JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With just one exhibition on the docket this season, the Carson-Newman Lady Eagles travel to Thompson-Boling Arena Monday night for a 7 p.m. opening tip against perennial power Tennessee to gear up for their regular season.
"I assume they will be playing with all of their players we are going to see a lot of heat in the backcourt," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "They are going to press us. We are really trying to prepare our kids to try to break the press. If we can break their press we will feel good about that. Being able to function in the half court without just giving them easy turnovers and layups at the other end. With their size and their length it's going to be a challenge."
Carson-Newman is coming off of its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance falling to second-seeded Columbus State 58-40 in the opening round of Southeast Region competition. The Lady Eagles won 19 games, the most by the program since winning 24 in 2010-11.
Three preseason All-South Atlantic Conference selections lead the Lady Eagles with senior guard Tatum Burstrom (Maryville, Tenn.) at the forefront. Burstrom has averaged at least 10 points per game in each of her first three seasons at Mossy Creek. In the frontcourt, freshman forward Jecca Simerly (Talbott, Tenn.) was an All-Freshman team pick last season and takes a spot on the second squad in the preseason. Simerly averaged 10 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest in her first season.
The Lady Volunteers have seven players listed at six-foot-one or taller and no player is listed as shorter than five-foot-eight. Tennessee was 20th at the Division I level in 2014-15 in rebound margin grabbing just shy of eight more boards than its opponent.
"We can handle the speed discrepancy," Mincey said. "The size you can't get over because the women's game for the most part is still played below the rim. In terms of keeping them off of the boards it's a really difficult task. They have guards that are playing at 6'1 or 6'2 and that's the tallest kids we have. I've always felt like if we had just one of those players that we could stick in that the margin would never be a 50-, 60- or 70-point margin because they wouldn't get so many easy second-chance points."
Monday's meeting marks the 13th time that the two programs have met in an exhibition game as the University of Tennessee has won every meeting to this point. The Lady Vols have scored at least 100 points nine times.
On November 9, 2014 the Lady Eagles trailed by just seven points following 20 minutes of action but it took a 7-2 run by Tennessee to take that advantage. A three-pointer by Burstrom cut the deficit to 34-32 with 2:14 to play in the first half. The Lady Volunteers started the second half on a 19-5 run to put the game out of reach.
Burstrom led the way for Carson-Newman with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the three-point arc. Forward Kaitlyn Cupples (Clinton, Tenn.) finished with eight points, three assists and two rebounds.
Tennessee was playing with just seven players due to a violation of team rules regarding academic expectations. The Lady Vols were led by Nia Moore who poured in 29 points on 12-for-16 shooting to lead a group of four players in double figures. Bashaara Graves finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Tennessee made its 34th trip to the NCAA Tournament last season finishing 30-6 overall including an 18-0 mark at home while winning the program's 18th regular Southeastern Conference. The Lady Vols have won 22-straight contests inside of the friendly confines dating back to a 75-71 setback against Kentucky on February 16, 2014,
In its 27th appearance in the Elite Eight, Tennessee dropped a 58-48 contest to No. 9 Maryland as the Terrapins bounced it for the second straight year as the Lady Vols finished the season ranked fourth.
Three highly touted players have graduated in Ariel Massengale, Cierra Burdick and Isabelle Harrison. Each player recorded more than 1,000 points in their career. Massengale tallied 1,161 career points and 418 assists, Burdick finished with 1,072 points and 794 rebounds while Harrison notched 1,071 points and 778 rebounds.
Three starters return for Tennessee led by Graves, a senior, who averaged 10.6 points and seven rebounds per game a season ago.
After sitting out last season North Carolina transfer Diamond Deshields enters the mix after earning 2014 national freshman of the year recognition while averaging 18 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Tar Heels. In 15 minutes against the Lady Eagles on October 30, 2013 Deshields had 14 points and six rebounds.
2015 McDonald's All-American Game co-MVP Te'a Cooper averaged 27.3 points at McEachern High School in Georgia.
Broadcast coverage begins 15 minutes prior to the 7 p.m. opening tip on the Eagle Sports Network's flagship station Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.
- CN -