It’s a repeat of last year. The Tennessee Lady Vols scored a win…with a potential loss. UT overcame its season-opening loss at the Ohio State Buckeyes Tuesday with a quick turnaround 74-65 win in their home opener against the UMASS Minutewomen Thursday, but they lost Jordan Horston, whose knee collided with a UMASS player. Her status remains unknown.
Kellie Harper’s team, ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the Coaches Poll, was locked in a tight one despite having control in the first half, going into halftime up by five. They broke it open in the second half, extending it to a 16-point lead early in the fourth quarter. However, UMASS fought back and cut it to seven with three minutes to go.
They cut it to five in the final minute, but the Tennessee Lady Vols held on to improve to 1-1 with a visit from the Indiana Hoosiers set for Monday. UMASS fell to 1-1 and faces the Maine Black Bears at home Monday. Here are three things we learned from UT’s first win of 2022-23.
1. Starters in the post did the bulk of the work.
Is there any question about Mississippi State Bulldogs transfer Rickea Jackson now? She showed up and showed out, scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as the Lady Vols’ starter at the four. Jackson was 9-of-18 from the field, 6-of-8 from the free throw line and added two assists and two steals.
Tamari Key still did her job too in the post, finishing with three blocks. She added 13 points, two assists and two steals and went 5-of-8 from the field while going 3-of-4 from the free throw line. In spite of these two, UT still got outrebounded. Literally, they did all the work in this one.
2. Turnovers are still a problem.
Jasmine Powell and Jordan Walker together should’ve made for a better collection of ball handlers, but after it cost them Tuesday, the Tennessee Lady Vols still can’t take care of the ball. They finished with 18 turnovers. To be fair, Jackson had three, but Powell had two, and Horston had two despite just playing nine minutes.
Now, there were some good things, as they had 18 assists, including seven from Powell and four from Walker, and they had 10 steals as a team, but these turnovers continue to be killers. It’s been a problem since Harper took over, and despite the loaded amount of talent, it appears to be no better right now.
3. Tess Darby should probably start.
Extra ball handlers may be nice, but right now UT needs somebody who can stretch the floor with her shooting so they can truly play inside out. Regardless of what happens with Horston, that means Tess Darby should probably start. She was in the starting lineup for most of last year as the three-point specialist and should be even better this year.
Darby was 3-of-7 from outside in this one. That was all the scoring she did, but it was enough for the Tennessee Lady Vols to be able to clear the way for Jackson and Key. When Horston comes back, it’s probably best if Harper moves Powell or Walker to the bench to make room for Darby.