Notes from the Summitt: Vols Bounce Back, Lady Vols Get Some Rest

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    Lady Vols Notebook

    Photo by Caitlyn Jordan/RTI

    The Lady Vols (17-6, 7-3 SEC) played just one game last week before having Sunday off.

    Then-ranked No. 23 Tennessee welcomed No. 15 Mississippi State (22-3, 10-1 SEC) to Thomson-Boling. The Lady Vols turned in a strong first quarter, only trailing by two at the end of the frame. But without star forward Rennia Davis, who was out with the flu, Mississippi State proved too much to overcome.

    Sophomore guard Rae Burrell earned the start in Davis’ absence, the first of her career. Burrell recorded a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

    “We had a game plan that I think our players believed in, and we were able to execute it for part of the game,” Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper said following the game. “Obviously, it was pretty well executed in the first quarter, (we) took care of the basketball. We just weren’t able to maintain that focus with the level of execution on both ends of the court. We had some defensive breakdowns that you can’t have against that team.”

    As for Davis, she wasn’t even allowed in the gym leading up to the game on Thursday night. With a much-needed week off in between games, the expectation is that she should be available for this Thursday’s game against LSU.

    “It’s a really important week,” Harper said. “It could be incredibly valuable for us if we are able to both rest and get something out of these practices and get better.

    “Right now, the fundamentals — passing and catching, boxing out — little things we’ll still be working on, probably forever and ever and ever. But we’ll also really evaluate what we need moving forward, because this is really our last opportunity to get some of those extra practices in and some extra downtime.”

    Week Ahead

    The Lady Vols fell two spots to No. 25 following last week’s loss to Mississippi State.

    Tennessee beat LSU 63-58 back on Jan. 26 in a game in which it struggled to slow down Tigers star forward Ayanna Mitchell. When the two teams square off on Thursday night in Baton Rouge, LSU (17-5, 7-3 SEC) will be without Mitchell due to a season-ending injury. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

    The Lady Vols will return home on Sunday to take on Texas A&M (18-5, 6-4 SEC) at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Like LSU, the Aggies are also dealing with injury issues. A&M has been without star guard Chennedy Carter for the last month due to a left ankle injury.

    Bracketology

    ESPN’s Charlie Creme currently has the Lady Vols slated to be a nine-seed in the 2020 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, playing in the Portland region of the bracket. Creme has the Lady Vols playing in Eugene to start the tournament against eight-seed Creighton. Should Tennessee win, it would likely face 1-seed Oregon.

    If the tournament started today, Tennessee would not host during the opening weekend, as the top 16 seeds of the field host each season. The Lady Vols are one of seven projected SEC teams to make the field.

    Former Lady Vol Elected to Women’s Hall of Fame

    Tennessee legend Tamika Catchings was elected as part of the 2020 class to the Women’s Hall of Fame during halftime of Monday night’s game between South Carolina and UConn.

    Catchings is one of only two Lady Vols to earn WBCA All-America accolades all four years of her career. The Lady Vol legend was a four-time All-SEC recipient, including three times as a first-team honoree. She was a two-time All-Final Four recipient, the 2001 ESPY Awards Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, the 2000 Associated Press, WBCA, Naismith and U.S. Basketball Writers of America Player of the Year, and the 1998 U.S. Basketball Writers of America and SEC Freshman of the Year.

    Catchings led Tennessee to a 39-0 record in 1998, leading the Lady Vols to win an NCAA title. She also helped the Lady Vols to a runner-up finish in 2000. During her time as a Lady Vol, Catchings helped guide Tennessee to four SEC regular season championships and three SEC tournament crowns.

    Davis Named to Citizen Naismith Trophy Midseason List

    Lady Vols junior forward Rennia Davis was named one of 30 players by the Atlanta Tipoff Club on the Citizen Naismith Trophy Midseason List on Tuesday morning. The award is given for the Women’s Player of the Year.

    Davis is averaging a career-best 18.1 points per game and 8.3 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols, and she ranks second and sixth, respectively, among SEC players. In SEC play, she is averaging 20.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, ranking first among all league players in scoring and seventh in rebounding.

    The Florida native is shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 80.7 percent from the free throw line. Davis leads the team in three-pointers with 27 buckets from long range and is second in steals (21) and third in assists (48).

    Lady Vols Mailbag

    Now, let’s get to some fan questions about the Lady Vols basketball program.

    “Why does lady Vols miss so many LAY UPS!? And turn the ball over so much .. 17 a game is a lot . I hope coach Kelly can get them right?” — @WadleyTyler

    Because they lack the talent we’re used to the program possessing. The Lady Vols are good enough to beat up on the bad teams, but their flaws are exposed against good teams. More specifically, Tennessee is able to overcome turnover issues against bad teams, but they aren’t able to overcome them against good teams.

    Harper is going to do just fine as the Lady Vols head coach. She’s a great teacher, and the players love playing for her. The key will be recruiting in order to get elite talent back in the program. Once that happens, the turnovers will go down.

    “I don’t know if I can think of any questions right now. I’m having too much fun watching UConn get CRUSHED by South Carolina’s women’s bball team!!” — Steve in Richmond

    You weren’t the only Tennessee fan who found joy in Connecticut getting beat down by South Carolina on Monday night.

    “Is Fulmer really working behind the scenes to get Dawn Staley to Rocky Top as head coach?” — @BeaverCreekBass

    No.