Dan Fleser: Lady Vols Hope Defense, Size Help Propel Them To Home Win Over Texas On Sunday

Friday, December 6, 2019

KNOXVILLE – Before departing last Sunday, Chris Gobrecht left a specific impression of Tennessee and some advice for the Lady Vols to consider.

“They could be an exceptionally good defensive team,” Air Force’s coach said, “and I really think that is what they need to hang their hat on. … I really hope they buy into that.”

Gobrecht, who has 40 years of women’s basketball coaching experience, based her defensive assessment on Tennessee’s size and athleticism. The advice also considered her opinion of the Lady Vols’ offensive potential, which wasn’t as flattering.

“I think they have enough offensive firepower,” she said. “But I don’t think it is exceptional.”

Texas will test Gobrecht’s estimation when the Longhorns visit Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday (TV: ESPN2, 2 p.m.). The game is part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge and Tennessee fans are being encouraged by the university to wear orange to mark the occasion.

Texas’ 4-4 record notwithstanding, the Longhorns have uncommon size and athleticism in post players Joyner Holmes and Charli Collier, who stand 6-foot-3 and 6-5 respectively. They combine to average nearly 34 points and 21 rebounds per game.

The Texas duo will present a fresh challenge for the Lady Vols (7-0), who are ranked as high as No. 17 nationally but have an RPI of 163 because of a relatively weak schedule to date. Notre Dame was missing center Mikayla Vaughn because of injury when Tennessee visited South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 11 and the Lady Vols had their way around the basket in achieving their most significant win so far, 74-63.

They had a big advantage – pun intended – against Air Force as well. Gobrecht, who had coached against Tennessee teams while at Southern California, was stunned by this team’s size and said, “We have played against Oregon, we have played against Arizona State, we have played against really good teams, but we have never seen that much size. It was just one big kid after another coming into the game.”

Tennessee’s size was a factor in Air Force shooting 29.6 percent from the floor and committing 22 turnovers in losing 81-54. But the smaller Falcons outhustled the Lady Vols for rebounds and scored a huge upset regarding that statistic with a 40-39 edge.

Harper addressed the situation immediately afterward and was harping on the subject at practice on Friday. Beforehand, she spoke of a competitive quality as it pertained to defense. But it’s likely applicable to rebounding as well.

“To me, the area we have to grow in is just a little bit of raw toughness that you have to have to be a great defensive team,” she said.

Harper believes the quality takes time to nurture. She intends for UT’s defense to progress in similar fashion.

“As a coach, I have really stayed vanilla throughout November, December and a little bit into January consistently,” she said. “I think this team needs constant work on the basics and we stick with that.

“We stick with the halfcourt man (alignment) a lot because I think that’s going to be who we are the majority of the time. We still have some things we’re adding, putting in.”

Harper went on to say that she’s a “firm believer” in adding strategy on all fronts throughout the season.

So it sounds like exceptional defense will be an ongoing project. Aspiring to that standard, at least for now, likely will involve fundamentals and toughness as much as anything. 

* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He may be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com

 


Southeastern Conference Football Standings/Schedule

Chattanooga FC Advances To NISA Fall Championship Semifinals

Dalton State Women Get Impressive Golf Win


Southeastern Conference Football Standings 2020 SEC Standings – East Won-Lost Florida 1-0 Georgia 1-0 Tennessee ... (click for more)

In its first full season with NISA, Chattanooga Football Club has advanced to the semi-final stage of the NISA Fall Championship Tournament. CFC finished the group stage of the tournament with ... (click for more)

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Dalton State placed all five ladies in the top five as they shot the round of the day, a 301 (+13), to pull away from the field and claim the victory in the Invite at Innisbrook ... (click for more)



Sports

Southeastern Conference Football Standings/Schedule

Southeastern Conference Football Standings 2020 SEC Standings – East Won-Lost Florida 1-0 Georgia 1-0 Tennessee 1-0 Kentucky 0-1 Missouri 0-1 South Carolina 0-1 Vanderbilt 0-1 ... (click for more)

Chattanooga FC Advances To NISA Fall Championship Semifinals

In its first full season with NISA, Chattanooga Football Club has advanced to the semi-final stage of the NISA Fall Championship Tournament. CFC finished the group stage of the tournament with a total of five points (one win, two draws) which landed the blues in the second place of Group B, behind LA Force, who amassed six points (two wins, one loss, to Chattanooga FC). “It ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Election Commission Votes To Terminate Administrator Kerry Steelman; His Attorney Hits HR Report And Says ADA Lawsuit To Be Filed

The Election Commission, following a lengthy meeting on Wednesday morning, voted 4-1 to terminate Administrator Kerry Steelman, who has been on leave recently. Jerry Summers was the only no vote, saying Mr. Steelman is innocent until proven guilty. Election Commission Chairman Mike Walden said Mr. Steelman is "a nice guy who made some positive strides for our office over five ... (click for more)

Bear Found Consuming Human Body In Woods Behind House Near Jellico, Tn.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the report of a black bear found consuming a deceased human body near Jellico in Campbell County. Just before midnight on Tuesday, Campbell County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call to check on a person in the Duff community near Jellico ... (click for more)

Opinion

Selma Paty's Legacy

Much has been said of the accolades of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and rightfully so. I wanted to remind everyone that Chattanooga had its own lady attorney who made many in-roads for females in the legal field. Selma (Sunny) Paty actually began her legal career before Justice Ginsburg. She likewise was Jewish and being a female in the 1950's, when she started her practice, was ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Well, in my monthly walk through my garden I broke the sad news to my annuals and biennials that Monday would be our last weather with temperatures in the 80s, and that Father front would soon come knocking. My perennials were saddened, of course, because we’ve had a happy year. So, as my man Cleo dished out a round of Miracle-Gro and Osmocote to those that wanted a nudge before ... (click for more)