The Lady Vols (15-3, 6-0 SEC) hit the road on Thursday for a 9 p.m. matchup against in-state rival Vanderbilt (13-5, 3-2).
It's an opportunity for the Lady Vols to avenge last year's 93-79 loss to the Commodores.
"It's just a tough place to play," head coach Holly Warlick said. "They're very well coached, (they) don't make a lot of mistakes. It's a big game for us, it's a huge game for us."
A source of trouble for the Lady Vols and other opponents visiting Vanderbilt is the odd setup of Memorial Gymnasium. The court is situated above the crowd and each team's bench is located along a baseline, unlike the benches located on the sidelines at other courts around the country.
This unique setup of the benches on the baseline creates a different experience for the coaches.
"We're removed from the game," Warlick said. "It's important when we get in there Thursday (that) we get a lot of shots up and get prepared because if you're not used to it it's difficult to play in."
Because the coaches are on the baseline and unable to communicate with players on the opposite end of the court, it is imperative that the players communicate with one another. That responsibility falls on the point guard, which for the Lady Vols is sophomore Ariel Massengale.
"Ariel has grown," said Warlick. "I think she is capable of calling offenses and defenses as she sees fit. I'm comfortable with her doing that. She's done that progressively each game, and I think we'll need to rely on her quite a bit to control what we want to run, both offensively and defensively."
Senior Taber Spani echoed Warlick in that Massengale will be a key to the Lady Vols' success on the road in a hostile environment.
"She (Massengale) knows that if she can't see Holly or can't get a play, she can call a play and she has that knowledge of what needs to happen at what situation, and I think she's grown a lot from her freshman year until now and I think that'll show," said Spani.
In last year's game at Vanderbilt, the Lady Vols fell behind 42-34 by halftime and never were able to pose a threat to the Commodores' lead the rest of the game. In that game, the Lady Vols allowed Vanderbilt to shoot 52.8 percent in the first half and 55.7 percent for the game.
The Lady Vols face a similar challenge this year in stopping an efficient Vanderbilt offense. Vanderbilt brings an offense that shoots 44.2 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range. Both of those numbers rank in the top 25 in the nation in their categories.
"We can't put ourselves in a hole against Vanderbilt because their three-point shooting can extend the game very quickly," said Spani. "I can't stress it enough, Vandy has a ton of sets, they run them to perfection. We all know that they're very smart and they can pick up stuff and they can run a lot of different plays and so we need to really be in tune on the defensive end of what we want to do and bring that defensive intensity right away."