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Everything Kellie Harper Said Ahead of Tennessee Tech

The Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper met with the media on Tuesday ahead of their game against the Golden Eagles. Everything Harper said is below.
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After winning a pair of games in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend, the No. 11 Tennessee Lady Vols will take the court of Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night to play Tennessee Tech in an out-of-conference in-state matchup.

The Lady Vols struggled to put away opponents early in the season without star forward Rae Burrell, but they have recently found their footing. Tennessee comes into the game with a perfect 6-0, and the Golden Eagles boast a 2-4 record. After knocking off then No. 12 Texas, the Lady Vols outscored Kansas and Oklahoma State by 35 points in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout.

With confidence higher, Jordan Horston playing out of this world and the freshmen continuing to get better, Tennessee comes into the Tennessee Tech matchup with a lot of momentum. 

Ahead of the Wednesday night showdown, Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the game and how the team feels upon returning from Las Vegas. 

On Jordan Horston being named SEC Player of the Week…

"Well, I think Jordan (Horston) has been pretty consistent for us, and she's very competitive. She's obviously very talented. Right now, she's going out and trying to do what she can for the team. That's rebounding, scoring, defending, handling the ball. She's doing a lot for us, and we're really proud of her right now."

On what to expect from Tennessee Tech…
"First off, these players are going to come in here and be so excited to play in Thompson-Boling Arena. I understand the in-state rivalry, so to speak, when you have players that are from the state. They're very well coached. They've got good athletes on the perimeter, and they've got a really nice go-to post player, small forward player that they really run their offense through. They're going to be coming in here with a great game plan, and we're going to have to be ready to play."

On going to the Battle 4 Atlantis next season…
"I think one thing you'll find is we want to play in good tournaments with good competition and obviously, that one has really turned out to be one of the best. We're excited about going down there, looking forward to the competition. I think a tournament setting is really good for our team in the non-conference portion of our season so that we have that under our belt when we get to conference play. Obviously, if you're going to go to a tournament, you're going to have a little bit of extra time, and the Bahamas is not a bad place to be, especially in November."

On Tennessee Tech after playing five Power Five opponents…
"For us, I think the important thing is we're focused on us. We're focused on our team and what we need to do. One of the challenges that we have is to consistently improve every single day. I think if we go out and if we start looking at an opponent's record, you overlook the opportunity that you have. This team is better than the record. They've played a really good schedule thus far. If we go in and we're not focused on being the best Lady Vol basketball team we can be, we can come up short."

On Jordan Horston being a leader…
"Jordan has natural leadership ability. She's charismatic. She understands the game really well. Obviously, she's one of our most experienced players, so her teammates look to her, and they go to her to help them in situations, to ask questions. She's very competitive, and she's working on her game. I think when you're willing to put the work in – and she's extremely coachable - when you're those things, it's a lot easier to be in a leadership role."

On Sara Puckett so far…
"I love the way Sara is playing. She's been one of those players that we're relying on for a lot of different things - rebounding, she's defending well, she's shooting the ball well. She can be a go-to player in multiple positions for us. She's played high minutes. We've asked a lot of her. I think she's handled her role really well. I think as she continues to play, she'll gain a little bit of savvy that you have at the college game. It's different. High school and college are different, and she's just got to get some experience under her belt to be able to make little subtle plays. She's very talented. I'm very proud of her."

On freshmen adjusting to college basketball…
"Well, I think we've seen a couple of things. It's very fast. College basketball is fast. The games are competitive, and things are happening quickly out there. So mentally, they have to be a little quicker. That is 100% normal. That's what they're going through right now. I think they've had great attitudes. They've been great teammates. They've done what we've asked. They've filled the role. Sometimes it's on the court, sometimes it's not. They've come into practice very hungry and are continuing to work really hard. I think because of that, they're going to improve. I think our team is going to improve."

On team supporting each other…
"After the game, they handed me the all-tournament award for Tamari Key and the Most Outstanding Player Award for Jordan Horston, and their teammates were super excited. I think they're proud of them and how they're playing. It just feels good. The chemistry on the team feels really good. They do genuinely support one another. They're all in it for the right reason. They want the team to succeed. You just don't have a lot of selfish folks right now. And that's fun to coach, it's easy to coach."

On rebounding…
"Defensively, I think rebounding is a little bit more technique - to box your man out, to keep them out, have good habits. Offensively, a lot of times it's just effort. Some people are better ball hawks than others. They know how to go and track the ball. I think right now we've got people checking both boxes. We've got people that have been disciplined with a box out, and we've got people that are naturally good to go get rebounds. Then we work on it. We practice it, we emphasize it, and I think right now the players feel really good about what they're doing on the boards."

On getting younger players minutes…
"I thought the Oklahoma State game was huge in that regard. I thought being able to play all of our players extended minutes, allowing them to play through their mistakes, I felt it was really important for their growth and for our team's growth. We were able to do it against a quality opponent. Some of our reserves were getting to play against their starters, and I thought that was fantastic. I think it's just a natural progression to be able to be on the court, make mistakes, stay on the court, play through and figure it out. We don't always have that luxury. Fortunately, we were we were ahead enough against Oklahoma State that we were able to do that. It'll benefit us down the stretch."

On the team's confidence moving forward…
"They feel pretty good right now. So, I think it's a challenge for our staff to find that balance. We want them confident. I want them stepping on the court feeling good about what they're doing. But also, you never want a team to feel like they've arrived. I don't think we have, but I don't want any kind of complacency ever to set in with this group. I don't think it will. I like their mentality right now. I like their attitude and the confidence, not only that they have in this team, but they have in each other. I think that's really good for our growth."

On film sessions this week with reserves…
"We haven't even had a chance to get through all of it yet, but we were able to do some film. I think it's good because sometimes it's redundant when you're watching someone else, you're watching someone else's film and then all sudden now you get your own clips. You think you want them and then all of a sudden you have four in a row, and they're negative. I don't know if you really want them or not. I think it's sometimes a little bit more meaningful and a little bit more motivational. I thought our players came back to practice on Monday with a little pep in their step. I think that was a result of everybody getting to getting the opportunity to contribute."

On another potential triple-double…
"When you've had someone on your team that's already logged two, I think it's definitely possible. I think Jordan (Horston) has been close and Tamari's (Key) already had one. Yeah, I think it's definitely possible. It's not anything that I'm tracking in the game. After the game when they log those stats… they're stat stuffers right now. It's pretty impressive."

On the difficulty of a triple-double…
"Oh, yeah, I think with triple-doubles, you've got to be on your game. You've got to be playing great. You're not a one-trick pony when you're logging a triple-double. You've got to be affecting the game in multiple areas. It's impressive, it really is. To have folks even get close to that, you're really, really doing something."

On family connections to Tennessee Tech…
"Tennessee Tech was essentially the local university when I was growing up. I grew up about 15-20 minutes from Cookeville. Both my parents played basketball there. My middle brother played basketball there. So, I grew up going to Tennessee Tech's basketball camps. I felt, honestly, a genuine love for that program. I think Kim (Rosamond) is doing a terrific job. That team is very well coached. You know, they make Middle Tennessee proud. It's a great opportunity for us, but for me personally, it's one of those teams that I'm always going to love because of where I grew up."

On if the game was put together because of relationships…
"I'm not even sure actually. Obviously, I know it's nice to be able to bring them over here, for sure. There are a lot of people over at Tech that I still know. One of my best friends in high school went to Tech. It's just a lot of people that I know have gone to that university, so it's great to bring them over here."

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Photo Credit: ESPN

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