Lady Vols vs. Georgia College

Jordan Horston (25) takes a jump shot against Georgia College at Thompson Boling Arena. November 3, 2021.

After narrowly escaping Southern Illinois with a win Wednesday night, the Lady Vols have a quick turnaround before they head to Orlando, Florida, to take on UCF.

During Wednesday’s matchup, starting guard Rae Burrell was injured in the second quarter. She was helped off the court and did not return with an apparent right knee issue.

The quick turnaround will make the Lady Vols’ first away game a difficult one.

Several freshmen will look to fill the void in Burrell’s absence, including Sarah Puckett, who had a clutch three-pointer that put the Lady Vols ahead for good against Southern Illinois.

There will be even less time for an injured Lady Vols team to heal. Head coach Kellie Harper had no update on Burrell Wednesday night, and her injury came after Jordan Horston sat out the game with an ankle issue. Horston is currently day-to-day.

“UCF, that's going to be a really tough game,” Harper said. “First on the road, after a quick turnaround, against one of the top defenses in the country and a very veteran team. That's a huge challenge for us.”

Since the Lady Vols won’t have much time to game plan for UCF specifically, Harper tried to run some plays Wednesday night that they can use against a solid UCF team.

“We want to take things one game at a time, but we've tried to put in some things offensively and defensively that we feel like could help us for that game on Friday because we're not going to have a lot of time to work on them on Thursday,” Harper said.

“You have to plan a little bit in advance when you're playing a team like Central Florida.”

UCF is coming off a win in its season-opener — a 68-39 victory against Duquesne. Senior Diamond Battles and junior Ahna Burney both had 16 points apiece.

While the Knights struggled offensively — they shot just 28.6% from the floor in the opening half — their defense forced 11 turnovers and locked things down. Masseny Kabajust missed a double-double, finishing with 11 points and 9 rebounds. That defense will challenge the Lady Vols, who struggled against Southern Illinois’ zone coverage.

“Central Florida plays zone, and we weren’t as fluid in our zone offense tonight,” Harper said.

With both Burrell and Horston out, Tennessee had some key contributions from several of its newcomers. Graduate transfer Alexus Dye totaled 12 points and 13 rebounds for her 33rd career double-double. Graduate student Jordan Walker led UT in scoring with 14 points. Burrell tossed in 12 on 6-of-9 shooting before departing. It is worth noting that all five of Tennessee’s newcomers received playing time.

If Burrell and Horston remain out, Tamari Key, Dye and Walker are next in line to lead the offensive output. Tennessee’s four freshmen will factor into that as well.

“I feel like it gave everyone a little bit of a confidence boost, just knowing when we don't have two of our leading scorers, we have people that have a lot to bring to this team,” Key said. “That was good for us going into the future, just knowing we can step up when we need to.”

The 6 p.m. EST contest marks the first meeting between the Knights and the Lady Vols. It will be streamed on ESPN+.

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