Kellie Harper is going to sleep well following the Lady Vols’ 79-41 win over Colorado State on Wednesday night.
It was No. 23 Tennessee’s (8-1) first game back in action following their first loss of the season to Texas on Sunday. Harper stated after the loss that she doesn’t take losses well and that it was good for the players to experience what she’s like following a loss.
“She’s (Harper) different,” Rennia Davis said following Wednesday’s win over the Rams. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
Freshman point guard Jordan Horston added that Harper after a loss is something the players never want to see again. Junior Jazmine Massengill was in agreement, saying that Harper was strictly about business, that she had a different mindset and a different attitude.
“I had some concerns going into the game with it being the first game after a loss,” Harper said of Wednesday’s game against Colorado State. “I wanted to see how we would bounce back, but also Colorado State can make threes.”
The Rams did, in fact, shoot a lot of threes. Colorado State (5-6) set the Thompson-Boling Arena record for most 3-point attempts in a game, taking 44 shots from distance. Thanks to the defense of the Lady Vols, however, the Rams only made eight of them, shooting 18.2 percent from the 3-point line.
“I didn’t know defensively how we would react to that, but I’m proud of our team,” Harper said. “They shot a lot of threes, obviously, but I think they had to rush a lot of those. I thought our defense was solid enough to get us a good win.”
Davis anchored a Lady Vols defense that caused Colorado State to shoot horrendously from the 3-point line, and the Rams only shot 21 percent from the field. The Lady Vols only forced seven turnovers, but that was in large part because of the Rams pulling the trigger quickly on each possession.
In addition to sparking the defense, Davis scored a game-high 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and recorded a double-double with 11 rebounds. When Davis scored on an assist from Massengill to give her team a 41-23 lead with 7:40 remaining in the third quarter, she became the 46th Lady Vol in program history to join the 1,000-point club.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here at this great University,” Davis said about the accomplishment. “Just to be mentioned in that category is huge to me.”
Horston was quick to point out that Davis is a “bucket” when asked about her teammate joining the 1,000-point club. The freshman also credited Davis for being the reason that she broke out of her slump.
In the two games prior to the win over Colorado State, Horston had shot just 1-for-7 and 1-for-9 from the field in the two respective games. She had turned it over a combined seven times and was struggling to find a rhythm anywhere on the court.
A talk with Davis lifted her spirits, however.
“A conversation that me and (Davis) had inspired me to be better,” Horston explained. “She motivated me to find something else I could provide for the team. So, I just came out, not even worried what my offense was going to look like.”
Horston went on to score 10 points, grab a team-high 14 rebounds, and dished out seven assists — three assists shy of a triple-double. In 24 minutes, the freshman had the best plus-minus on the team with a plus-36.
“Her teammates really respect her,” Harper said of Davis. “She wants to be really good, and she wants this team to be good.
“She works very hard at it. She gets in extra, watches film with the coaches. She puts in a lot of effort into being good, and I think her teammates see that and understand that. Obviously, Jordan (Horston) has a really good person to look up to. Rennia is pretty honest with her teammates, and when she pats you on the back, it’s sincere.”
With the win over the Rams, the Lady Vols wrap up a six-game homestand where they won all but one — Sunday’s game against Texas. Tennessee is now faced with the tall task of heading out west to take on No. 1 Stanford (8-0) next Wednesday.
The players are excited for the opportunity while Harper is focused on just being the best team the Lady Vols can be.
“They’re good, I know they’re good,” Harper said. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s the game we want to be playing.”