Coach Holly Warlick said she intended to shift the starting lineup so that the staff could get a look at different combinations. One possibility is putting three freshmen on the floor for the opening tip in guard Andraya Carter and forwards Jasmine Jones and Bashaara Graves.
"This doesn't count so we want to see how they do," Assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. "Because, by gosh, we need those kids."
Carter is likely to start again at point guard if Warlick opts to rest sophomore Ariel Massengale, who has tendinitis in her left Achilles tendon and is expected to be available for the season opener next Friday at Chattanooga. Warlick said after the Carson-Newman game – a 104-44 exhibition win for Tennessee on Thursday – that Massengale could have played if needed.
"Ariel was just tender in her Achilles and I just felt like rest would be great for her," Warlick said. "Just rest her up for the beginning of the regular season. That was my call and I wanted her to rest, and I wanted Andraya to get the opportunity to start and get that experience."
That could be the case again Sunday, though the coaches would like for Carter to take more than one shot. She played 23 minutes Thursday and tallied five assists, three steals and two rebounds. Her ability to get the team in its offenses and distribute the ball and her relentless and pesky nature on defense will get Carter on the court this season.
"She is such a conscientious kid," Lockwood said. "She is conscientious about getting people involved. And as a freshman especially she wanted to make sure other people were served."
However, the coaches do want Carter to look to score – she can hit jumpers from mid- and long range and get to the rim.
"I think you'll see more than one shot from her Sunday," Lockwood said with a smile.
The team watched film Friday of the game, and Lockwood said the primary benefit of the exhibitions are the teaching moments it creates.
"We got a lot of playing time for a lot of people," Lockwood said. "We were able to test some of the things that we are doing. We are concerned about our transition defense so we want another team to challenge us that way.
"Half-court stuff both defensively and offensively, just execution, habits. What have we learned? What do we have to do better? We have some abiding principles that aren't going to change here where we want to dictate the ball, where we allow people to catch it.
"There were some good spots but also definitely some spots of exposure that we need to address."
The coaches will be looking for immediate improvement Sunday against Coker, specifically a decrease in miscues. The Lady Vols had 10 turnovers in the first half against Carson-Newman and 15 for the game.
"Awful," Lockwood said of the first 20 minutes of play, with five in the second half being more acceptable. "Our decision-making, the execution from a fundamental standpoint, we really have to improve in that area."
Lockwood also wants the fouls to decrease. Carter and Jones both reached too much and got into foul trouble in the first half. They finished with four infractions each. They had company as Tennessee committed 23 fouls as a team.
"We got some very silly, needless fouls," Lockwood said. "We need to play with our feet and our bodies and not with our hands. And quite frankly a lot of that is youth and inexperience."
Tennessee wants to play a more aggressive man-to-man defense this season and at times against Carson-Newman, especially full court when the Lady Eagles had to call timeout to avoid a turnover on a five-second call, the defense was stout.
So, an increase in whistles could be expected; however, too many fouls were in the half-court setting in one-on-one defense.
"We want aggressive fouls that are smart," Lockwood said. "When we break them down on tape, we have a lot of just silly reaching and hand-check while dribbling and being late to something and holding or grabbing."
Lockwood wants to especially see improvement on that side of the ball Sunday against Coker.
"We have to do a better job of cleaning that up," he said. "Playing good defense without fouling. That would be my number one thing."
BASHAARA BASH: Freshman forward Bashaara Grave was just 1-3 from the field in the first half but finished with 17 points and 15 boards against Carson-Newman.
What was the difference in the two halves?
"Just taking her time," Dean Lockwood. "She was very nervous. She's got a little cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof feel at times. She just settled down. She let the game slow up. Sometimes when your head is moving so fast, the game even moves faster.
"She started to relax with the basketball, and that helped her a lot."
NICE NIA: Freshman Nia Moore, a late addition to the 2012-13 team after signing last June, made the most of her minutes with five boards, four points, two blocks and two steals.
