Tennessee will face Team USA in an exhibition game on Sunday. That should be quite the challenge. While the regular season won’t begin until the Lady Vols host Florida A&M on Tuesday, here are some early assumptions we can make about the Lady Vols leading into the games that really matter.
Tennessee opened its basketball season with a 105-72 rout of Carson-Newman in its first exhibition game. Here are some key takeaways.
Rickea does what Rickea does
Rickea Jackson picked right back up where she left off last season tallying 17 points in 19 minutes for the Lady Vols. A pre-season All-American Honorable Mention and All-SEC First Team Pick, Jackson will be the lynchpin for the Lady Vols this season and she looks confident and comfortable in her role to start the season.
Sara Puckett has been a factor for the Lady Vols since she stepped on campus. We started to see flashes of her potential last season when she averaged 4.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, in 15.6 mpg, but her production always seemed hampered by her propensity for getting into foul trouble. Now the team is looking for someone to produce on the level of Jordan Horston and Puckett may be that someone who can do a little bit of everything. The question will be can she stay consistent and stay on the court.
Guard by Committee
A big concern for the Lady Vols last season was the inconsistency of guard play. Jordan Walker, who graduated in the spring, was the best point guard last season. A big question for Kellie Harper in the off season, and going into this season, is who could they bring in and who would step up. Destinee Wells, a junior transfer from Belmont with two years of eligibility left, and Jasmine Powell, a fifth-year senior, will see the lion’s share of point guard duties and having two elite passers should do wonders for players like Rickea Jackson and Tamari Key. The two combined for 11 assists and only 1 turnover.
TK back in the game
Tamari Key played 14 minutes and was perfect from the floor in her first game action since being diagnosed with blood clots in her lungs on Dec 8, 2022. She still has a long way to go to get back to her pre-diagnosis form, but the foundation is there and it was a relief to see her out there putting in some good minutes.
Three-point shooting slow to get going
Kellie Harper likes to play inside out, but the only way to do that is for the team to make threes. It was a concern last year, and it could be a concern again this year even after bringing in sharpshooters Avery Strickland and Destinee Wells. The Lady Vols were a combined 7-27 from beyond the arc. That number should go up as we see transfer portal pickup Jewel Spear come back from injury, but the schedule does not leave a lot of time for them to figure out any shooting woes.