee in the past couple of losses has been a lack of any significant offensive production. It failed to eclipse 70 points against both Texas A&M and South Carolina, while getting thoroughly out-paced on the other end.
The offense’s shooting clip in the losses was a combined 40 percent. The Lady Vols hit a total of five threes in the pair of games, only one of which came against South Carolina. They’re putting up a high volume of shots, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they aren’t converting them at a winning level.
“We’re not making shots,” head coach Holly Warlick said. “We’re just not making shots. This is a physical game, and we didn’t finish shots.”
Vanderbilt isn’t exactly a defensive powerhouse. It allows opponents to hit around 44 percent of their shots, on the way to 70.4 points per game. In the last meeting between the two teams, Tennessee put 82 points on the board, its highest mark in conference play this season.
It might need another convincing win like that if the team hopes to improve its postseason stock, both in the NCAA and SEC tournaments. In the SEC, the Lady Vols are just a couple of spots outside of the top six teams.
If they can pick up a win on Thursday, and luck is on their side, they could slide into one of those slots. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.