Things are good on ol’ Rocky Top!
In her third season commanding the checkerboard in Knoxville, head coach Kellie Harper has Tennessee back in the Top 5, and Lady Vol nation dreaming of a long-awaited return to the Final Four.
But first, Harper and No. 5 Tennessee (17-1) must fend off a challenge from No. 13 Georgia (15-3). The Lady Vols and Lady Bulldogs meet in a Sunday afternoon SEC showdown in Stegman Coliseum in Athens.
Last season, the Dawgs bested the Vols — twice. For the first time in 25 years, Georgia even managed to beat Tennessee in Knoxville.
Thus far this season, Harper’s squad has shown no such slippage, opening SEC play with six-straight convincing victories. While offensive execution can wane, the Lady Vol defense consistently has been on point, with gritty efforts — in combination with elite size and length all over the floor — keeping them in games until the offense comes to life. Most recently, Tennessee recovered from a rough first quarter against No. 19 Kentucky to run away with a 24-point win.
Border battle highlights! pic.twitter.com/jfzn8XEEsI— Lady Vol Basketball (@LadyVol_Hoops) January 17, 2022
Georgia has proven itself to be a team that will not quit, even when facing some daunting deficits.
More than the Lady Vols, the Lady Dawgs can struggle to put the ball in basket. Yet, a relentless, aggressive defense guarantees that head coach Joni Taylor’s team remains in any contest, most evidenced by how their defense drove double-digit comebacks against Florida and Alabama. The Lady Dawgs also have shown they have the spirit necessary to take down a top team, knocking off then-No. 2 NC State in Raleigh in mid-December.
No. 5 Tennessee Lady Vols (17-1, 6-0 SEC) vs. No. 13 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (15-3, 4-2 SEC)
When: Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. ET
Where: Stegman Coliseum in Athens, GA
How to watch: SEC Network
Key to the matchup: Big-time bigs! Let’s hope Tennessee’s Tamari Key suits up Sunday; she is a game day decision after tweaking her ankle in the win over Kentucky. Presuming Key plays, arguably the best bigs in the SEC not named Aliyah Boston (and she stands alone!) will be central to Sunday’s contest, as the 6-foot-6 Key and Georgia’s 6-foot-5 Jenna Staiti should spend Sunday afternoon battling for control of the paint. If either Key or Staiti finds herself in foul trouble, the opposing team could gain a significant advantage, especially if both offenses stall and the game devolves into a defensive standoff.