KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee women’s basketball program announced its 2020-21 schedule on Friday, including a 16-game Southeastern Conference itinerary and games vs. eight non-conference opponents.
Tip times, television network designations and live stream details will be released by the SEC at a later date. Fans should consult the women’s basketball schedule page on UTSports.com during the season to keep apprised of any updates, including the potential for another contest to be added. All games, dates and times are subject to change.
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“Finalizing our game schedule has required a lot of patience and flexibility,” Lady Vol head coach Kellie Harper said. “There were a lot of moving parts. While this is not the schedule we started with, we are excited to have the opportunity to play games.”
A trio of season-opening home contests includes Florida A&M on Nov. 27, Western Kentucky on Nov. 28 and East Tennessee State on Dec. 1. WKU finished 2019-20 at No. 31 in the RPI after tying for second in the C-USA at 14-4 in league play and 22-7 overall. ETSU, which pushed the Lady Vols before falling, 72-68, in last year’s season-opener in Johnson City, will be playing UT for the sixth-straight season. FAMU, meanwhile, is under the direction of LVFL and first-year head coach Shalon Pillow, a former teammate of UT’s Kellie (Jolly) Harper on Rocky Top.
Tennessee hits the road for match-ups with a pair of Power 5 teams on Dec. 6 and 13. The first test comes in Morgantown, W. Va., as the Lady Vols and West Virginia face off in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, followed by a trip to Austin to battle another Big 12 foe in Texas. The Longhorns, under first-year and former Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer, finished third in the league a year ago and were No. 43 in the RPI, while WVU was No. 70 in the RPI after placing sixth in conference play.
UT has three more home non-conference opponents on its agenda, including Jackson State on Dec. 20, Lipscomb on Dec. 28 and third-ranked UConn on Jan. 21. The eleven-time national champion Huskies make their first visit to Knoxville since 2006. The 2020 American Conference champions (now back in the BIG EAST) won last season’s meeting in Hartford, 60-45. JSU was the champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference last season and makes its first appearance in Knoxville since 1982. Lipscomb, whose staff includes former Lady Vols Lauren (Avant) Sumski as head coach and Ariel Massengale as an assistant coach, is in year two of a makeover at the Nashville school.
Southeastern Conference play gets underway on Dec. 31, as the Lady Vols face 13th-ranked Texas A&M in College Station. Tennessee opens the home portion of its league slate with back-to-back contests vs. No. 11 Kentucky and No. 14 Arkansas on Jan. 3 and 7. That opening flurry pits UT against three of the league’s five teams appearing in this year’s first AP poll.
Other SEC home games include Georgia on Jan. 14, Ole Miss on Jan. 28, Florida on Jan. 31, Vanderbilt on Feb. 14, No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 18 and Auburn on Feb. 28. The Gamecocks are the defending league champs and the nation’s consensus top-ranked team in the preseason.
In addition to the A&M road trip, the Lady Vols will venture to LSU on Jan. 10, Alabama on Jan. 17, Vanderbilt on Jan. 24, No. 6 Mississippi State on Feb. 4, No. 11 Kentucky on Feb. 11, Georgia on Feb. 21 and Missouri on Feb. 25. MSU, which finished last season in the top 10 and was SEC runner-up, has replaced the departed Schaefer with former Lady Vol standout Nikki McCray-Penson.
South Carolina (No. 1), Mississippi State (No. 9), Kentucky (No. 16), Texas A&M (18) and Arkansas (No. 24) all finished the 2019-20 season ranked in the AP Poll. Those five programs all had top-30 RPIs a year ago, while LSU, Georgia and Alabama finished in the top 75 in the RPI.
The regular season concludes with the 2021 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament being held for the fourth time at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. The tournament, which will include all 14 teams, begins on Wednesday, March 3, and concludes with the championship game on Sunday, March 7.
UT tied for third in the SEC last season, fashioning a 21-10 overall record and 10-6 mark in conference play. That league placement was the Big Orange’s highest since winning the regular-season championship in 2014.
The Lady Vols return five of their top six scorers and rebounders from 2019-20, including the top four in each category. Harper, in fact, welcomes back 80.8 percent of her scoring, 76.4 percent of rebounding, 78.6 percent of blocks, 71.0 percent of steals and 64.8 percent of assists from last year’s squad.
Returning starters from last season’s end include 6-foot-2 senior guard/forward Rennia Davis, 6-1 junior guard/forward Rae Burrell and 6-5 sophomore center Tamari Key. Jordan Horston, a 6-2 sophomore point guard who started 22 contests as a rookie, certainly has the experience to be considered a fourth returning starter for the Big Orange. Additionally, UT also brings back four other letterwinners.
Davis was chosen for the third straight season as a member of the Cheryl Miller Award Preseason Watch List. Horston, meanwhile, is listed by ESPN.com has the league’s “emerging player” in its season outlook of the SEC.
Tennessee welcomes five new players, including a graduate transfer point guard, graduate transfer forward/center, two freshman guard/forwards and a freshman guard. Those newcomers boost the roster to 13 active players, the most since 13 roster members took the court in 2010-11. Keyen Green, a graduate transfer from Liberty, has been listed at No. 15 on ESPN’s Newcomer Impact Rankings.