Vic Schaefer has the Texas Longhorns in good shape thus far during his second season as the program’s head coach. | Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
The Texas Longhorns’ grueling nonconference schedule marches on in a nationally-televised game against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
The No. 12 Texas Longhorns (3-0) will take to the road to play the No. 16 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (3-0) on Sunday. The game is schedule to tip-off at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
In spite of significant roster turnover, it’s clear that Texas is a program on the rise. In their second year under head coach Vic Schaefer, the Longhorns made noise early in the 2021-22 women’s college basketball season when they took down the defending national champion Stanford Cardinal. The upset bumped the Longhorns all the way up to No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25 Women’s Basketball Poll after being ranked at No. 25 the week prior.
Schaefer called the game “a heavyweight boxing match” and described the Longhorns’ victory as one that builds confidence — not just in the short-term, but in the distant future as well. The performance of Texas’ 2021 recruiting class, which includes four players (Aaliyah Moore, Rori Harmon, Kyndall Hunter and Latasha Lattimore) ranked among the nation’s top 100 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz, probably has something to do with that assessment.
Tennessee, meanwhile, also has a spotless record thus far, though the Lady Vols have been tested early and often. An opening-night scare against Southern Illinois was followed by narrow victories over Central Florida and No. 23 South Florida, the latter coming by just three points. Tennessee, according to Her Hoop Stats, has averaged just 78 points per 100 possessions thus far in 2021-22.
Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Tennessee’s offense has struggled so far in 2021-22; the loss of Rae Burrell to a leg injury hasn’t helped matters.
While it’s clear the Lady Vols need to get their offense going, the loss of senior wing Rae Burrell means that Tennessee will have to get bigger contributions from players who may not be as experienced. Burrell, who scored 16.8 points per game last season on 45.8 percent shooting from the field, went down in Tennessee’s win over Southern Illinois with an apparent leg injury. Per Knox News’ Cora Hall, Burrell is still rehabbing her injury and remains out indefinitely.
Regardless, the Lady Vols stand as a challenge to the Longhorns, who stacked their 2021-22 nonconference schedule with four teams (Stanford, Arizona and Texas A&M the others) ranked in the AP top 25. We’ll see if the Longhorns can continue their rise or if the Lady Vols deal them a humbling defeat.
No. 12 Texas Longhorns (3-0) vs. No. 16 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (3-0)
When: Sunday, Nov. 21 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN
How to watch: ESPN
Matchup details: While the Tennessee offense is bound for some improvement, it may not happen against Texas. The Longhorns are allowing just 62.1 points per 100 possessions on the season. It’s a small sample size, but Schaefer-coached teams have typically been known for their defense, so don’t be surprised if this game is a low-scoring one. The 6-foot-6 Tamari Key will need to play to her height for the Lady Vols, with her offensive rebounding a potential saving grace for the team’s sputtering offense. How Texas matches Key in the paint will be of utmost importance. Meanwhile, Aliyah Matharu has gotten off to a torrid start for the Longhorns, hitting 66.7 percent of her 3-pointers. If she doesn’t cool off, Texas has a good chance of moving to 4-0.