KNOXVILLE — Jordan Horston will have good and bad performances as a freshman for the Tennessee women's basketball team.
But at her best — and when she's under control — she will have opportunities to be a game changer for the Lady Volunteers. Thursday was an example of that.
Horston was the best player on the floor in Tennessee's 63-36 win over Central Arkansas in front of 7,278 at Thompson-Boling Arena. The same thing was true of Horston just two days earlier at East Tennessee State — a four-point win for the Lady Vols — but she had seven turnovers in that game and made just two of six shots.
Against the Sugar Bears (0-1), she didn't turn the ball over. What she did was score 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, grab five rebounds, pass for three assists and block two shots.
"I think game one is not always easy for freshmen," Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. "You'll see her continue to improve. She felt good; the spacing for her was good. We were getting stops, and she's really good in transition.
"She's a playmaker; sometimes they will make some turnovers. Tonight she didn't."
Horston and fellow freshman Tamari Key scored their team's first 14 points as the Lady Vols built a six-point lead early. Foul trouble soon forced Key out of the game, though, and Harper was forced to mix and match lineups. (Another factor in that: Junior forward Jaiden McCoy injured her left hand during the opener and is out "an undetermined amount of time," Harper said.)
But by then, Horston was in a flow. In the first quarter, it was a pair of 3-pointers and a transition layup. It was a nice feed to Key for a layup in the paint. It was a blocked shot.
All were plays that can help a team win. That's why Horston had a plus-minus of plus-22 in her 27 minutes, meaning the Lady Vols were 22 points better than Central Arkansas with her in the game.
"I just slowed down a little bit and played the game," Horston said. "The first couple of games I was jittery, but tonight I had to let the game come to me."
Her energy was the difference. Central Arkansas was trying to dictate a slower pace, but every defensive rebound by the Lady Vols turned into a transition opportunity, and those happened a lot in the second half as the visitors shot just 17%.
"We couldn't keep up," Central Arkansas coach Sandra Rushing said, noting the Sugar Bears were sending two players back. "She's a tremendous player. She's going to be fun. She's fun to watch now, and I had an up close and personal view. She's a tremendous, tremendous player."
Tennessee struggled at times on offense, with Horston the only Lady Vol who scored in double figures as Zaay Green added nine points and Key and Rae Burrell had eight apiece.
Thursday night, though, was all about the defense — and Horston.
"She's good at creating," Tennessee senior Lou Brown said. "Whatever she wants to do, we read off of her.
"Sometimes we try to keep up, but the way she pushes the ball, she pushes the whole team."