Alexis Hornbuckle is about to steal a long-standing Tennessee career record.
The Lady Vols senior guard is four steals away from surpassing Bridgette Gordon as the all-time steals leader in UT women’s basketball. Gordon, who had 333 steals, has held the mark since 1989.
With six steals against Vanderbilt on Sunday, Hornbuckle upped her career total to 330. She’ll go for more against Alabama at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“It’s real big to me,’’ Hornbuckle said. “It will be a mile marker for my defensive career.
“I pride myself on defense and hustle plays. So to be able to accomplish something like that will mean a lot.”
Other noteworthy UT defenders — Tamika Catchings and Nikki McCray to name two — were unable to overtake Gordon. Hornbuckle’s larceny has been helped by her long arms and her sense of anticipation, an attribute she has enhanced by doing offseason reflex drills with Heather Mason, the Lady Vols’ strength and conditioning coach.
UT coach Pat Summitt said Hornbuckle’s defensive role also has played a helpful part.
“She’s not having to play on the ball all the time,’’ Summitt said. “Playing off the ball has helped her. She’s good on the ball but, she’s great off the ball.’’
Hornbuckle is hoping that the quest and ultimately the record will energize her. She had been lagging and was concerned enough at one point to seek divine guidance.
“I kind of just prayed about it and said, ‘Look I don’t know what I need to do, but God give me strength so I can give my team strength,’ ” Hornbuckle said.
Hollifield Update: Former Powell High School standout Caitlin Hollifield has started 14 games for Alabama this season. The 6-foot-1 freshman forward is averaging 5.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Ten of her starts have come in SEC play, where she’s averaging 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds a game.
Reminder: The gates will open at 1 p.m., a half-hour earlier than normal, for Sunday’s game against Mississippi State at Thompson-Boling Arena.