Battle of UTs on tap for Sunday

It's the battle of the UTs at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday afternoon. Go inside with Inside Tennessee to read about the Lady Vols getting ready for the Longhorns.

After Isabelle Harrison missed two point-blank layups early in the game earlier this week, the exasperation was evident in her face and her words.

"Oh my God," the freshman forward said after the second shot caromed off the rim.

The frustration stems from the fact that Harrison can make shots. The instructions from the coaches to the first-year player has been succinct: Slow down.

"She is in such a hurry when she plays right now," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "She has just got to slow down. She wants to do so well. She rebounds fast. She plays defense fast.

"But she can't shoot fast. She has got to make that distinction. She has got to play offense, especially shooting, at 70 speed."

No. 8 Tennessee (3-2) takes on No. 21/22 Texas (5-1) at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sunday (Fox SportSouth) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

After a season-opening loss to Stanford, the Longhorns have won five consecutive games, including a dismantling of Virginia, which beat the Lady Vols last month.

"They are a veteran team," said Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss, who was an assistant at Texas before rejoining the Lady Vols last season. "That was Gail's first recruiting class, and they're all seniors now."

Texas Coach Gail Goestenkors is in her fifth year at Texas after a 15-year stint at Duke and has ties to Tennessee on her staff and roster.

Texas Assistant Coach LaKale Malone is a native of Murfreesboro, while sophomore guard Chassidy Fussell is from Troy. DeMoss served on the Longhorn sidelines from 2007-10.

Additionally, Tennessee has ties to Texas. Kathy Harston, the director of basketball operations for the Lady Vols, was an assistant coach at Texas from 1989 to 2007 under now-retired Coach Jody Conradt. Sophomore guard Meighan Simmons, who led Tennessee in scoring as a freshman, is from Cibolo, Texas.

This will be Tennessee's second game this season against a team from the Big 12. Baylor played in Knoxville on Nov. 27 and left with a 76-67 win.

In-state foe Middle Tennessee followed Baylor – an 82-43 win for the Lady Vols – and Harrison thinks the Lady Bears, specifically the 6'8 Brittney Griner, may have still been on her mind.

"I was so focused on that Baylor game and being able to shoot quick over Brittney, I think it kind of carried over to my next game," Harrison said. "I know if I listen to them and they tell me to slow down I will do it. I've been constantly coming in and getting shots in. I've been doing that. When I get in the game don't rush myself and just take my time."

She has been playing too fast on the offensive end in all but the Virginia game – Harrison was 2-4 in that contest and tied the game for Tennessee late in the second half – and while she has struggled from the field with a 5-23 (21.7 percent) stat line, she has been solid from the stripe at 12-15 (80.0 percent).

Her wayward shot is not a matter of confidence; it's her rushed approach, which messes up mechanics and timing.

"Yes, because I can shoot," Harrison said. "I've been in here getting shots up consistently and making them. When it comes to a game I've got to do what I know I can do."

Harrison is a post-practice regular with Lockwood to work on her post moves and midrange jumpers.

"It's all about tempo," DeMoss said. "The college game is so much faster than the high school game. So now they're trying to do everything faster, everything quicker. That is what Izzy is doing.

"Defensively, she does some good things for us. Rebounds wells. Her shot is where she is rushing."

Harrison averages 15.2 minutes and is grabbing 6.6 boards per game. She also has five blocks on the season, and they tend to be ones that elicit oohs and ahs from the crowd as they resemble volleyball spikes. Harrison's sister, DeeDee Harrison, is a standout volleyball player for the Lady Vols, and Izzy Harrison played the sport at Hillsboro High School in Nashville.

"I've done that since AAUs, just kind of smacked it down," Harrison said. "I get little tips (from DeeDee). Go for it at the high point in the air and just take it down.

"Having that experience in volleyball transfers over to basketball when someone is shooting, especially if they are coming right into you. It's kind of like when the volleyball person sets to you. You can get that timing to bring it back down."

It was a busy week for Harrison with final exams underway and her sister's team in the NCAA tourney until Friday's loss to Ohio State in the second round.

"I do half study hall, go watch her for the last part of her game and then I come back to the dorm and study if Thornton is closed," Harrison said.

Harrison's exams run through next Thursday and then she will have a month-long break from classes and study hall, which is mandatory for freshmen.

"I look forward to it," Harrison said. I am ready for school to be out for a little bit."

She feels good about her first full semester in the classroom and cited the head start from last June.

"Summer school helped a lot to get used to my schedule," Harrison said.

