Lady Vols basketball has a top 25 matchup on the road in its second game of the season.
No. 12 Tennessee will play its first away game at No. 22 Florida State on Thursday (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in Tallahassee, Florida. It will be the Lady Vols’ third game this week after playing USA in an exhibition Sunday and beating Florida A&M in their season opener Tuesday.
Here’s what you need to know about Florida State.
Stopping Ta’Niya Latson is priority No. 1 – if she plays
Ta’Niya Latson, the reigning ACC and National Freshman of the Year, averaged an ACC-leading 21.3 points last season, along with 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals. She started her sophomore season with a 35-point performance in FSU’s exhibition against Stetson. Latson did not play in FSU’s season opener Monday due to a minor hamstring injury, but she’s day-to-day, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see her in the starting lineup Thursday.
The 5-foot-8 guard is dangerous from anywhere on the floor. Latson shot 45.5 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from 3-point range last season, and she has the presence of a veteran. She can attack the paint and is proficient in getting to the free throw line – she shot 85.9% on 199 free throws last season. Tennessee’s top priority on defense is containing Latson and not sending her to the free throw line.
Florida State has multiple scoring threats and likes shooting 3-pointers
Florida State lost only two starters from last year’s team, bringing back junior forward Makayla Timpson and fifth-year senior guard Sara Bejedi along with Latson. Junior guard O’Mariah Gordon is ready to take on a bigger role this year, averaging 20 points through two exhibitions and FSU’s season opener.
Florida State likes to take 3-pointers, going 10-for-32 on Monday, and got to the free throw line without Latson, shooting 23-for-29. All five starters Monday scored in double digits and FSU forced 30 turnovers – 14 of which were steals. It won’t be an easy win for Tennessee, but if it stays disciplined defensively and takes care of the ball, it’s an attainable win.
Tennessee needs to exploit size advantage
The Lady Vols have a lot of size on FSU in the post, and they need to exploit it.
Florida State’s tallest player is Knoxville native Avery Treadwell, who’s listed at 6-3. The Seminoles have size on the perimeter – two of their seven players over 6-feet tall are guards. But they’ll be sorely undersized on the blocks against Tennessee’s post players. After junior forward Karoline Striplin’s 20-point performance Tuesday, she and senior forward Rickea Jackson should be a focal point in the offense to take advantage of mismatches.
If the Lady Vols can dominate the boards, especially on the offensive end, Thursday night’s matchup will be a lot easier to control.
Tennessee 84, Florida State 70: Florida State will give Tennessee a challenge, and the score won’t reflect the competitive nature of this game. But with the size advantage the Lady Vols will have to dominate the paint and shooters heating up in Game 1, this should be a double-digit win for Tennessee.
Cora Hall covers University of Tennessee women’s athletics. Email her dela at [email protected] and follow her dela on Twitter @corahall. If you enjoy Cora’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that allows you to access all of it.