Hoops Preview: Lady Vols vs. No. 13 Arkansas

Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee (6-1, 0-0 SEC) finally opens Southeastern Conference play on Thursday, as No. 13/13 Arkansas (10-2, 1-1 SEC) comes to Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Lady Vols, who are receiving votes in the AP and USA TODAY Coaches Polls, and the Razorbacks will tip at 6:32 p.m. ET in UT’s first game since it defeated Lipscomb, 77-52, in Knoxville on Dec. 28.

Kellie Harper‘s squad paused team activities on Dec. 29 and had contests vs. Texas A&M and Kentucky postponed last week due to COVID-19 contact tracing within the program. Tennessee met all SEC Return To Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force requirements and resumed full team activities on Jan. 5.

Arkansas comes into Thursday night’s match-up on the heels of a 91-88 home victory over Missouri on Sunday. The Razorbacks’ only losses are to (then) No. 12/11 Maryland on Nov. 29 and to (then) No. 13/11 Kentucky on Dec. 31. Their biggest win was an 83-78 home triumph over (then) No. 4/4 Baylor on Dec. 6 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

The Lady Vols’ only setback came at West Virginia, 79-73 in overtime, in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. UT’s biggest win was a 66-58 road victory over Big Ten favorite (then) No. 15/15 Indiana.

Tennessee is 5-0 at home this season. Combined with a 2-0 record at T-BA at the end of the 2019-20 campaign, the Lady Vols are looking to claim their eighth straight contest on The Summitt and extend their longest home win streak of the Harper era.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Thursday night’s game will be televised by SEC Network with Courtney Lyle (PxP) and Carolyn Peck (Analyst) on the call.
  • 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.

TICKETS AVAILABLE AT ALLVOLS.COM

  • Single game tickets are on sale, starting at just $5. Go to AllVols.com to purchase.

LADY VOLS IN SEC OPENERS

  • Tennessee is 32-6 all-time in its first SEC game of a season, including 17-3 at home and 15-3 on the road.
  • The Lady Vols have won their last six SEC openers, last losing to LSU, 80-77, on Jan. 2, 2014.
  • This marks the first non-feline conference-opening foe since UT played at South Carolina in 2013. UT has met LSU, Missouri, Missouri, Kentucky, Kentucky, Auburn and Missouri in its last seven league lid-lifters.
  • Tennessee is 4-0 in SEC openers vs. Arkansas, including 3-0 in Knoxville and 1-0 in Fayetteville.
  • In its first SEC home game of the season, Tennessee is 33-5, winning three of its last four such games.
  • The Lady Vols are 29-9 in their initial SEC road game of a season, winning 10 of the past 11 but falling last season at Kentucky, 80-76.

NCAA NET RANKINGS & MORE

  • Tennessee was ranked No. 28 in the NCAA’s first NET Rankings ever on Jan. 4. The rating tool replaces the previous RPI formula that was used for helping determine NCAA Tournament invitations and seeding.
  • The Lady Vols have a road victory over No. 14 Indiana already and will face top-30 NET foes in No. 2 UConn, No. 5 South Carolina, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 16 Georgia, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 19 Alabama, No. 20 Ole Miss and No. 26 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 16.6 ppg. and shooting 47.7 percent from the field, 44.8 percent on threes and 82.6 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.
  • Senior Rennia Davis, who is on all of the preseason awards watch lists (Wade, Wooden, Naismith, Cheryl Miller) and a projected All-SEC First Team pick by the coaches and players, is second in scoring (12.3 ppg.) and is first on the team in boards at 8.1 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. A breakout game of 19 points and 15 rebounds vs. Indiana on Dec. 17, however, demonstrated that Davis has gotten her mojo back.
  • The senior had 19 and 11 vs. Lipscomb in UT’s last game, marking her third double-double of the season and 32nd of her career to tie her with Tamika Catchings for sixth all-time at UT.
  • Sophomore Jordan Horston, an SEC All-Freshman performer a year ago is third on the team in scoring at 8.3 ppg. and is first in assists average (3.9) and  second in steals average (2.0). She has started the past three games after coming off the bench the first four.
  • The trio of Burrell, Davis and Horston has been described as Tennessee’s “three-headed monster” because of the abilities those three possess.
  • 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 fourth in scoring at 7.1 ppg. as well.
  • Suárez has been a reliable rebounder, grabbing at least six caroms in every game.
  • 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 six of seven games.
  • UT is enjoying its most offensive productivity in the third quarter with 137 points (19.6) and is at its best defensively in the first (80/11.4) and fourth (81/11.6)frames.
  • 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.
  • Tamari Key continues to own a gaudy field goal percentage, shooting 72.7 percent in seven games, and is a disrupting force on the defensive end, averaging 1.9 blocks per contest and altering or discouraging many others. She also has improved her free throw percentage to 72.7 (8 of 11) as well.

