KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee State appreciates the opportunity to face Southeastern Conference teams, even if it means being on the wrong end of a lopsided score every now and then.
That's what happened Tuesday when the Lady Tigers fell 94-43 to No. 3 Tennessee in a game that was as big of a mismatch as the final score indicated.
"I think you learn from skilled athletes," Tennessee State coach Larry Joe Inman said. "It is like anything else, especially the SEC, which is an up league, a great league, and a national prepping league year in and year out. Those are some of the things that we are aspiring to take our program to. Some people laugh at that right now, but the bottom line is that if we don't aspire to that right now, then we will never get that opportunity to be there. That is why we are doing what we are doing, and that is why we are trying to teach our kids how to play at a higher level."
Tennessee State will test itself against an SEC opponent again Friday when it faces Florida. The Lady Tigers (3-8) lost 77-61 at Mississippi on Nov. 24.
"We might as well be in the SEC with the schedule we are playing," Inman quipped.
Tennessee State had won its last two games by double digits, over North Florida and NAIA program Martin Methodist, but the Lady Tigers were facing an entirely different level of competition Tuesday.
A look at the rosters underscored the challenge facing Tennessee State.
Tennessee State didn't have a single starter taller than 6 feet. Six of Tennessee's 10 players are 6-2 or taller. The height discrepancy clearly bothered Tennessee State, which shot 14 of 74 overall and 1 of 22 from 3-point range.
"It is very difficult, especially when you get to the cup," said Tennessee State guard Rachel Allen, a 5-5 junior who led the Lady Tigers with 12 points. "I had to either try and get contact or do the little floater that I like to do. It is challenging but it prepares me for my league in the (Ohio Valley)."