The Lady Vols looked lost from the tip against Middle Tennessee State on Wednesday. They
were out rebounded, out hustled, and only had one player with double figures. MTSU literally
beat them in every category stats are recorded. The only bright spot for Tennessee was Karoline
Striplin who had a new career high 29 points. Hopefully this will be the wake-up call this team
so desperately needs, but still, where do they go from here?
Lack of Paint Production
Tamari Key has been playing a bigger role in the last couple of games and Karoline Striplin is
posting up like crazy every time Tennessee has gone on offense. How the guards are missing
them is the question of the week. Good things happen usually happen when you feed your bigs,
they either score or earn a trip to the foul line. Now, on the other hand, the bigs have been
inconsistent with their handling when that pass does come in. For a team that averages 17
turnovers a game I can understand why they might be hesitant to just toss the ball up, but with
the size and talent this team has in the post they have to at least attempt to play inside out.
It has been obvious the Lady Vols have not wanted to “woman up” in their losses over the past
few weeks. They have been passive, and mistakes have just compounded. They have also been
more than happy to settle for jump shots or threes, and they are just not going down. When they
play aggressively even if the shot doesn’t go down, there is usually a foul call. In the game
against MTSU the Lady Vols only shot six free throws to MTSU’s eleven. That number has to
come up and that means they have to attack the basket.
You Can’t Rely on the Three
Almost half of Tennessee’s shot attempts were from the three-point line on Wednesday and
while Tennessee has plenty of three-point shooting options between Tess Darby, Avery
Strickland, Jewel Spear, and Destinee Wells. The only problem is all four are in a shooting
slump. Strickland has been out due to concussion protocol so give her a pass, but the other three
are 26.6% on the season. Usually, you try to let shooters shoot themselves out of a funk, but the
Lady Vols don’t have that kind of luxury at this point. They have to find production from
somewhere and if the threes aren’t falling, they need to find another plan.
Too Much Time to Think
So far this season this team has played better when they don’t have time to over-think the
offense. Now, that doesn’t mean they need to try and play an Indiana/Ohio State transition uptempo offense. It means they can’t let the ball get stuck in one player’s hands to then try to make
something out of nothing. The offense has flowed when they are passing instead of trying to
create something off the bounce. We have the distributers in Wells and Powell now they just
need to make the right decisions and their teammates need to keep moving to get themselves in a
position to make those passes and shots count.
What is their Identity?
This team needs to figure out who they are and what they stand for, and they need to figure it out
fast, as in yesterday. Yes, they have dealt with injuries to many key figures, most notably Rickea
Jackson, who still has no timeline for return. Yes, they have faced a daunting schedule
particularly in the last couple of weeks. Yes, there were high expectations going into the season that comes with the uniform. Now all the excuses out of the way… This team has been lost since
Rickea went down and there seems to be no plan to fix the problem. To an extent that is on the
players for not executing, but it also falls on Kellie Harper. Fans can stomach a close loss like the
one at Florida State when the team shows fight and looks like they are adjusting to the game. But
to lose to a school that isn’t even a power-five opponent and by double-digits at that is
unacceptable. There were no in game adjustments and obviously no answers from anyone,
coaches or players, and that is probably the worst part about this loss. Who knows, it may wake
them up and spark them to the best SEC record since Harper took over or it may just be more of
the same going forward, but either way there is now even more pressure on this team to right the
ship and make something out of this season.