She also feels good about her first five college basketball games. Each game gets her a little closer to adjusting to the demands at the next level.

"It is helping me get in the flow of things and helping me get used to up-tempo play," Harrison said. "We play a pretty tough schedule so going out there and guarding some of the best people in the nation, it helps my game get much better."

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale, 5'6 freshman point guard, No. 5 (6.6 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 6.0 assists per game); Taber Spani, 6'1 junior guard/forward, No. 13 (14.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.0 apg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40 (16.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg); Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25 (13.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg); and Vicki Baugh, 6'4 redshirt senior forward/center, No. 21 (8.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg).

Texas Coach Gail Goestenkors is expected to start: Yvonne Anderson, 5'7 senior guard, No. 12 (13.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.8 apg), hails from Columbia, Mo., leads team with 29 assists, shooting 42.1 percent from behind the arc; older brother, Michael Jr. played at Missouri, father Mike Anderson played at Tulsa and is now the men's basketball head coach at Arkansas; Ashleigh Fontenette, 5'8 senior guard, No. 33 (10.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg), hails from Pflugerville, Texas, has 998 career points, Academic All Big 12 First Team; ran the 4x100 in high school, older brother Kenny played football at Houston; Chassidy Fussell, 5'10 sophomore guard, No. 24 (17.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg), hails from Troy, Tenn., preseason selection for All Big 12 Team, reigning Big 12 player of the week, MVP of Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown, shooting 92 percent (23-25) from the line, All Big 12 Freshman Team, 2010 Tennessee Class AA Miss Basketball; Ashley Gayle, 6'4 senior post, No. 22 (3.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.8 blocks per game); hails from Las Vegas, Nev., became Texas career blocks leader with No. 290 against Alcorn State on Nov. 21, broke Ellen Bayer's record of 289 career blocks set in 1990, has 303 career blocks, holds single-season record of 117 set last season; and Cokie Reed, 6'4 redshirt sophomore post, No. 45 (8.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg), hails from Waco, Texas, missed last season to have surgery on her right foot to remove an extra bone and repair a tendon, 2010 All Big 12 Freshman Team selection, 2009 McDonald's and WBCA All-American, father Fred Reed played football at Howard, brother Kefa played college football at Texas A&M, sister Whitney played basketball at Central Arkansas.

LADY VOL BENCH: Tennessee has two weapons on the bench in sophomore Meighan Simmons, who had an outstanding freshmen season, and freshman Cierra Burdick, who is learning a new position.

Burdick had a breakout game against Middle Tennessee with 14 points and 10 boards. The freshman is adjusting to a new position on the wing instead of inside – her court spot when she played with USA Basketball – and getting up to speed on defense, which is often the steepest learning curve for freshmen.

"Games like Middle Tennessee she can get in there and get a feel for the tempo, a feel for the quickness," Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "I think the big thing with her is the tempo of the game, getting used to playing quicker and faster. Because she has got a great skill set.

"When the tempo changes, a lot of times it affects your skills if you're not used to playing at that tempo."

Putting Burdick on the perimeter against quicker guards could be detrimental to a young player's confidence and development.

"It goes back to tempo and the speed of the game," DeMoss said. "Think about Baylor's guards. Think about Miami's guards. We've got a kid we've converted to a three and put her in a position where she's got to defend lightning-quick guards, it's not fair to her."

The Lady Vols play a tough out-of-conference schedule – four of the next five opponents are in the top 25 and two of the first four opponents were in the top 10, including No. 1 Baylor – and even the unranked ones tend to be postseason teams like Middle Tennessee, Virginia and Pepperdine.

The Lady Vols lead the nation in attendance year in and year out, all but two regular season games (Virginia and UCLA) are slated for national or regional television networks, and the fans expect to see competitive matchups, or at least ones that have the potential to be such. Pat Summitt has been at the helm for 1,275 games, and 46 percent of them have been against ranked opponents.

"The nature of the schedule has not allowed us to give her the minutes that we would have liked," DeMoss said. "Baylor and Miami are two of the most athletic teams we are going to face all year. In those two games she got limited minutes just because of the nature of our opponent, the fact that they were so athletic and so experienced.

"I think with Burdick it's just getting her minutes. She just needs playing time but not at the expense of us losing a ball game trying to get her playing time."

Also, it is only in recent years, primarily because of injuries, that Tennessee has had to rely so much on freshmen. The starting lineup has one in point guard Ariel Massengale, who filled a position of need, while the others are three seniors and a junior.

Freshmen are carving out minutes that they have time to earn, not ones being bestowed on them as happened with the current senior class because they were the only option.

