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Tennessee Lady Vols basketball vs. LSU, Kim Mulkey: Score prediction, scouting report

Lady Vols basketball returns home after a week off.

Tennessee (16-9, 9-4 SEC) welcomes reigning NCAA champion LSU (23-4, 10-3) to Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center on Sunday (noon ET, ESPN). The Lady Vols are coming off their best week of the season, capped by a 25-point road win over Vanderbilt on Sunday. The No. 10 Tigers are coming off a 71-66 win against Auburn on Thursday.

Here's what you need to know about the matchup.

Tennessee's defense will have to be near perfect vs LSU

LSU is averaging 82.9 points in SEC play, matching No. 1 South Carolina's conference-leading output.

But the Lady Vols are playing their best defense of the season, holding their past three opponents — including the undefeated Gamecocks — to an average of 60.7 points.

Angel Reese and Aneesah Morrow lead LSU in scoring and rebounding, but Flau'jae Johnson has taken a huge step her sophomore season. She's one of the most improved players in the country and has been one of LSU's most consistent players.

Tennessee will have its hands full defensively. But it showed it's capable of holding South Carolina to 66 points, and the Gamecocks have much more depth than LSU.

Every rebound matters against LSU, Angel Reese

The only thing that might be more important than defense is rebounding. Reese is one of the best rebounders of the country. Her 13.8 rebounds and 6.3 offensive rebounds per conference game leads the SEC.

Morrow is also a problem on the boards, averaging 10.8 rebounds in SEC play, which ranks third. LSU routinely outrebounds its opponents, averaging 47 in SEC games and winning the rebound battle by an average of 12.1.

Tennessee has to be disciplined and box out on every shot and keep Reese off the offensive glass. It can't afford to allow LSU to dominate the boards to pull of an upset.

Kim Mulkey's LSU team prefers even faster pace than Lady Vols

The Tigers average 78.8 possessions per 40 minutes, according to Her Hoop Stats, which beats the high pace of 74.6 possessions per 40 minutes coach Kellie Harper prefers for her team.

The Lady Vols have fared better against SEC teams that like to slow down the pace, beating both Mississippi State and Auburn on the road — two teams LSU lost to. Tamari Key was important in both those wins, and she was able to play extended minutes due to timeouts called by MSU in the third quarter.

There may be times against LSU where it benefits the Lady Vols to slow the game down and keep Key on the floor. But they can't slow it down too much for their offense's sake, so finding the right minutes for Key is important.

Lady Vols basketball score prediction vs LSU

Tennessee 72, LSU 68: The Lady Vols will have to hold LSU to about 70 points to pull off the upset, and I think they're in a place they can do that. They've had a week off to prepare, there's a lot on the line and it feels like an upset is brewing in Knoxville.

Cora Hall covers University of Tennessee women’s athletics. Email her at cora.hall@knoxnews.com and follow her on Twitter @corahalll. If you enjoy Cora’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that allows you to access all of it.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Lady Vols basketball vs LSU, Kim Mulkey: Score prediction is in