Tragic loss as promising Jewel Spear  career cut short by a career ending injury’…

Tragic loss as promising Jewel Spear  career cut short by a career ending injury’…

Lady Vols basketball senior guard Jewel Spear is day-to-day with a left ankle injury, coach Kellie Harper announced Monday.

Spear, who transferred to Tennessee from Wake Forest, tweaked her ankle, but Harper said she expects to have her back soon.

Spear, who led the ACC in scoring as a sophomore, was a significant addition for Tennessee this offseason as a talented scorer and 3-point shooter. She filled an immediate need for the Lady Vols, who lost second-leading scorer Jordan Horston this spring when she was drafted to the WNBA.

All four of the Lady Vols’ losses have come in very different ways.

The first loss by Tennessee (4-4) was a back-and-forth game against Florida State in which Rickea Jackson did just about everything, scoring 31 points in the 92-91 loss.

Against Indiana in Fort Myers, the Hoosiers were in control the entire game as they won 71-57. The Lady Vols were not physical enough for Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper’s liking.

“I still think we’re just too nice,” Harper said after the loss to Indiana. “We’re just a group of nice young women.”

Returning home, Tennessee blew a 16-point lead to Notre Dame on Wednesday, allowing the Fighting Irish to claw back and win 74-69. Tennessee’s presence on the boards drastically decreased in the second half, which was a major reason Notre Dame came back.

And then on Sunday, Tennessee was blown out by Ohio State, losing by 20 or more for just the third time in 50 years. The Lady Vols only scored 58 points throughout the game, which is a massive reduction in their offensive performance.

“We didn’t have the balance that we needed,” Harper said. “We weren’t aggressive enough going to the basket.”

Last year, Tennessee’s schedule made the team better. The team was poised to do well in SEC play and did so, knocking off LSU in the SEC tournament and earning a No. 4 seed in March Madness.

However, every team is different, and Harper does not know if this team has the same fortitude.

“Last year, our team handled it,” Harper said. “They handled it, they recovered and it made them better. We’ll see what this team does.”

Last year’s team had significant leadership. Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson led the team on and off the court and helped the Lady Vols during their losing runs. However, now Horston is gone, and Jackson is sidelined with a lower leg injury.

Tamari Key has returned to on-court play and made a large step forward on Sunday, scoring nine points in 16 minutes. Key has still been limited so far this season, only playing a total of 30 minutes coming into the game against Ohio State.

Jackson’s injury still leaves Harper in an uncertain position.

“I’m not sure where we are exactly,” Harper said. “That is obviously the big question, the big challenge that we have in front of us. Every year, every team is different.”

Harper always schedules tough, but she has often failed to deliver in big games. Under Harper, the Lady Vols are 12-32 against ranked opponents.

In a stretch of four games against ranked teams, Tennessee went 1-3. Although Tennessee will not face another ranked opponent for over a month, there are still lessons that need to be learned from this stretch of four games, especially as the Lady Vols move into conference play.

“It’s going to be a challenge for them, a challenge that they can absolutely handle,” Harper said. “They can. I believe in them and I know they can do that, but that’s beyond me. That’s something that they have to internalize and something that they have to do.”

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