KNOXVILLE — The 20th-ranked Tennessee women's basketball team looks to win its sixth consecutive game to start the season Tuesday night as they host Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 7 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Lady Volunteers most recently knocked off Stetson 73-46 on Nov. 19, while UAPB has lost its first three games.
Here are three things to watch for in the game:
Rotations still in flux
The Lady Vols' rotations are still a work in progress, especially since the loss of Zaay Green to a torn ACL prior to the Notre Dame game on Nov. 11. Since then, Tennessee has been running with just four guards. Coach Kellie Harper noted last week and reiterated Monday that sixth-year senior forward Lou Brown could see some time on the perimeter as Tennessee looks to find additional options on the wing.
"Early on, we had some statistics come up with lineups where we had some concerns maybe like the pace of play with a certain lineup, and those things have gotten better," Harper said. "We have improved on those. So right now, when I look at the guards, we don't have enough guards to really learn about lineups. We are just trying to get people in and out to keep people fresh and rested. Our post players, obviously we have a little more depth there and we can rotate them a little differently."
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have Rae Burrell. Tennessee has used the 6-foot-2 sophomore guard/forward primarily on the second unit. At times she plays out of control, but her energy clearly has been something the Lady Vols need — within reason.
Burrell is averaging 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and has taken at least nine shots three times this season, although she's shooting just 34% from the field. As Harper continues to figure things out about her team, Burrell's role could expand, but the team is currently OK with what she's provided.
"I think Rae is a big piece of what we are doing," Harper said. "You can have a big role and come off the bench. I think we have to have somebody come off the bench and give us a great spark. I think her style of play is that for us right now. I think it has been really positive.
"We know when she goes in, something is going to happen. She brings a lot of energy. She can make plays. As she continues to get more games under her belt and plays with more experience, I think you will see her game even improve. We are excited about her and her growth and development this year."
Relishing the process
Harper hasn't been one to worry too much about the results. In attempting to build a program, she mainly has focused on the process.
Tennessee has been out-rebounding opponents by nearly 18 a game and has held teams to 28% shooting from the field, but how much of that has been the Lady Vols' play and how much has been the quality of opponent? It's why Harper continues to focus on making sure her players do the right things now, so they will be prepared when the competition level rises in Southeastern Conference play.
"We can't get excited after a win if we didn't execute; we can't get excited after a win if we didn't play the way we needed to play," Harper said. "Obviously, I always congratulate our team after a win, but it is more important now that we're getting better. That is the most important thing. We can't waste a day in practice; we can't waste a day in film. You have to really lock in and focus every single day, and that's hard to do."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.