The Tennessee Lady Vols travel to South Bend, Indiana to face No. 16 Notre Dame Monday night. Both teams enter the game at 2-0 and are looking to grab a third win in this matchup of historical national powers.
“I hope our team comes out and plays with poise and plays with confidence and plays with great passion and great intensity, but I'm excited to be able to see where we are,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “Going up and playing against a tough team in a tough environment, I think it will really challenge our players, and hopefully we're ready to compete.”
Notre Dame is led by legendary head coach Muffet McGraw. McGraw has compiled an impressive 837-234 in her 32 years in South Bend.
Based on the probable starters, the Lady Vols will have the slight height advantage with Tennessee likely to start five player 6’ or taller, including four players 6’ 2” or taller. Notre Dame’s like starting five features only one player taller than 6’, with the rest ranging from 5’ 8” to 5’ 10”.
Tennessee opened the season with wins over East Tennessee and Central Arkansas. The Lady Vols didn’t dominate either team, but this is a very young team who will probably need time to create chemistry between teammates.
“We have talked to all of our guards about being a little more aggressive when they get the ball to the paint,” Harper said. “We showed them the film. There were a few times where we passed up some opportunities, and I think that's going to be a work in progress for us.”
Among the freshman making an impact for Tennessee are Jordan Horston and Tamari Key. Horston and Key are second and third in points. Key leads the team in rebounds and blocks, while Horston is the team’s top in assists.
Notre Dame enters this wanting to have another successful year, after last season saw them capture the ACC Tournament championship and finished as the runner-up in the NCAA Tournament.
“I want to play teams that are going to challenge us,” Harper said, “You may walk out of the non-conference schedule with a loss or two more than you would've otherwise, but the ultimate goal is to be the best at the end of the season, and we have to be ready for SEC play, so we have to be playing teams that are big, strong, athletic and can execute.”
The Irish will challenge Tennessee’s ability to get on defense after quick possession changes as the Irish look to run in transition.
“I think Notre Dame is really good in transition.” Coach Harper said “They are great passers, and they are great cutters. And I think those three things - you've got to slow them down in the transition game, but you've got to be able to defend the cuts. They're great passers in the half-court game as well. Obviously, they're not deep, but the players they do have can make plays.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and will be available on ESPN2 and the Lady Vol Network.