After a 1-2 performance at the Rainbow Wahine Showdown in Hawaii, the Longhorns will head to Knoxville, Tennessee, for a matchup against undefeated No. 17 Tennessee, who is coming off a 27-point win over Air Force.
Meanwhile, the Longhorns are looking to pick up momentum in the early season after a 4-4 start that includes a 25-point drubbing at home to Arizona and a 13-point loss to Hawaii. Although the season is still young, Sunday’s game could be a turning point for Texas in a season that has been up-and-down at times.
“I definitely think this is a game that will test our toughness,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “It is a hostile environment, and they are a really good team. I’d like to see that we’re continuing to improve in some areas. As much as I’m disappointed — we all are — about the outcome in Hawaii, there were some areas that I thought we were better in.”
The Lady Volunteers come into the game with a perfect 7–0 record, including an early-season 13-point victory over then-No. 15 Notre Dame that also came on the road. Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper is in her first year at the helm, coming over from Missouri State where she spent six seasons.
“I think that we’re going to have to play really intelligently and try to manage the tempo of the game and pick and choose when we want to run, but also make sure we get off good shots,” Aston said on playing Tennessee. “I also think not turning the ball over will be really important because (Tennessee is) very long, athletic, and they get out in passing lanes. I think they get a lot of their confidence out of their runouts that they get off of turnovers.”
The game is part of the annual Big 12/SEC Women's Basketball Challenge, which has resulted in a 5–5 tie each of the past two seasons. The Longhorns dropped their game against Mississippi State last year as part of the challenge, but did their part in 2017 with a win over Georgia.
Aston, who is in her eighth season as Texas head coach, expressed no concern about the team’s preparation for Sunday despite it being a big week for the Longhorns academically.
“They were off on the travel day back and they were off (Wednesday),” Aston said. “I would expect that they were able to play some catch-up academically. It’s a big week for them. A lot of their final papers are due, and they’re cramming for a lot of things that are due at the end of the week.”
The Longhorns will face quite a test Sunday in Knoxville, but as they begin to settle into the season, Texas looks to be up to the challenge.