RECAPPING UT’S LAST GAME

  • Senior Rennia Davis turned in a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead Tennessee to a 77-52 win over Lipscomb in Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 28.
  • Junior Rae Burrell finished with 10 points to join Davis in double figures for Tennessee (6-1), and senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah and sophomore Tamari Key each added nine. Every active player for the Lady Vols finished with at least two points.
  • Lipscomb (3-3) was led by senior Taylor Clark who had 14 points and four rebounds.

WHAT’S NEXT

  • Tennessee travels to Baton Rouge, La., for a Sunday matinee at LSU. Tip time is 1 p.m. CT (2 ET) for a contest that will be streamed on SECN+.
  • That trip marks the first of three consecutive weekend road tilts for the Lady Vols.
  • Arkansas, meanwhile, is back home on Sunday and hosting Texas A&M in a 3 p.m. CT contest at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

UT-ARKANSAS SERIES NOTES

  • Tennessee holds a 30-5 all-time record vs. Arkansas, dating back to Feb. 29, 1992, when UT prevailed, 105-59, in the initial meeting.
  • The Lady Vols are 14-2 in Knoxville, 14-3 in Fayetteville and 2-0 at neutral sites.
  • Tennessee is 1-1 in overtime and 2-0 in the postseason vs. UA, meeting for the first time in SEC Tournament play in 2016. UT prevailed, 68-51, in the second round in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 3 of that year.
  • UT’s only setbacks to the Razorbacks in Knoxville were both one-point losses. UA prevailed 72-71 in overtime on Feb. 23, 2012, and 80-79 on Jan. 21, 2019.
  • Rennia Davis first established her career high of 33 points and hit one of her 14 all-time shots with the clock winding down, draining a three at the close of the third period in Fayetteville on Feb. 8, 2018.
  • No. 1/1 Tennessee and unranked Arkansas met in an NCAA Final Four semifinal game in Kansas City, Mo., on March 27, 1998, and the Lady Vols cruised past the Razorbacks, 86-58, en route to their perfect 39-0 season.
  • Then the starting point guard for UT, Kellie (Jolly) Harper tallied 11 points, five assists and three rebounds during 30 minutes of duty in that contest.
  • Harper finished her career with a 4-1 record vs. the Razorbacks as a player.
  • As a head coach, Harper is 2-3 all-time vs. Arkansas. She won her last two meetings vs. the Razorbacks while at Missouri State, including 69-54 in Fayetteville on Dec. 2, 2015, and 64-62 in Springfield on Dec. 11, 2016.
  • This is the second meeting between Harper and Mike Neighbors as head coaches, with Neighbors getting the “W” a year ago.
  • Second-year Lady Vol assistant coach Lacey Goldwire was on Mike Neighbors’ staff at Arkansas for two seasons prior to joining Kellie Harper at Tennessee in 2019-20.
  • UT assistant coach Jennifer Sullivan and freshman Destiny Salary hail from the Natural State, both calling the city of Jonesboro in northeastern Arkansas home and graduating from Jonesboro High School.
  • During her coaching career, Sullivan returned to her hometown from 2009-12 and coached at Arkansas State University.

ABOUT ARKANSAS

  • The Razorbacks are off to a 10-2 start this season and stand 1-1 in league play.
  • Arkansas is paced by four players averaging in double figures, including Chelsea Dungee (19.5 ppg.), Destiny Slocum (15.4 ppg.), Makayla Daniels (13.7 ppg.) and Amber Ramirez (12.3 ppg.).
  • UA averages 9.8 made three-pointers per game, with Ramirez (31), Dungee (23) and Slocum (21) hitting the most through 12 contests.
  • Mike Neighbors is in his fourth season leading the Razorbacks. The 1993 UA graduate is 69-43 in Fayetteville and is 167-84 in his eighth year as a head coach. He spent four years at Washington prior to returning to his alma mater.

RECAPPING UA’S LAST GAME

  • Despite being outscored in the second half 54-46, including 29-25 in the final stanza, Arkansas held on at home to defeat Missouri, 91-88, on Sunday.
  • Chelsea Dungee led four Razorbacks in double figures with 25 points. She hit four three-pointers.
  • UA won despite allowing Mizzou to outshoot it, 52.5 to 39.4 percent, from the field.
  • MU shot 68.8 percent (9-14) from the floor in the third quarter and 68.8 (11-16) in the fourth period.

THE LAST TIME UT AND UA MET

  • Rae Burrell poured in 15 points in the fourth quarter to pull UT within four in the final minutes, but it wasn’t enough to overcome No. 22/25 Arkansas on road in an 83-75 setback on Feb. 20, 2020, at Bud Walton Arena.
  • Burrell led Tennessee (17-9, 7-6 SEC) in scoring and rebounding with 21 points and nine boards, narrowly missing a double-double. Rennia Davis was also in double digits, finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds.
  • Amber Ramirez was Arkansas’ (21-5, 9-4 SEC) high scorer, posting 29 points, while Alexis Tolefree was close behind with 22.

-UT Athletics

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