Everything Kellie Harper said about Lady Vols’ game with Georgia

    by -

    Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper met with the media earlier this week to preview Thursday night’s game between No. 23 Tennessee and Georgia.

    Harper discussed being ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time all season long, the progression of sophomore guard Jordan Horston, Thursday’s matchup against against Georgia and Sunday’s matchup with Alabama, and much more.

    Here’s everything Harper said about the matchup between one-loss teams:

    On how being ranked in the top 25 is good for recruiting:

    “Well, that’s where we belong. This program is a program of excellence, and I think the bar is set really high here. The expectation is that’s where we are. Our name on that list is important. I’ll say this though, when we were getting back to practice after our COVID break, on every ticker I saw, (it said) we were coming back to practice. I don’t know many other programs that they are going to do that for and say we are actually practicing. I think our program still resonates strongly nationally and having that name in that poll only reiterates that.”

    On the progress of sophomore guard Jordan Horston:

    “Anytime you’re working with players who are really talented, you’re going to see improvements. After the season last year, I knew 100 percent that Jordan Horston was going to be a better player her sophomore year, just for the fact that she was going to be a year older, and a year more experienced. Her game is more mature – she is playing consistent basketball right now, and she is still unbelievably talented. She is playing with a lot of confidence, and when she makes a mistake she can move on because she is comfortable enough doing that. It’s a process, and you have to learn who you are as a college basketball player, and that’s for every freshman. She had some great games, great moments, and great minutes last year, and I think it was a good freshman year, and she’s continuing to improve.”

    On containing Georgia’s Jenna Staiti:

    “For them, the interesting thing is they got some dynamic and quick guards on the perimeter that we’re going to have to guard. If we don’t guard them, it is going to give their post players more opportunities. We’ve got to start with our one-on-one defense, and we have got to be able to guard a little bit better so we are not having to rotate and move around. Our players understand the scouting report and who you have to lock into, be physical with, guard early, be aware of, and I think all of those things are definitely in play when we are guarding Georgia and how they will attack us. For us, offensively, it’s going to be real important that we take care of the basketball. They guard, and Georgia will get down and guard as well as anybody. We’re going to have to really work, be strong with the ball, be careful with the ball, so that we can find offensive production.”

    On sophomore forward Tamari Key’s defense:

    “I think Tamari is more comfortable guarding a post player on the block. That’s what she is conditioned to do. A lot of times throughout the year, we have to move her around depending on our opponent. For the most part, her strength is definitely on the block. They have those little guards that can get in there, and we don’t want them to get to her, obviously. If they (Georgia) do get to her, we have to rotate. There are going to be a lot of things that have to happen for us to be able to contain them.”

    On what she’s discussed with her team in practice following the wins over LSU and Arkansas:

    “Coming out of the Arkansas game, I thought our players were really locked in and executed the game plan. I thought our transition defense was solid. I thought our ball movement was terrific. I thought our patience offensively and our work on the boards was good. (Against) LSU, our transition defense was OK when they weren’t getting steals and scoring. Our work on the boards was OK. Defensively, we could have been a lot better, I felt like. I thought they really took it to us, and we did not do a good job of containing penetration. Offensively, we scored enough. I thought there were times where we didn’t get enough ball movement, and I thought we were a little stagnant, especially in the second half.”

    On facing Alabama this coming Sunday:

    “Fortunately, I’ve actually seen them play a little bit more than I normally would at this point, due to our week off. I think they come in with very experienced players, very confident players. They execute a game plan on both ends of the court. It’s very apparent and obvious what their goal is and what they’re trying to do. I think they have balanced scoring. They have a point guard that is terrific right now. They’ve got a post player that’s shooting an unbelievable percentage in the paint. The players around them are doing exactly what they need to do. I’ve been really impressed with Alabama.”

    On Tennessee closing out close games:

    “I think we’ve had three close games, and we lost one in overtime. We were down six going into the fourth quarter and gave ourselves a chance to win (at West Virginia), so you could say we closed OK. The fourth quarter was OK. We got ourselves in position to win, but we didn’t close it. We just didn’t close it. We didn’t finish it. We had a close game at Indiana and did finish it. We got the buckets when we needed them and got the stops when we needed them. Those were important. (Against) LSU, we missed four free throws and a layup inside of a minute. Fortunately, we had a defensive stop to end the game. I don’t know that we necessarily closed that one well, but we found a way to win.”