Women's basketball vs Mississippi State

Anastasia Hayes, #1, during the game against Mississippi State at Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 21, 2018.

After starting the season with an impressive 15-0 record, the No. 10 Tennessee women’s basketball team has lost three of their last four contests, all of which were against nationally ranked teams, and two of which were against top-10 teams.

Despite the recent cold streak, head coach Holly Warlick is still confident in her team.

“We still have the comradery we need,” Warlick said. “When we lose, we hurt for everybody, and when we win, we’re excited for everybody. I’m not down on this team at all. This team is special, and we’re going to get back on track.”

The Lady Vols will have an opportunity to right the ship on Thursday night when they welcome the Ole Miss Rebels to Thompson-Boling Arena.

Ole Miss is the first unranked team Tennessee has played in four games. Against unranked opponents, Tennessee is 12-0. The Lady Vols have also suffered just one home loss this season, in their last game against No. 2 Mississippi State.

Through the years, The Lady Vols and the Rebels have met a total of 52 times; Thursday will mark the 53rd contest. Tennessee holds a 44-8 advantage in the overall series record, including a 20-2 mark in games in Knoxville.

Tennessee holds a 17-game winning streak against Ole Miss at home. Last season, the Rebels got the better of the Lady Vols in Oxford, winning 67-62.

Ole Miss is led by junior guard Madinah Muhammad, a dynamic scorer who averages just over 17 points per game, good for seventh best in the SEC. Muhammad also contributes by getting her teammates involved on offense, recording 60 assists so far this season.

Muhammad led Ole Miss in scoring last season in their win against Tennessee, scoring 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting.

The Rebels also have an extremely dynamic freshman forward in Promise Taylor. Taylor was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the week of Jan. 23 after recording a double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) versus No. 11 Missouri

and a solid 12-point performance against the Florida Gators.

This was her third such honor in a promising freshman campaign thus far. Taylor is a stifling defensive presence, blocking 51 total shots on the season. She is also shooting at a high clip, making 59.5 percent of her baskets per game.

It should be interesting to watch how the 6-foot-5 freshman matches up against Tennessee’s star senior Mercedes Russell, who has made a name dominating almost every single opponent she faces. Russell has yet to score under 10 points this season and is averaging almost 17 points a contest.

Ole Miss does not have a high scoring offense, only averaging about 70 points per game, but that does not mean Tennessee should take the team lightly. The Lady Vols play their best defense when they pressure the ball, and when they don’t succeed in doing so, the results are not always spectacular.

“We don’t push as much when we don’t get stops on defense,” senior Jaime Nared said, “Which is a big part of our game, just transition points.”

The Lady Vols rely on stifling defense to get easy transition points. It should be worth watching if Tennessee applies pressure the whole time or prefers to drop into a soft zone.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena and will be broadcast on SEC Network+.

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