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Lady Vols vs. Florida, 7 PM

Tonight we find out if Tennessee's recent improvements stick, or if they were just a blip.

Holly has the hands-on-hips pose; Amanda has the deep squat.  If nothing else, the coaches should be entertaining to watch.
Holly has the hands-on-hips pose; Amanda has the deep squat. If nothing else, the coaches should be entertaining to watch.
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

TV/Feed:  At least the TV coverage exceeds the stats coverage.  (SECN whip-it, and SECN+)

Radio: Can we get Mickey to good grief the stats page?

Stats: At least Missouri gave us the officials' names.

Florida comes in at 12-2, with a season-opening loss to Temple and a conference-opening loss to Mississippi State bookending a 12 win run that includes Florida State, Colorado, Wisconsin, and NC State.  The losses were reasonably close, and they've done what Tennessee generally hasn't done this year: blow out lesser teams with large margins (99-34 over Savannah State and 122-65 (!) over St. Francis (PA), for example). Still, they're at 56 in RPI and UT is at 5, suggesting the routes to their records aren't exactly on even footing.

So far as team composition is concerned, Florida is very much built on equal contributions by everybody.  The 13-deep roster has seen all girls play in at least 8 games, with ten averaging more than 13 minutes/game.  Their three leading scorers are Ronni Williams (10.7), Haley Lorenzen (10.6), and Cassie Peoples (10.5).  For rebounds, it's Ronni Williams (6.9), Haley Lorenzen (5.9), and Tyshara Fleming (5.2).  Assists:  Eleanna Christinaki (3.3), Simone Westbrook (2.9), Cassie Peoples (2.3), and Dyandria Anderson (2.1).  At any phase of the game, it's not so much about shutting down one dominant girl and letting the others try to beat you, so much as simply playing solid all-around basketball and out-talenting them across the board.

Florida scores points - 86 per 40 minutes.  They get there by maximizing the number of possessions per game (86/game) for a 1.0 point per possession pace.  It's average for the conference, but the sheer volume is very high.  In contrast, UT averages 73 possessions per game with 0.92 points/possession.  (Again, strength of schedule matters when comparing stats.  Just ask Missouri.)  The takeaway is that Florida isn't interest in rockfights: they'll run-and-gun with anybody.

On Tennessee's side, things have been working better recently.  The defense stifled Missouri, and the offense hasn't looked completely atrocious.  The full-court press seems to be paying dividends and will probably be used to some extent tonight.  Graves and Russell still aren't getting the number of shot attempts they really ought to have (hello, double teams!), but the guards are also easing back on the jack-a-three thing they were doing early in the season.

Things to watch for:

  • Turnover rates. Tennessee average fewer (21 to 23) per game, but that's because Florida gets more possession.  The first team to figure this stat out will get about 5 extra possessions in this game.
  • Pace. Tennessee may very well be better at speed than in a slow game, but Florida really doesn't seem to like halfcourt much.  If UT can dictate tempo and vary is (slow it down, then speed it up, etc.), they can keep Florida unsettled.
  • Three point management. We know Tennessee's three-point issues this year.  Florida's not much better, hitting 30% from deep.  Barring somebody getting stupidly hot tonight, the team that goes into hero-ball mode tonight will likely suffer.
  • Free throws. As in, attempting them.  Florida doesn't get to the line much.  Tennessee does.  It's a schematic thing that should be pressed for the advantage that it is.

Prediction: Tennessee 75, Florida 65. Pendley took 71-61, which puts us right back into our Borg-level predictions.  It'll be a quicker game than most that UT's played this year, but UT does look much more comfortable when they have the orange-brownish thing in their possession.  It should be enough.