TV: ESPN2 / ESPN3
When we last left the Lady Vols, they were coasting to a comfortable 20-point win over Florida on We Back Pat night. Partially lost in this win was Ariel Massengale getting injured thanks to a nice bit of a slap in the face; she didn't practice on Friday. Granted, it didn't much matter against a Florida Gators squad that spent pretty much the entire game trailing by close to double digits, but it'll matter against a much tougher Texas A&M squad if she can't go.
The hope is that Massengale can go today; if not, it'll fall to Andraya Carter, Meighan Simmons, and Jordan Reynolds to run point. By that, I mean Carter and Reynolds, and by that, I mean Massengale needs to play if it's possible for her to go. Massengale's in the middle of a leap season and on the road, Massengale's steadying presence is going to be needed because hey, guess what, Texas A&M is yet another tough conference opponent. (The depth in the SEC is incredible; 6 teams in the top 20, and that's not counting Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, or Missouri.)
Sans Kelsey Bone, Texas A&M is the Courtney Show (Walker and Williams), with a side of Carla Gilbert. TAMU plays a very physical style, which resulted in probably the most fun Big Boy Game of last season, which Tennessee managed to win in Knoxville. (The second game, of course, was the Taber Spani Game, the likes of which Tennessee didn't win because that's kind of how things have gone lately.)
The Courtneys are both of the volume shooter variety; we're just going to skip ahead and combine them. Their points per weighted shot are 0.96 and 0.99 (all stats are Walker, then Williams), and the only efficient shooter on the squad is Karla Gilbert (1.21 points per weighted shot). Williams, Gilbert, and Achiri Adi all have true shooting percentages north of 50%, but Williams and Adi are getting that on a technicality (50.2% and 50.0%, respectively). Where the Aggies excel is primarily on the glass and on defense, and they slow it down heavily.
TAMU averages a full seven possessions less than Tennessee (67.2 to 74.3), but their defensive points per possession is 0.75 points per possession. If that sounds impressive, it should; that's good for 6th nationally (South Carolina and Arkansas both are better than that, by the way). Tennessee's up to 0.81 points per possession, which is best viewed when ignoring conference numbers (0.94, which: not good).
So yeah, this is gonna be ugly. How's Tennessee win, if that's possible since well, you know, this season:
- Tempo. TAMU likely doesn't have the chops to keep up with Tennessee if this game gets into an uptempo battle. Get out and run, keep TAMU struggling in half-court sets, and it'll
- Race to 65. TAMU struggles right around the 65-point spot - it they're above 65, they'll likely win (they win games in the lower 70s, but haven't topped 80 points once this season; they have topped 79 twice). Given Tennessee's occasional offensive struggles, it's probably good to note their 1.07 points per offensive possession means 65 should be doable, but they also haven't run across a defense like this.
- Interior D and Coverage. This is kind of the usual major point, but especially given the presence of Williams on the wing interior defense and ball switching coverage will matter. From what I remember last year Walker loves herself some dribble-drive action.
Prediction: Texas A&M 67-64. This won't be a throw-your-laptop-through-the-window game, but I have a nagging feeling Tennessee's about to get Mattinglyed, which means Isabelle Harrison is gonna have a nice view of the court for about 29 minutes of game action.