KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper met with members of the media on Monday ahead of UT’s season opener at ETSU. Tip-off is slated for 7:02 p.m. ET Tuesday at Freedom Hall, with the game being carried by MyVLT in Knoxville and WEMT Fox 39 in the Tri-Cities. The game also will be streamed on ESPN+. Mickey Dearstone will have the call for the Lady Vol Radio Network.
The Lady Vols come into the game having defeated Carson-Newman last Tuesday in their lone exhibition game, 70-44. ETSU did not play in an exhibition contest.
This will mark the 26th meeting between the two programs, with Tennessee leading the series 22-2-1. Coach Harper, who will be making her regular-season debut as UT’s head coach, is 4-0 in season openers while coaching a Power 5 school (NC State).
Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper
On starting out on the road:
“At this point, I am just excited to get started. I am going to be partial towards Thompson-Boling Arena, so I am going to want to play here as much as we can, but it will be good for us to get a road trip under our belts early in the season.”
On how the first postgame film session went with the team:
“I thought the film session went really well. We were really honest, but I think we are also using that as a teaching moment and teaching opportunity. We try to be positive, and although at times we are critical, we want to be positive. We really worked on talking about our urgency defensively and getting into position on defense a little quicker than what we did in our exhibition game. We just talked about little things. There was nothing huge we talked about, just little plays here and there.”
On if she saw any specific areas that the offense needs to improve on after watching film:
“Our offense needs to get better, period. But we know that is a work in progress. I think right now our spacing, timing and passing – all of those things – can improve, and that would improve our offense. When those things get a little bit better, I think our shooting percentage will go up. Hopefully our defense will help that by turning some plays into offense.”
On how she feels about the team’s ability to hit from behind the arc:
“I think if you pull the stats on this program from last year moving into this year, I think it is a concern on our three-point shooting percentage. We have players that can make shots. I don’t know yet what that percentage is going to be. We hope to continue to improve it. We have players in the gym getting extra shots up. Our staff has really been diligent on making sure that happens. I think we are going to put the work in, so hopefully you will see that pay off.”
On if there is a certain number of three-point shots she’d like to see in every game:
“No. I am not really a coach that lives and dies by the three. I never have been. But I have always had some pretty good shooters on our team, so I think right now we are going to try to maximize what we have and try to get open looks. I just think if we have an open look, we have to take it, because I think when you are shooting in rhythm, you have a better opportunity to shoot a better percentage. But you always have a great opportunity to get to the boards. I think for us that will be a big part of our offense.”
On developing this team into being better shooters:
“You try to get easier shots. You try to work for easier shots. I think a few things… it is kind of like bunting, I guess. We are going to try to get to the free throw line, get some second-chance points and try to score in transition. Those are some ways to find some easier opportunities. But again, when our players shoot it, I want them to have great confidence. I don’t want them hesitating, and hopefully we can continue to give them that confidence as they get into the gym.”
On what she learned from her rotation from the exhibition game:
“I think the biggest thing for us in terms of our rotation is just knowing the minute limitations for some of our players. I think there are some of them that are maybe two-minute max or two-to-three minute max. And it is not that their conditioning is bad, it’s just the level of focus that is required to be successful at this level is tough. It is taxing. Then there are some players I think can go for a stretch of six to eight minutes at a time, so just knowing who those people are and keeping our players on the court as fresh as possible is going to be really important for us.”
On if she is expecting some fans in Johnson City:
“I totally expect to see orange in the gym when we walk in Tuesday night for the game. I think there are a lot of people that have high expectations and anticipation for what this team is going to look like. I know we have a lot of Tennessee fans up in the Tri-Cities area, so hopefully they will come out and support the Lady Vols.”
On what she is expecting from ETSU:
“I think the hardest part for preparing for them is that they have not played an exhibition game this year, so we don’t have current film. Two of their leading scorers are back, but they lost several key players from last year beyond those two. They have several junior college players and some new folks. For us, it is a little bit of a guessing game in terms of what the personnel will look like, other than we feel like we know their go-to players. We can watch film from last year and get an idea of what their system is and the style in what they like to do. For us, I think they are running a lot of sets. We anticipate we can see both a two-three zone, a press and man-to-man. We are trying to prepare for everything at this point. And at the end, we know we have to key in on a couple of their perimeter players.”