Predicting Kellie Harper’s lineups from game to game is nearly impossible.
Jordan Horston is the only Lady Vol who has started every game for Tennessee. Minutes are fluid for Kellie Harper’s squad.
Jasmine Powell came off the bench in Wednesday’s blowout victory over UCF. The transfer guard from Minnesota had started for the Lady Vols earlier in the season. She dropped seven points in 14 minutes.
“We're just always looking at what's going on in practice and how our team is playing and always asking where we need to go,” Harper said. “I think I've said this before, our starting lineup is not carved in stone and minutes are fluid."
Tennessee’s offense was dead in the first half on Wednesday. The Lady Vols were only up three going into halftime. Tennessee was also getting out-rebounded by a wide margin.
For much of the early season, Rickea Jackson – a highly touted forward who transferred to Tennessee from Mississippi State – provided the spark that the Lady Vols needed.
Since, she has missed two games due to a “coach’s decision” and has been limited in two others.
Jackson finished with a team-high 17 points in 15 minutes on Sunday, off the bench. On Wednesday, Jackson was the last Lady Vol to be subbed in, with the exception of freshman walk-on Edie Darby. She came on late in the third quarter on Wednesday and finished with five points, two boards, and a steal in 10 minutes.
Was Jackson limited to 10 minutes for anything other than basketball?
“Oh, no,” Harper said.
So, where’s Jackson?
“Again, each day we are evaluating, so minutes are going to be fluid,” Harper said. “I don't think we know every day who's going to be doing what, and we'll keep evaluating our team and our personnel in practice as well."
Jackson led the SEC in scoring a season ago, and she is still Tennessee’s leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game. With a roster as deep as Tennessee’s players are beginning to pick up the slack left by Jackson.
Now with the loss of Tamari Key due to a season-ending diagnosis, the Lady Vols need someone to step up in the post. That call, on Wednesday, was answered by Jasmine Franklin and Jillian Hollingshead.
As she’s done all season, Harper experimented with her lineups on Wednesday. At one point, she had both 6-foot-1 Franklin and 6-5 Hollingshead on the floor together.
The tandem of Franklin and Hollingshead on the floor at the same time created a matchup nightmare for UCF, and will likely create the same nightmare for other teams.
“What we’re able to do a lot of times is take advantage of one, if not both of those players on the block,” Harper said. “Our team does a really good job looking to get the ball inside… Some people are putting a small four on one of those players and they can do a really good job on the block scoring. They can do some damage on the boards as well.”
With the constant turnover in lineups, team chemistry was obviously a concern. Some defensive rotation issues have seemed to work themselves out, but it still poses issues for Harper’s squad.
With a roster of 16 players and 14 active players, having solid on-court chemistry is a challenge.
“I think our on-court chemistry is getting better and better,” Harper said. “Really excited last game we had 25 assists, this game 24. That’s really good to see and low turnovers. Really happy that we’re sharing the basketball.”
Moving forward, Tennessee faces a road trip to No. 2 Stanford on Sunday. We can expect Harper to keep a quick leash and the minute to be fluid in that contest as well.
Harper is going to feed the hot hand from game to game, and we never know what that means for the lineup.
"I think part of that, we were searching a little bit; just trying to find who next, who was able to step up and get some stops,” Harper said. “We're not going to be able to play five people for 10 minutes. We're going to utilize our bench… I think every game changes. I don't go into every game thinking, 'This is how it's going to look.' A lot of times our subs are going to be a feel, obviously, based on practices."
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