As far as Burdick's future destination – inside or out – the coaches are remaining flexible.

"We don't know yet," DeMoss said. "Because of who we have we have to play her on the perimeter right now because we need her on the perimeter more than we need her outside. Her shot is more consistent outside so we need to play her on the perimeter and keep A-Town (Alicia Manning) on the inside."

Kamiko Williams, a junior guard recovering from ACL surgery, could possibly play this season. That would not only benefit Tennessee as a team – Williams can back up the point spot and she puts the ball on the floor as well as any guard in the country – but Burdick as well. If the coaches have Williams off the bench on the perimeter, Burdick could play in the paint.

Simmons, a starter at point guard last season, now comes off the bench with Massengale in the slot. That worked well for the sophomore in the first two games of the season – she scored 13 points against Pepperdine and 18 against Miami and shot 9-20 overall and 5-9 from long range in those two games. She started the Virginia game in place of an ailing Vicki Baugh, and the tailspin began. Simmons has shot 2-26 overall and 1-10 from long range in the last three games.

The wayward shots also coincide with the approach of the end of classes, when papers and projects are due, and the start of final exams. That has deprived Simmons of the time to get in the gym and get extra shots.

Pat Summitt served as the passer for Simmons in a shooting session after Friday's practice, and the coaches are confident the she will get on track soon.

"She's just in a little funk right now," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "With school she hasn't been able to get in the gym like Meighan usually does. I think this break will be huge for Meighan and give her some confidence. This will be a great break for her when she gets out.

"She needs repetitions. She hasn't had a chance to get in the gym. She's a great shooter. She's got to get out of the little funk that she is in. She is a rhythm shooter, and when she makes a couple she will be on her way."

SCOUTING REPORT: Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Texas game. Here is her assessment.

Offensively, "you've got the guards taking the majority of the shots," DeMoss said. "There are a lot of sets they have that they do try to get it to Cokie. The play is for Cokie, but their guards have to carry them in the scoring department.

"Cokie Reed is healthy this year. She is a really good low block player. (Chassidy) Fussell is leading them in scoring. She is shooting the ball really well off the dribble and off the catch. I am sure she will come in here wanting to just light us up.

"They want to run. They're much better in transition."

Defensively, "they like to press," DeMoss said. "They will try to generate some turnovers. She doesn't stay in one defense very long. They'll go man for a while, then zone and then she'll half-court press you and then she'll go back zone. May try to trap some out of the zone.

"She saw the Virginia tape so I anticipate that she will try to zone us a lot.

DeMoss' keys for Tennessee: "We have got to take care of the basketball and not get sloppy with it. Attack their zone. Try to get the ball inside and out but we're not relying on just three-point shooting. We've got to penetrate the zone, get it inside. We've got to be able to control the boards."

SEC PLAY: Six other SEC teams are in action Sunday in the following matchups: Kansas at Alabama; Georgia Tech at Georgia; Louisville at Kentucky; Tulane at Mississippi State; South Carolina at North Carolina State; and High Point at Vanderbilt.

ODDS AND ENDS

Tennessee leads the series with Texas, 20-12. The Lady Vols are 9-5 at home against the Longhorns. Texas won in Austin in 2008 while Tennessee has taken the last two matchups, including a 78-58 win in Austin last season. Tennessee led by just six points at halftime on the strength of 20 points from now-departed Angie Bjorklund. The programs have enjoyed considerable success over the years and this will be the 33rd meeting between the UTs. Despite the familiarity, they have never met in the postseason. They came close last season when Texas came to Knoxville for a sub-regional, but Marquette beat Texas, which led late in the game, in the first round. … Tennessee is 8-0 in games played on December 4. The last game on this date was against Stanford, a 76-67 win in Palo Alto in 2005. The first win on December 4 came against Chattanooga, 90-56, in 1980. … Texas Coach Gail Goestenkors has a career record of 485-150. That puts her just 15 wins away from the milestone of 500. …Former Longhorn legend Edwina Brown served as a volunteer assistant coach for the latter half of last season. She is now a full-time assistant for Texas. Brown won the Wade Trophy in 2000, the only player in Big 12 history to receive the prestigious award. … Texas will get a midseason infusion on the roster when Kayla Brewer is eligible to play, beginning Dec. 14. Brewer, a 6'1 forward from Jacksonville, Fla., transferred to Texas from South Carolina a year ago after playing in just seven games for the Gamecocks. Brewer has been practicing with the Longhorns, but NCAA rules don't permit her to travel with the team until she becomes eligible to play.


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