* Subject to Blackout
Tennessee and Texas are not unfamiliar foes, having played 32 times in the past, including Tennessee's 92-77 win in Austin last year. The teams feature two expat sophomores in Texas native Meighan Simmons and Tennessee native Chassidy Fussell, who both have the potential to be the lead scorers for their teams in any given night, even though both have had their share of woes this season so far. Led by head coach Gail Goestenkors, Texas remains a team on the proverbial bubble between good and great, always a threat but never quite breaking into the perennial top 10 status they dream of. Games like this are their hope for a break in their fortunes.
After losing their opener 72-59 to Stanford, Texas is on a 5 game win streak, including a 79-53 beating of Virginia (yes, that Virginia) in Hawaii and a comeback 61-60 win over California the next day. It is a team that shares more in common than the initials UT with the Lady Vols; they have had slightly worse issues with ball control (an A/TO of 0.8 to Tennessee's 0.9) and are questionable from the foul line at 69% on the year.
Sophomore Chassidy Fussell is supposed to be the primary long range threat but has struggle this year, hitting only 7 of 33 attempts so far. Overall, they are not a team that likes to shoot a ton of threes, preferring instead to drive and to work off of passes to the post. With two 6'-4" starters, they usually enjoy a height advantage in at least one matchup in the interior, though that advantage will be moot today.
Chassidy is also the only reliable free throw shooter for Texas; her average is currently 92% while most shoot under 70%. Posts Reed and Gayle are particularly iffy at the line, which should encourage a more aggressive, deny-the-shot defense in the interior.
Ashley Gayle is the blockmeister of the team with 23 rejections on the year. Some of that has come at the expense of lesser competition, but an average of 4 blocks per game is noteworthy in any circumstance. She is also good for 8 rebounds per game, which leads the team but would only be good for third on Tennessee. The board advantage is clearly Tennessee's - so long as Tennessee plays like they have the last couple of games and decides they want to enforce their will on the glass.
The tendency for both teams to turn the ball over should make this a wild game. But Tennessee does better on the glass, is slightly better at free throws, and has more weapons to turn to. Tennessee should win this one, though they cannot approach it like they did Virginia.
Prediction: 85 - 67 Tennessee
BassWatch™: Under 4 timeout of the first half.