Women's Basketball vs Southern Illinois

Tamari Key (20) shoots the ball resulting in two points for the Lady Vols in Thompson- Boling Arena on November 10th, 2021. 

The No. 16 Tennessee women’s basketball team (3-0) will play its second straight ranked team as No. 12 Texas (3-0) comes to Thompson-Boling Arena for a top-20 showdown of undefeated squads Sunday. 

Tennessee and Texas head into Sunday’s matchup coming off a couple days rest. 

"We've had couple days off so I think right now, we've had a few players feeling a little bit better now. I think their legs are back up under them,” head coach Kellie Harper said. I think they feel good about what we've done, and also what we can do. 

Sunday’s game marks the third of a three-game stretch against 2021 NCAA Tournament teams for the Big Orange. UCF, South Florida and Texas advanced to the first, second and Elite 8 rounds, respectively, in last year’s tournament. 

This matchup also represents the beginning of a three-game series versus Big 12 opponents, as the Lady Vols are set to face Kansas and Oklahoma State at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas. 

Tennessee has had to really gut it out for its three wins thus far. While their defense has been lockdown, the Lady Vols’ shooting performances have been less than stellar. They currently average 53.3 ppg, while shooting just .364 from the field. Tennessee is just 6-43 from beyond the arc. 

“It's not one of those things that you get a little button, press it, and you're done. It's progress,” Harper said. "You have to continue to work through some things. You have to continue to try to get better in those areas. 

I think we can do that, but then you play Texas and some of the things we need to work on for us, honestly go out of the window against Texas and their style of defense. 

Texas and Tennessee are currently tied for the No. 18 spot nationally in scoring defense allowing just 46.3 points per contest through their first three games of the season. Texas is holding opponents to just a 31.3 field goal percentage, which ranks No. 35 in the country. The Lady Vols are holding opponents to just a 30.3 percent mark which ranks No. 24. 

One area where the Lady Vols shine is through rebounding. They are averaging over 42.4 rebounds per game, with the majority coming from the defensive side of things. Out of a total of 127 boards, 81 are defensive.  

Jordan Horston is one of the Lady Vols to step up and help fill the void of the missing Burrell. Horston is leading the team with an average of 19 ppg, while also averaging 10 rebounds per game. Last game against South Florida, she tied her career high of 24 points, while scoring the final 12-of-14 points in the fourth quarter to help guide the Lady Vols to victory. 

“Jordan has done a great job. We are able to play her in a lot of different positions,” Harper said.  She is rebounding the ball really well right now, I think she is a terrific defensive player, she is a play maker.  

She is going to make some mistakes, but I think right now I think she is bouncing back from those really quickly and continuing to make plays." 

The freshmen are continuing to make an impact as they receive more experience and minutes to adjust to this level of play. Sarah Puckett has made an impact so far, as well as guard Brooklynn Miles. 

This is the second ranked contest for the Longhorns. Texas previously faced and defeated then No. 3 Stanford in Palo Alto. The Cardinal were the defending national champions. 

Four Texas longhorns are averaging in the double digits for points per game. Aliyah Matharu, a transfer from Ole Miss, leads Texas in scoring at 15.3 ppg. Also in double figures are freshman guards Kyndall Hunter (13.5) and Rori Harmon (13.0) and senior guard Joanne Allen-Taylor (11.3). Texas was picked to finish in a tie for second in the 2021-22 Big 12 Preseason Coachs Poll. 

Texas, excelling in offensive and defensive production, will be the best team Tennessee will play thus far. 

Texas' style of play is very unique and presents a lot of problems. You're going to have to play 94 feet for forty minutes,” Harper said. “... We want to go out and be the best defensive team that we can be and we have to decide what is that, what can our strengths be. Right now, I think we've played pretty good position in the first three games." 

Texas’ current head coach is Vic Schaefer. Schaefer was a three-time SEC Coach of the Year and a two-time national coach of the year while at Mississippi State from 2011-20, leading the Bulldogs to a 221-62 record. He is in his second season at Texas and owns a 24-10 record in Austin and stands 325-182 in his 17th year as a head coach.  

Tip-off versus the Longhorns is slated for 1 p.m. EST on ESPN.

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