"Her effort was very good," Lockwood said.
Moore got some good looks at the basket and was 2-8, because of some freshman jitters and rushing the shot.
"She's got to be able to finish a little bit better and play with a little more strength," Lockwood said. "But I am going to tell you, her understanding of what we asked her to do and her effort level, was very good."
JASMINE TIME: The freshman forward may have fouled a tad too much, but she more than made up for it on the offensive end with 16 points on 6-7 shooting. Dean Lockwood took the blame for the one miss.
"I did it," Lockwood said. "She was six for six and I said, ‘Jasmine hasn't missed a shot from the field.' I hadn't had the word out of my mouth five seconds and she missed a shot."
Jones showed nifty moves in the paint – she made a countermove and up-fake in the lane that was slick in the execution – and displayed the ability to hit from the outside, She hung in the air on an elbow jumper – the corner of the free throw line and paint area – drew the foul and hit the shot.
Jones was ranked No. 39 in the class of 2012, which begs the question of how and why.
"Do you know what that means to us?" Lockwood asked. "No disrespect because (the rankers) do that for a living and, by and large, they're pretty good. But I am going to tell you that's why they're not coaches. That is why they don't coach."
The Tennessee coaches had praised Jones throughout preseason and it was easy to see why Thursday.
"She is gaining more confidence," Lockwood said. "She has got more of a comfort level with what we are doing. And she's going to grow. You are seeing stuff that is going to continue to grow. Her improvement is going to be continual."
COKER INFO: The coach on the sideline for the Cobras should be familiar to longtime SEC watchers.
Coker coach Jenny Fiona, then known as Jenny Pfeiffer, played for Kentucky under coach Mickie DeMoss and scored 16 points, including hitting the game-tying and eventual game-winning free throws when the Wildcats upset Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2006, their first win in the series since 1986. Pfeiffer was 7-7 from the line in the 66-63 win in Lexington.
"This will be a great experience for our team," Finora said. "It is going to be an exciting and intense game. It was always an intense rivalry when I played. They will bring their ‘A' game for us, and we intend to do the same.
"Playing against Tennessee was something I will never forget. I am very excited to now be coaching against them."
Coker is located in Hartsville, S.C., the hometown of juco sophomore Jasmine Phillips, who is playing her first season with Tennessee. Phillips has been out with a left quad injury and is not expected to be available for the Lady Vols in Sunday's game.
Coker has twins Amber and Autumn Lau, who transferred to the South Carolina school after playing for two seasons at St. Francis University in New York. The senior sisters are from Mt. Wolf, Pa.
The Cobras return quite a bit of firepower from last season and are competing for the last time in Conference Carolinas before joining the South Atlantic Conference where Carson-Newman, Tennessee's first exhibition opponent, will be a regular foe. The two teams will also play this season on Nov. 9 in the SAC-Conference Carolinas Challenge.
Coker is led by 5-7 sophomore point guard Heidrun Kristmundsdottir, who is from Fludir, Iceland.
"This year we have really stepped it up a gear," Kristmundsdottir said. "We are running faster, practicing harder and not letting the little things go unnoticed. We want to win a championship and are doing everything we can to achieve that."
Other key contributors are First Team all-conference player Amber Lau, a 5-9 senior guard and the team's leading scorer a season ago, and Third Team all-conference selection Jessica Cohen, a 6-1 senior forward from Ladson, S.C., and the leading rebounder.
The other two starters are likely to be Kelley Godbout, a 5-10 sophomore forward from Matthews, N.C. – the same hometown as Tennessee's Cierra Burdick – and Jasmine Evans, a 5-4 junior guard from Birmingham, Ala., who played one season at Alabama State.
"We are extremely honored and excited to be playing the University of Tennessee this season," Finora said. "It is going to be an awesome experience for our players, and I believe it will be an excellent way for us to prepare for the regular season."
LADY VOL HOOPS CENTRAL: Tennessee's website has a game-day central page with game notes, in-game blog and other info that can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.