The Lady Vols improved to 2-0 on the season Tuesday night courtesy of a 67-50 win over East Tennessee State.
Tennessee had three players reach double-figures as it shot 44% from the field and held the Bucs to 32% shooting. Junior Rae Burrell led the way with 20 points, while senior Rennia Davis had 15 points, respectively. Sophomore Jordan Horston chipped in 12 points.
Davis has now scored double-figures in 30 straight games. She has scored at least 10 points in 44 of her last 45 games. Against the Bucs, Davis was 6-of-10 shooting to go along with four rebounds and a steal.
Here are our five biggest observations from the Lady Vols’ win over ETSU:
Slow start plagues Tennessee
The Lady Vols led wire-to-wire for a second-straight game, but they weren’t crisp out of the gate. Tennessee led 18-11 at the end of the first quarter. ETSU cut the lead to one midway through the frame, however, as UT turned it over five times.
“I’m glad we won the game,” Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper said following the game. “For us, it was a little sloppy at times. Our execution needs to be better. I think the good thing is that we got to see a feisty team, a team that’s athletic on the perimeter. Hopefully, that will help us in our next few games.”
East Tennessee State turned Tennessee’s five first quarter turnovers into four points. Had the Bucs not shot 3-of-18 from the field, the scoreboard would have looked quite different.
“I’m disappointed in our execution on both ends of the court,” Harper said. “We’ve got to get a lot better, but we’ve got time to do that, and I’m confident that we can.”
Burrell leads the way once again
The Lady Vols were led in scoring by Rae Burrell for a second-straight game. Burrell scored a game-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. She was 2-for-4 from behind the three-point line. At the free throw line, Burrell was 4-for-5.
“We have seen this all summer and all fall,” Harper said. “This is who she (Burrell) has been. She’s been consistently playing this way. She’s played so well.”
Burrell chipped in three steals, an assist and a rebound. She only turned it over twice.
“The difference for her is that she’s playing with so much confidence right now and making really good decisions,” Harper said. “However, she’s still playing aggressively. I think when you’re playing aggressively, and you’re making good decisions and finishing like she is, it leads to some pretty good play.
“I’m really proud of her, and it’s been fun to watch her. Again, that performance is not a surprise for her.”
Lady Vols constantly picked the pockets of ETSU
The Lady Vols tallied 16 steals against East Tennessee State after recording 13 steals against Western Kentucky in the season-opener on Sunday. Tennessee’s 16 steals against ETSU were the most its tallied since it picked up 16 against Murray State on Dec. 28, 2018.
Tennessee only had double-digit steals in a game twice last season.
Horston led the Lady Vols with five steals against the Bucs. Burrell and sophomore guard Jessie Rennie each had three, while Davis, Jordan Walker, Keyen Green, Marta Suárez and Destiny Salary all had one.
Eight of the 12 Lady Vols who played picked up a steal.
What we’ve learned about the Lady Vols through two games
Tennessee now has two games under its belt to begin the season ahead of a pivotal road trip this weekend. What has Harper learned about her team following wins over Western Kentucky and East Tennessee State? Not enough, but the second-year Lady Vols head coach has an idea of what her team’s strengths and weaknesses are.
“I think our post play has been pretty consistent,” Harper said. “I think we need to get the ball inside more. Our defense has to get better. I think that’s across the board. I think our pace has been good. Getting up and down the court has been good.
“Obviously, after this game, we’re a little inconsistent with our decision making. We can still get better offensively and make a big step there.”
The Lady Vols now turn their attention to the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Tennessee will head to Morgantown on Sunday to take on West Virginia at 2 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.
“There are a couple of different things that we’re looking at now,” Harper said when asked what the team will look to improve on the remainder of the week in practice prior to taking on the Mountaineers. “We talked about taking care of the basketball, valuing it each possession – working hard on offense to get a higher percentage shot. Overall, top to bottom, our defense needs to be better.
Those are things that, not only will they help us be a better basketball team moving forward, it will help us in our next game, regardless of our opponent. I think those things are really important. I think our players understand that.”