After an ugly 59-49 season-opening win against the Southern Illinois Salukis and amidst a slew of injuries, the Tennessee Lady Vols head to Orange County, Fla. Friday. Kellie Harper’s team will take on UT athletic director Danny White’s former program, the University of Central Florida.
Ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll and No. 15 in the Coaches Poll, Rocky Top was without Jordan Horston in their opener due to an ankle injury and then lost Rae Burrell in the second quarter of that game due to a knee injury. This is all less than two weeks after returning starter Marta Suárez suffered a season-ending foot injury.
The status of Burrell and Horston remain in question as the Tennessee Lady Vols face the UCF Knights, which could make this game tougher than it should be. Here is all the information you need for their second overall matchup and first road game of the season.
Live stream: WatchESPN
Radio: Lady Vol Network; FM 96.9/Am740 in Orlando
In their opener against SIU, UT trailed at the end of the second and third quarters. They were struggling even when Burrell was in the game. However, that could be attributed to Horston missing all game and still trying to adjust to live without Suárez.
When you add in the fact that Tamari Key got in foul trouble early and they had one of their random, horrendously bad shooting nights, it makes sense that they would struggle. Jordan Walker taking over the fourth to help close the game on a 17-2 run and Alexus Dye keeping it close with a double-double were the positives from that matchup.
On the other side, UCF is coming off a 68-39 win over the Duquesne Dukes. Led by sixth-year head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, the Knights are coming off a 16-5 season, a share of the American Athletic Conference Championship and what would have been their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance had COVID not canceled the tournament in 2020.
This year, UCF returned all 10 players who averaged at least 10 minutes a game last year, including leading scorers Tay Sanders and Diamond Battles. They also added Clemson Tigers transfer Shania Meertens and George Washington Colonials transfer Neila Luma, who led her team in rebounding last year.
Add in two freshmen, headlined by four-star guard Laila Jewett, and this team is loaded. Harper’s team will have its hands full, and Abrahamson-Henderson has proven herself to be one of the many examples of White’s ability to hire elite coaches.
After this game, the Tennessee Lady Vols will host the other AAC team in Florida, the South Florida Bulls, Monday. USF is ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll, No. 22 in the Coaches Poll, won the AAC Tournament last year and split the AAC regular season title with UCF, so this will be an even tougher outing for UT. The Knights, meanwhile, will visit the Virginia Cavaliers next Wednesday.