Despite the Tennessee Lady Vols losing to the UConn Huskies thanks to a horrendous second half, the women’s basketball Volunteers showed some promise.
Usually, when a basketball team leads by three at halftime only to lose by 15, the narrative is that the winning side was just messing around in the first half and was unbeatable once they got focused. However, that’s not fully the case for the Tennessee Lady Vols in their 60-45 loss at the No. 3 ranked UConn Huskies Thursday night.
Amidst all the hype surrounding the return of the rivalry and the bad blood between the two schools, the fact of the matter is UConn is truly on a much higher level right now. Kellie Harper has a young team and is trying to get them to find their identity.
UConn, after trailing 31-28 at halftime, did not turn the Tennessee Lady Vols because they picked up their shooting or UT went ice-cold from the field. They picked things up because the Lady Vols were not able to handle Geno Auriemma’s adjustments.
Auriemma switched between a press and a half-court defense that caught them off-guard. He had his inside players focus on getting to the right positions so they could use leverage instead of size to get rebounds.
The result was 26 turnovers by the Lady Vols and the tallest team in the nation getting outrebounded while allowing 17 offensive rebounds. Foul trouble for Tamari Key, their star freshman center, didn’t help matters either, and she did eventually foul out.
This was the story of the night for UT. They didn’t shoot horribly on the night, as they hit five of 15 three-pointers. Meanwhile, they forced UConn to miss 50 shots. The problem, though, was the lack of focus in other key areas.
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However, that actually means this team has promise. What do you expect when it comes to turnovers? The Tennessee Lady Vols are still working out the kinks of offsetting the unexpected season-ending injury suffered by Zaay Green, and in the process they have a player who has shifted over to point guard while another freshman is starting to help handle the duties.
Of course a team in that situation with a new head coach is going to struggle at taking care of the basketball against one of the greatest defensive coaches in history. And while they do have a size advantage, their top inside player being in foul trouble is naturally going to limit them.
Taking those things into account, it’s actually shocking that they weren’t blown out by more. Defense kept this team in the game, and that’s worthy of encouragement. Again, they played the UConn Huskies on the road while dealing with all the things we mentioned.
Provided Harper develops these kids in any way, and there’s no reason to believe she won’t, they will be much better when the two face off next year. Heck, they should be much better when the two face off later this year.
What you saw Thursday night was a young team on the road against a top five opponent try to adjust to a surprise press defense and aggression down low. The Tennessee Lady Vols need to work on those things. But losing the way they did does show promise for them.