No. 12 Texas faces another key matchup Sunday against No. 16 Tennessee

Amsal Madhani

Coming into the season as the No. 25 team in the nation, the Longhorns have exceeded expectations so far with a hot 3–0 start to the year. 

The Texas defense has been on display throughout these first three games, especially in its thrilling victory over No. 3 Stanford on Nov. 14, forcing key turnovers and contesting every shot. 

Jumping up 13 spots after the upset win, No. 12 Texas will look to continue to build momentum as it has its eyes set on one of the top teams in the nation, No. 16 Tennessee, for a marquee matchup Sunday afternoon. 

Here are three things to look out for in the Texas vs. Tennessee game:

Texas’ defense could stay hot against a struggling Tennessee offense

The Longhorns have a perfect matchup lined up for them defensively this weekend against a Volunteers team that has shot under 43% in every game so far this season. Texas thrives in the full-court press, and that man-to-man, high-pressure gameplan on defense could be an issue for Tennessee as it causes many inefficient shots. 

Along with ineffective shooting, the Volunteers have turned the ball over at least 10 times in each of the first three games of the season. Tennessee may have its hands full against the Longhorns, who have forced no less than 20 turnovers in their first three outings. Freshman guard Rori Harmon and senior forward Audrey Warren have been forcing opposing guards into making risky plays so far this season, which has led to many steals and fast break points going the other way for Texas.

Can Rori Harmon continue to be a primary option for the Texas offense?

Although Tennessee has struggled on offense throughout the first three games of the season, its defense has played at a high level, leading it to a 3–0 start. The Longhorns will need Harmon to find the basket this upcoming weekend against the Volunteers, which is something she’s shown she is capable of doing in her past two games.

Harmon has been developing her game quickly, as in the past two victories she has scored 32 points on 15-27 shooting from the floor. Although her main role on this Longhorn team is to facilitate, she has notably contributed in more ways than one on offense. Harmon has the ability to slow the tempo down and score from nearly anywhere on the court, something Texas may need from her Sunday.

Can the Longhorns continue to rebound the ball at a high rate?

Texas has been rebounding the basketball wonderfully over its last three outings, grabbing at least 37 boards each game. However, it faces another strong rebounding team in Tennessee that just came off a game grabbing 48 boards against South Florida. 

Following a strong 11 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday morning, senior center Lauren Ebo showed that she’s capable of anchoring the team in the paint. However, she will need help from some of the other bigs if the Longhorns want the best opportunity to win Sunday. 

Freshman forward Aaliyah Moore recorded just one rebound in Wednesday’s game against Southeast Missouri State, and will need to increase that number significantly against the Volunteers. Moore will have to use her 6-foot-1-inch frame to box out and grab offensive rebounds to give Texas second chance opportunities against a strong defensive team.