Kellie Harper Media Availability Recap (1/12/22)

Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper met with the media on Wednesday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena, taking questions about the No. 5/6 Lady Vols’ SEC match-up in Nashville on Thursday night vs. Vanderbilt.

UT (15-1/4-0 SEC) and Vandy (10-6/1-1 SEC) will face off for the 85th time in the series, tipping off in Memorial Gymnasium at 9:05 p.m. ET (8:05 CT). The game will be televised by SEC Network, and both the statewide Lady Vol Radio Network and SiriusXM SEC Radio channel 374 will have the audio broadcast.

Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper

On being ranked No. 5…
“I think we’re excited about it. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do thus far. We actually didn’t even talk about it as a team, but I think they’re well aware of it. They can’t hide that big news. You know, we’re just really excited about how our team has improved and how we’ve played, and we just hope to continue to build on that.”

Lady Vols HC Kellie Harper / Credit: UT Athletics



On Vanderbilt…
“Well, I think one of their strong suits is their defense. They held an Arkansas team to 55. They’re aggressive, they make plays, they get steals and just frustrate the offensive team. So, I think that’s number one. Number two, I think they’re pretty disciplined on the offensive end – they run their sets, they understand who needs to shoot the basketball and where they need to shoot it. And they’re going to be motivated. They play really hard, and they’re trying to prove something as well.”

On how much she thinks fans will travel…
“I’m definitely expecting a lot of orange. I’ve talked to a lot of people that are coming. I think our players have a lot of folks that will be there. So, we anticipate a pretty good Big Orange contingent.”

On the late start…
“It is definitely going to be past my bedtime during the game, so it’s a tough turn-around. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a long day tomorrow. We’ll get on over to Vanderbilt Wednesday night, and then Thursday’s just such a long day. So, we’re just going to try to push everything back, and let them sleep-in a little bit longer and try to start the day later. And then on the return, the players will actually be on a sleeper bus, so hopefully they can get some rest after the game on the trip home.”

On managing a full day on the road before tip-off…
“What we try to do… we break it up a little bit. We’ve obviously, got to get them up, feed them, and we’ll have some film session. We’ll have a shoot around; we’ll have a pregame meal. But in between those times, they’ll have a lot of down time that they can rest. You don’t want them laying around the whole day though. What we’ll do, I think, is get them in and out. We’ll break it up with all the activities that we have to do tomorrow.”

On COVID-19 postponing Kentucky’s Thursday night game…
“I think at this point, we want to play our games, you know. But then you look at it, and it is a tight turnaround for us relative to what they’re (Kentucky) going to be doing for sure. But you know, we’ll be focused on Vanderbilt, and then when that game is over, then we’ll try to figure out how we’re going to get our team ready (for Kentucky). Regardless of what happens at Vanderbilt, you’ve got to get back up and you’ve got to get ready to go on your next game. And hopefully, we can get them there.”

On whether Vanderbilt game means more as an in-state opponent…
“I think for me, this game is always going to be different, and you know, in-state rivalries… growing up, half my family were Tennessee fans and half my family were Vanderbilt fans. I always think this is a big game. I’m very familiar with Vanderbilt, and Memorial (Gymnasium) is so unique, obviously with the game setup, so it’s always going to be a game that I don’t want to say is more important, but it’ll always hold something a little bit stronger to me, I think, with my background.”

On the non-conference schedule…
“I think our non-conference schedule did what it needed to do. I think it challenged us. I think we were able to still play a lot of people, we had some close games, and we came out of it with a lot of confidence, and I think it prepared us for SEC play as well as you can be prepared for the SEC. I mean, it is every single night. You have to be great, and you know this league is so, so tough this year. So, hopefully it did its job.”

On Rae Burrell
“I think Rae is progressing extremely well. I think she played really well against Ole Miss. I think she followed that up with a really good practice after that game. And, you know, I think her progression is right where we need to be. I think she’s fitting in right now seamlessly. I think she’s taking good shots. I think she’s making good decisions. I think she’s being aggressive where she needs to be aggressive, and I feel like you know, not putting her in a pressure situation but allowing her to kind of ease her way back in has been good, and I think every single day, I think we can see her being a little more comfortable. And I think that’s good for our team.”

On Rae Burrell’s presence making a difference…
“I think the one thing that Rae (Burrell) has always been great at is putting the ball in the hole. I think you know, just getting her back out there gives you one more weapon. She’s got great size. Right now, I think she’s doing a good job defensively. We’ve got to get her a little bit more comfortable getting back on the boards, and that will come, but I think what it does it just gives you one more really talented player. (It) gives me options.”
 
On what Rae Burrell’s injury did for the team long term…
“Well, in retrospect, you know, we can look back and see what that injury did to our team. It really challenged a lot of our players to rise, and we had to figure some things out. I think not just the challenge to get better, but I think challenge to play through adversity – play with a man down. I think was it was great to see our team figure it out. Honestly, when they were able to play through that, it gave them great confidence that we were able to really carry over.”
 
On Jordan Horston stepping up this season…
“I think Jordan has matured a lot. I think she’s grown a lot. I think the experience that she had the first two years has put her in position right now to walk on the court with great confidence and also the air that she plays with. I think she’s in better shape now than maybe she was her first couple of years and also, I think her presence on the court, offensively and defensively, has affected our team in a positive way.”
 
On what Jordan Horston has meant to the team this season…
“I think right now she makes the team better, because she makes a lot of plays. The other thing is her plus-minus is really strong game-in and game-out. You know, she’s doing a terrific job on the boards. I think our team has a lot of confidence in Jordan (Horston) and has a lot of confidence when Jordan (Horston) is on the court, because she can make plays. She can affect about every play because of what she can do on the boards – and defensively as well – with the basketball.”
 
On free-throw shooting improving…
“Our team is really talking about the work that they’re putting in. I hear it in the middle of the game. I hear our players talking about it. You know, we’ve committed as a group to working harder and getting more reps. They feel good about that, and we’re helping track it to continue to motivate them but, they’re such pleasers, and if there’s an area of deficit that we have, they want to be better. They want to get better, and I think that’s what you’re seeing. I told them…I said, ‘Hey, it may be slow. You know, that margin may only just inch up a little at a time, but that’s where we’ve got to be at least pushing it in a positive direction.'”
 
On potential of Rae Burrell re-entering the starting lineup…
“We’re 15-1. We’re probably going to keep it as it is for a while.”
 
On evolving post-game locker room celebrations…
“So, the best I can tell what has happened, our staff came in with great celebrations. And then one time, we decided to come in and try to trick them a little bit to psych them out, kind of come in stoic and kind of make it scare them a little bit and then go crazy on them. Then, I think because we did that, they decided, ‘Oh we could turn the tables on them.’ So, they started turning the tables on us, and now it’s completely lost. We’ve lost all control, completely lost all control. So, I have no idea what’s going to happen next. And we’re out of it now. I mean, we just come in and see what’s about to happen.”
 
On continuing to have fun with team…
“Actually, we’ve had different group meetings this week. We call them leadership groups, and that actually came up, and we think it’s really important that that we maintain the fun. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. I don’t think we’re going to lose it. I am a firm believer that we can work really hard and have a good time. I think you can do both simultaneously. And I think this team responds well to that. I think they will come out, and they will work hard, and they will do it with a smile. I think that, to me, is a really good space to be in.”

-UT Athletics

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