Hoops Preview: Lady Vols at LSU

Emily Saunders – Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee (7-1, 1-0 SEC) heads to Baton Rouge, La., where it will meet LSU (4-5, 2-1 SEC) in the Lady Vols’ first road test of the conference season.

UT, which is receiving votes in the AP and USA TODAY Coaches Polls, will face off vs. the Tigers in a contest slated for a 2:02 p.m. ET (1:02 CT) tip at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The contest will feature a meeting of former Lady Vols and native Tennesseans in Kellie (Jolly) Harper and Nikki (Caldwell) Fargas. Harper, who hails from Sparta (White County H.S.), played for Pat Summitt from 1995-99, while the Oak Ridge (Oak Ridge H.S.) product Fargas was a player for Summitt (1990-94) and later served on Summitt’s staff as a graduate assistant (1998-99/Harper’s senior year) and then assistant coach (2002-08). Harper and Fargas join Kentucky’s Kyra Elzy and Mississippi State’s Nikki McCray-Penson as the four former Lady Vols holding head coaching positions at SEC schools.

Tennessee is coming off an impressive 88-73 home victory over No. 13/13 Arkansas in its SEC opener on Thursday night. It marked UT’s second victory over a top-15 team this season, following a 66-58 win at No. 15/15 Indiana on Dec. 17. It also stood as the Lady Vols’ first game since Dec. 28, after the program paused team activities from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 due to COVID-19 contact tracing. UT had conducted only two full team practices (Jan. 5 and 6) in the past 18 days prior to playing the Razorbacks.

LSU, which is at home for the first time since opening SEC play on Dec. 31, comes into Sunday’s match-up on the heels of a 67-59 loss at Alabama on Thursday night.

The Lady Vols and Tigers have one common opponent thus far in West Virginia. LSU lost to the Mountaineers in Las Vegas, 62-42, on Nov. 28, while UT fell to WVU in overtime in Morgantown, 79-73, in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Dec. 6.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday’s game will be streamed by SECN+ with Lyn Rollins (PxP) and Victor Howell (analyst) on the call.
  • Institutions can produce for SEC Network+ (SECN+) any conference and non-conference games that are not otherwise televised. Those are available on the ESPN app and SECSports.com.
  • All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) and the SEC Network will be available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 or Xbox One to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.
  • The contest also can be heard on Lady Vol Network radio stations and by audio stream, with Mickey Dearstone behind the microphone. Now calling the action for his 22nd season, Dearstone is joined by studio host Bobby Rader.
  • A link to the live audio stream can be found on each game’s Hoops Central page or the Lady Vol schedule on UTSports.com.
  • For a list of Lady Vol Network affiliates, please click on the Fans tab at the top of UTSports.com, select Vol Network and then click on Vol Network Affiliates in the black bar at the top of the page.
  • Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.

TENNESSEE IN SEC PLAY

  • UT is 406-84 in SEC regular-season games through the 2020-21 opener vs. Arkansas, winning 18 regular-season championships and capturing 17 SEC tourney titles.
  • Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper is 11-6 in SEC games in her second year leading the team and has a 1-1 record in SEC Tourney play.

NCAA NET RANKINGS & MORE

  • Tennessee was ranked No. 28 in the NCAA’s first NET Rankings ever on Jan. 4 and stand at No. 26 as of Jan. 7. The rating tool replaces the previous RPI formula that was used for helping determine NCAA Tournament invitations and seeding.
  • The Lady Vols have victories over NET No. 15 Indiana  and No. 17 Arkansas, and their only loss is to No. 28 West Virginia. UT has yet to face top-30 NET foes in No. 2 UConn, No. 3 South Carolina, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 14 Georgia, No. 23 Alabama and No. 27 Mississippi State.
  • In addition to the NET Rankings, the Lady Vols were drawing attention at No. 24 in this week’s Women’sHoopsWorld poll. UT has yet to move into the top 25 in the AP and USA TODAY polls.

QUICK GLANCE AT THE LADY VOLS

  • UT is led in scoring by junior guard/forward Rae Burrell, who is putting up 17.8 ppg. and shooting 50 percent from the field, 44.4 percent on threes and 80.0 percent from the free-throw line. She averaged 10.5 ppg. and shot 41, 33 and 60 percent, respectively, a year ago in those categories.
  • Burrell matched her career high in points with 26 vs. No. 13/13 Arkansas. She also had 26 vs. Furman earlier this season.
  • Senior Rennia Davis, who is on all of the preseason awards watch lists (Wade, Wooden, Naismith, Cheryl Miller), the Wooden Midseason List and a projected All-SEC First Team pick by the coaches and players, is second in scoring (14.0 ppg.) and is first on the team in boards at 8.5 rpg.
  • Davis, who averaged 18.0 ppg. and 8.2 rpg. as a junior last season, had tough luck shooting and found herself in foul trouble in two of UT’s first four contests this season. A breakout game of 19 points and 15 rebounds vs. Indiana on Dec. 17, however, helped Davis get her mojo back.
  • The senior has posted double-doubles in three of her last four contests, including 19 points and 15 rebounds vs. No. 15/15 Indiana, 19/11 vs. Lipscomb and 26/11 vs. No. 13/13 Arkansas.
  • The double-double vs. Arkansas was the 33rd of Davis’ career, moving her past Tamika Catchings into sole possession of sixth place on UT’s career list.
  • Sophomore Jordan Horston, an SEC All-Freshman performer a year ago is third on the team in scoring at 8.6 ppg. and is first in assists average (4.0) and  tied for first in steals average (1.9). She has started the past four games after coming off the bench the first four.
  • Horston has had five or more assists in four of her past six contests, including an 11-point, eight-rebound, five-dime outing vs. Arkansas.
  • After not scoring in double figures in her first five games this season, Kasiyahna Kushkituah has given UT a solid inside presence over the past three games, scoring in double figures twice and finishing with nine in the other.
  • Kushkituah is averaging 11.0 ppg. and 4.7 rpg. and shooting 65.2 percent (15-23) during that span.
  • Freshman guard/forward Marta Suárez, joining Burrell and Davis as UT’s only starters in every game this season, is second on the Lady Vols in rebound average (6.9) and is fifth in scoring at 6.5 ppg.
  • Suárez has been a reliable rebounder, grabbing at least six caroms in all eight games.
  • Tennessee has 11 active players averaging better than 12 minutes of duty per game and 10 posting at least 3.0 points per contest.
  • Eight different players have scored in double figures thus far, led by Burrell doing so in seven games.
  • Nine different Lady Vols have hit at least one three-pointer this season. The last season Tennessee had nine different players hit a trey was in 2011-12.
  • Jordan Walker was good for seven points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench vs. Arkansas.
  • Tamari Key continues to own a gaudy field goal percentage, shooting 70.8 percent. She recorded career block 100 vs. Arkansas in her 39th collegiate game.

