The No. 8 Lady Volunteers (10-3) are coming off a come-from-behind 68-67 win against their recent nemesis, No. 16 Connecticut, last Saturday, while Arkansas (10-4) is 0-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
Tennessee starts a big lineup that includes 6-foot-5 junior center Tye'sha Fluker, 6-4 freshman forward Nicky Anosike and 6-2 senior forward Shyra Ely, while Arkansas' tallest starters are 6-0 forwards Sarah Pfeifer and Danielle Allen.
Still, Pfeifer said on the eve of her first start of the season, "I'm always optimistic. We think we can go in there and win."
Second-year Arkansas coach Susie Gardner also put on a brave face entering this, Tennessee's SEC opener.
"I grew up in Tennessee, so the Tennessee aura is not a big thing to me," Gardner said.
Gardner pays proper respect to Tennessee coaching legend Pat Summitt, but won't be star-struck in the manner of one of her former Austin Peay players.
"At Austin Peay, we played Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament one year, and before the game my best player saw coach Summitt and said, 'There she is!'" Gardner said.
Not surprisingly, Tennessee won.
For tonight's game, Gardner can remind the Lady Razorbacks that they have a better field goal percentage than Tennessee (.395 to .383), a higher scoring average (68 points to 66), more assists (16.3 to 12.8), more steals (15.7 to 10.5), more blocks (4.1 to 3.4) and a better turnover margin (8.1 to 3.5).
Tennessee is a much better rebounding team, but Gardner is taking measures to try to combat that.
"After Ole Miss outrebounded us by 20 on Sunday (during an 85-73 loss), we looked at tape of all their (25) offensive rebounds before Tuesday's practice," Gardner said. "We have to box out, box out, box out. We've got to put a body on people."
Gardner has also stressed two other things her team can control - unforced turnovers and free throws. Arkansas is shooting just 58 percent from the free-throw line, compared to Tennessee's 66.4 percent.
The Lady Vols, even without the injured Candace Parker, are playing four of the top freshmen in the country.
Freshman guards Alexis Hornbuckle (9.2 points per game) and Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood are vying for playing time with UT starters Loree Moore and Brittany Jackson. Sybil Dosty, a 6-3 freshman, spells Fluker at center.
"I look at their lineup and Shanna Zolman, a two-year starter who took them to the national title game last season, isn't even starting," Gardner said. "I wonder what (Summitt's) thinking."
Sidney Spencer, a talented 6-3 forward, also comes off the bench for the Lady Vols.
Gardner, too, has shuffled her lineup in recent games, since a season-ending injury to Kristin Moore. To speed things up tonight, Pfeifer will replace 6-3 Ruby Vaden, while Sheree Thompson will start at guard in place of Adrienne Bush.
"I think a faster pace would be to our advantage," Gardner said. "Tennessee plays excellent halfcourt defense, so we'd like to have some opportunities before they can set up."
Arkansas Looking To Speed Up Pace
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