KNOXVILLE — Tennessee coach Kellie Harper took a broad approach Monday afternoon when asked what specific areas on offense needed improvement from her women’s basketball team.
“Our offense needs to get better,” Harper said. “Period.”
The Lady Vols struggled to make shots last week in their exhibition game against Carson-Newman, shooting 35.4% while going 2-for-15 from behind the arc. They scored 70 points — the fewest the program has scored against the Eagles since 1974.
Today, Tennessee will look to rectify its offensive struggles in its season opener at East Tennessee State.
“We know that’s a work in progress,” Harper said. “Our spacing, our timing, our passing — all those things can improve, and that will improve our offense. When those things get a little bit better, I think our shooting percentage will go up.”
These problems aren’t new to the Lady Vols. They shot lower than 40% in 10% of their 32 games last season.
They were also inconsistent from long range, with shooting percentages from behind the arc dipping into the teens five times. They were 0-for-13 against LSU.
Junior Rennia Davis — Tennessee’s top returner — accounted for both of its 3’s against Carson-Newman. She was 9-for-14 from the field — one of few bright spots for the Lady Vols’ offense.
“If you pull the stats on this program — last year moving forward to this year — I think (our 3-point shooting) is a concern,” Harper said. “We have players that can make shots. I don’t know yet where that percentage is going to be. We hope that we continue to improve it.”
It’s unclear who will be Tennessee’s primary outside threat. Meme Jackson was tasked with that role last season. The then-senior guard had nine performances in which she made more than three 3-pointers, including seven against ETSU.
Lou Brown was also expected to stretch the floor for Tennessee last season before suffering a torn ACL that sidelined her for the entire season. She is back and healthy, but she didn’t take a shot from behind the arc against Carson-Newman.
Jessie Rennie — a freshman from Australia with the reputation of a 3-point specialist — was 0-for-4 in 3’s against the Eagles.
Harper said she doesn’t have an exact number of desired 3-pointers in mind per game, but she’s not a coach that lives and dies by the 3.
However, she wants the Lady Vols to capitalize on open looks.
“When our players shoot it, I went them to have great confidence,” Harper said. “I don’t want them hesitating. Hopefully, we will be able to continue to give them that confidence as they get in the gym.”
Tennessee defeated ETSU 80-61 last season and is 22-2-1 against the Buccaneers.
It will mark Harper’s regular-season debut as Tennessee’s coach.
She said she fully expects to see plenty of orange in the stands.
“I think a lot of people have high expectations and some anticipation for what this team is going to look like,” Harper said. “I know we’ve got a lot of Tennessee fans up in the tri-city area, so hopefully they’ll come out and support the Lady Vols.”