RECAPPING UT’S LAST GAME

  • Tennessee opened SEC play with a victory over No. 13/13 Arkansas at home on Thursday night, winning 88-73 via an impressive 53.6 shooting percentage.
  • Senior Rennia Davis and junior Rae Burrell paced UT (7-1, 1-0 SEC), each turning in 26 points. Davis recorded her 33rd career double-double with an all-around effort, adding 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals to go along with her season-high point total. Senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah and sophomore Jordan Horston were also in double digits, chipping in 11 each.
  • UA (10-3, 1-2 SEC) was led by Chelsea Dungee who finished with 30 points and seven rebounds. Destiny Slocum and Amber Ramirez were also in double digits with 17 and 15, respectively.

UT-LSU SERIES NOTES

  • UT enters the 68th meeting in the series with a 51-16 edge, including a 23-3 record in Knoxville, 15-9 slate in Baton Rouge and a 13-4 mark at neutral sites.
  • Tennessee has won 14 of the last 19 games but has dropped its last three in Baton Rouge.
  • The Big Orange women scored 56, 59 and 65 points during those losses.
  • The Lady Vols are 1-1 vs. LSU in overtime games. The last time the two teams went to OT was on March 1, 1997. Tennessee won the game 100-99 to advance to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.
  • Kellie Harper is 1-2 vs. LSU, losing to the Tigers on Dec. 2, 2012, 81-73, when she was NC State’s head coach, winning on Jan. 26, 2020, in her first try as Tennessee’s skipper and then falling in last year’s meeting in B.R.
  • Harper is 1-3 against Nikki Fargas-coached teams, with NC State losing to LSU and to a Fargas UCLA team (74-54) on March 21, 2010, before breaking through in 2020 in the Lady Vols’ 63-58 victory in Knoxville on Jan. 26.
  • At least one team has been ranked in this series in 65 of the 67 games that have been played. This year will join the 2019 contests where neither team is ranked.

ABOUT LSU

  • LSU began the season 0-3 but has rallied to win four of its last six and stand at 4-5, including a 2-1 SEC mark after opening league play with victories in its first two games (Auburn, Ole Miss).
  • The Tigers are paced by the double-figure scoring tandem of senior Khayla Pointer (14.3. ppg., 4.6 apg.) and redshirt senior Faustine Aifuwa (11.4 ppg., 9.6 rpg.).
  • LSU is led by Nikki (Caldwell) Fargas, who is in her 10th season at the school and 13th season overall as a head coach. She is a 1994 UT graduate, playing for the legendary Pat Summitt and serving on Summitt’s staff, including the 1998-99 senior season of Tennessee’s current head coach, Kellie Harper.
  • The Tigers were 20-10 a year ago, tying for seventh in the SEC at 9-7. They returned four starters and 10 letterwinners from that club.

RECAPPING THE TIGERS’ LAST GAME

  • The LSU women’s basketball team remained on the road Thursday night wrapping up a two-game trip with a 67-59 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide.
  • The Tigers fell to 4-5 on the season and 2-1 in the SEC. The Crimson Tide improved to 9-1 on the season and 2-1 in the SEC.
  • Khayla Pointer continued to show her natural scoring ability, exceeding her season high in points, with 25.
  • Faustine Aifuwa collected another double-double, the 14th of her career and her fifth of the season. She finished strong with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and an assist.
  • Sophomore Tiara Young’s effective performances carried over in this ballgame, as she amassed 12 points, six rebounds and an assist.

THE LAST TIME UT AND LSU MET

  • The No. 25 Lady Vols pulled within one but couldn’t overcome a 26-point fourth-quarter surge by LSU, falling 75-65 on Feb. 13, 2020, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in their last meeting.
  • Junior forward Rennia Davis led Tennessee (17-7, 7-4 SEC) with 19 points and six rebounds. Redshirt senior Lou Brown and freshman Tamari Key were nearly in double digits, finishing with nine points each.
  • Khayla Pointer and Awa Trasi were the top scorers for the Tigers (18-5, 8-3 SEC) with 24 and 22, respectively.

WHAT’S NEXT

  • Tennessee will return home and play host to Georgia (9-1, 1-1 SEC) at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. SEC Network will televise that contest.
  • LSU, meanwhile, is back at home on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT to face Texas A&M.

-UT Athletics

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