The Tennessee women’s basketball team will host No. 13 Arkansas Thursday, Jan. 7 to start Southeastern Conference play. The Lady Vols are 6-1 on the season, while the Razorbacks own a 10-2 (1-1 SEC) record.
Here are three things to know for the game.
Last time out
In their last game, the Lady Vols defeated Lipscomb 77-52. Senior guard Rennia Davis led Tennessee’s scoring, totaling 19 points and 11 rebounds for her 32nd career double-double. That mark tied her with Tamika Catchings for sixth all time in school history.
“I'm happy about that (record), and I actually knew about it before the game because one of the fans told me on Twitter,” Davis said of her performance. “So the fans keep me updated, and I wouldn't have known without them. It gave me something to strive for tonight, and obviously, the points will come, but I am really trying to focus on rebounding right now for this team because I feel as if I can do that really well for us.”
Junior Rae Burrell finished second in scoring for the Lady Vols with 10 points. Senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah and sophomore Tamari Key each scored nine points as well. And for the second straight game, every active player for the Lady Vols finished with at least two points.
In its first game back after an eight-day Christmas break, Tennessee showed some rust early on, but overcame its mistakes to earn the victory.
“In terms of knocking the rust off, I was pleased,” head coach Kellie Harper said after the game. “I thought our players did OK in that area. I thought we made some adjustments – and most of those were just mental. I was pleased to see the way we came out in that second half. Overall, I think we accomplished what we needed to accomplish.”
The Lady Vols have not gotten to play much basketball over the last several weeks. After its Dec. 20 win over UNCG, Tennessee took an eight-day Christmas break, and did not have an official team practice before its Dec. 28 win over Lipscomb.
Tennessee was then forced to pause team activities on Dec. 29, a day after the Lipscomb game, and had its matchups vs. Texas A&M and Kentucky postponed last week due to COVID-19 contact tracing within the program. The Lady Vols met all SEC Return To Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force requirements and resumed full team activities on Jan. 5.
It is likely that Tennessee has held just two full team practices since before Christmas, given the holiday break and subsequent pandemic shutdown.
In a Zoom interview with the media, Harper addressed how much work the team has been able to get in over the pause in activities.
“We've tried to stay active with as many players as we could,” Harper said. “We follow the medical guidance of our athletic trainers and the SEC, so we were able to do some quarantine workouts with several players, and we had a few players that we were still able to work with on the court in smaller groups. We stayed busy.”
As Harper mentioned, her players continued to work out and stay active, but nothing compares to experience on the court. Tennessee struggled out of the gate against Lipscomb after the eight-day break, so it will be interesting to see how the Lady Vols fare early on against a very good Arkansas team after their seven-day hiatus.
“I think it's going to be really important that we get up and down a lot, try to get back into the swing of things with five on five,” Harper said on preparing for playing games. “When you're out a week of playing, your timing could be off. I just want to make sure we feel good in those things, and both offensively and defensively, make sure we're locked in. Given the Christmas break, then you have another game and then another break, we haven't played a lot. That's what we're going to try to do in the next two days.”
Scouting the Razorbacks
The SEC is a challenging conference this season, and Arkansas is a major reason. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 13 in the nation, and will be the second nationally ranked team the Lady Vols have faced this season. Tennessee previously beat No. 15 Indiana Dec. 17.
Arkansas has four players averaging double figure points, including Chelsea Dungee (19.5.), Destiny Slocum (15.4), Makayla Daniels (13.7) and Amber Ramirez (12.3). Additionally, the Razorbacks average 9.8 made three-pointers per game, with Ramirez (31), Dungee (23) and Slocum (21) topping the list.
In its last game, Arkansas defeated Missouri 91-88, despite being outscored in the second half 54-46, including 29-25 in the fourth quarter. Dungee paced the Razorbacks in scoring, with 25 points, and four three-pointers. Ramirez (17), Daniels (16) and Slocum (10) also reached double figure points for Arkansas.
Tennessee is 30-5 all-time against Arkansas, though the Lady Vols did drop last year’s matchup in a close 80-79 game in Knoxville.
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.