The No. 15 Tennessee Lady Vols tip-off their season Wednesday against Southern Illinois at home.
"We're excited, we have a very busy week ahead of us for sure,” head coach Kellie Harper said. “We're just really looking forward to getting going, getting started.”
Tennessee won its exhibition game last Wednesday against Georgia College, 108-44. The Lady Vols had five players in double figures with senior Rae Burrell leading the way with 18.
The Lady Vols’ freshmen saw the floor for the first time and all four got points on the board. Harper is looking to use early games as a chance for her younger players to acclimated to the college game.
“I think it's important to get them minutes in non-conference games,” Harper said. “Obviously, for us, it started a little bit with our exhibition game, but a lot this week. They need to help us."
“They need to be able to come in and play quality minutes in big games, and the only way they're going to be able to do that in February, in March, is if they have the experience in November and December. That's what we definitely hope to get for them in this non-conference schedule."
Though the Lady Vols dominated last Wednesday, the one place they struggled was at the free throw line, going 9-for-21. Harper emphasized that her team worked on free throws in practice this week.
"We coach as if we think every area is a concern when we don't perform well,” Harper said. “I think for us we just made sure that we were a little more intentional in getting those shots up. It's something we'll be tracking. We can shoot free throws. We just have to step out and do it in the game."
Harper is looking to use Tennessee’s early season contest as an opportunity to workout kinks and refine fundamentals before getting into the brunt of the season.
"We will have some game goals that we will talk about,” Harper said. “Those typically include boards, turnovers, or lack thereof actually, some free-throw shooting percentages and maybe some deflections as well."
“Each game is different, but those are some of the stats we will track throughout the game. As we go we might have game goals in the middle of the game. I think we will just see how things are going and try to find ways to challenge our team."
The Lady Vols and Salukis tip-off at 7 p.m. EST Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Harper has faced Southern Illinois several times in her career and has gotten to know head coach Cindy Stein.
“Playing them multiple times for six years, you get to know an opponent really well,” Harper said. “They are going to be tough, they are going to be disciplined, they are highly skilled on the offensive end. It's a veteran team, and they are going to come in not afraid. I think those are some of the qualities of her team and things we can expect to see."