Hoops Preview: No. 23/24 Lady Vols vs. Georgia

Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Thursday evening, #23/24 Tennessee (8-1, 2-0 SEC) opens a three-game stretch vs. a trio of teams that stand a combined 27-2 overall and 11-2 in their respective conferences. Two of those teams are receiving votes and the third is ranked No. 4 in the nation.

First on the docket is Georgia (10-1, 2-1 SEC), which is receiving votes in both polls and comes to Knoxville for a 6:32 p.m. showdown on Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Lady Vols currently stand all alone in third place in the SEC standings as one of only three teams with unblemished league records. The other two are #5/4 South Carolina (3-0) and #7/7 Texas A&M (3-0). The Lady Bulldogs, meanwhile, come to Knoxville holding down sixth place in SEC play.

The Big Orange women have wins over two top-15 teams, including (then) No. 15/15 Indiana in Bloomington (66-58) on Dec. 17 and last Thursday night in Knoxville vs. (then) No. 13/13 Arkansas (88-73). UT’s only setback is an overtime road loss to West Virginia (8-2), which is receiving votes in both polls and thundered past (then) No. 17/17 Texas last week by a 92-58 count.

UGA’s only loss came in its SEC opener at home vs. (then) No. 12/13 Mississippi State, 69-62, on Dec. 31. The Lady Bulldogs’ top win appears to be a 75-69 overtime triumph in Atlanta over rival Georgia Tech (now 6-3 overall/4-2 ACC).

Tennessee is coming off a one-point, gut-check win at LSU on Sunday, 64-63. It marked UT’s first win in Baton Rouge since 2014 and Kellie Harper‘s first victory there personally, as a head coach or player. Georgia secured a 10-point win over Florida on Sunday in Athens, 68-58.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Thursday’s game will be televised by SEC Network with Courtney Lyle (PxP) and Carolyn Peck (analyst) on the call.
  • All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) and the SEC Network will be available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 or Xbox One to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.
  • Institutions also can produce for SEC Network+ (SECN+) any conference and non-conference games that are not otherwise televised. Those are available on the ESPN app and SECSports.com.
  • The contest also can be heard on Lady Vol Network radio stations and by audio stream, with Mickey Dearstone behind the microphone. Now calling the action for his 22nd season, Dearstone is joined by studio host Bobby Rader.
  • A link to the live audio stream can be found on each game’s Hoops Central page or the Lady Vol schedule on UTSports.com.
  • For a list of Lady Vol Network affiliates, please click on the Fans tab at the top of UTSports.com, select Vol Network and then click on Vol Network Affiliates in the black bar at the top of the page.
  • Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.

TICKETS AVAILABLE AT ALLVOLS.COM

  • Single game tickets are on sale, starting at just $5. Go to AllVols.com to purchase.

WE BACK PAT WEEK BEGINS

  • Jan. 14-21 is officially We Back Pat Week in the Southeastern Conference. This marks the 10th anniversary of the initiative within the league and was established in conjunction with the Pat Summitt Foundation.
  • During the week, SEC member institutions will offer support to the Foundation during each of their 18 women’s basketball home games in 14 cities through a variety of efforts that include promotional public address announcements and video endorsements.
  • Tennessee’s official We Back Pat home game is on Jan. 21 vs. UConn at 7 p.m. ET.
  • UT also will support the cause at home vs. Georgia on Jan. 14, on the road at Alabama on Jan. 17 and at Vanderbilt on Jan. 24.
  • Jan. 14-21, fashion accessories brand Kendra Scott (which has a store in Knoxville) is donating 20 percent of proceeds from online and select store sales of its Elisa Gold Short Pendant Necklace in Amethyst to benefit The Pat Summitt Foundation.
  • The Pat Summitt Foundation, a fund of East Tennessee Foundation, was established by Pat and Tyler Summitt in November 2011. Its mission is to award grants to nonprofit organizations that advance research for treatment and a cure, provide care and support for patients and caregivers, and educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease.

LVFL NEWS

  • LVFL Michelle Marciniak (point guard, 1993-96) was honored on Jan. 13 with the NCAA’s Silver Anniversary Award.
  • Marciniak will be recognized at Thursday night’s game.
  • The Silver Anniversary Award annually salutes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletics careers and is presented in recognition for collegiate and professional achievements as well as civic contributions.
  • The Indiana Civil Rights Commission has awarded LVFL, former WNBA player and current Indiana Fever vice president of basketball operations/general manager Tamika Catchings the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Commission Freedom Award.
  • The award is given to those who have worked diligently to improve their communities in a manner that exemplifies the vision of Dr. King.

QUICK GLANCE AT THE LADY VOLS

  • UT is led in scoring by junior guard/forward Rae Burrell, who is putting up 17.8 ppg. and shooting 50 percent from the field, 46.2 percent on threes and 82.8 percent from the free-throw line. She averaged 10.5 ppg. and shot 41, 33 and 60 percent, respectively, a year ago in those categories.
  • Burrell matched her career high in points with 26 vs. No. 13/13 Arkansas last Thursday night and, combined with a team-leading 18 in the win over LSU on Sunday, averaged 22.0 ppg. last week, shooting 58.6 percent from the field, 50.0 on threes (5-10) and 83.3 from the charity stripe.
  • In addition to having numbers that in most leagues would earn her player of the week, Burrell also is worthy of national recognition. After somewhat understandably being bypassed on preseason watch lists, the junior has earned an addition to someone’s midseason list.
  • Senior Rennia Davis, who is on all of the preseason awards watch lists (Wade, Wooden, Naismith, Cheryl Miller), the Wooden Midseason List and a projected All-SEC First Team pick by the coaches and players, is second in scoring (13.3 ppg.) and is first on the team in boards at 8.6 rpg.
  • Davis, who averaged 18.0 ppg. and 8.2 rpg. as a junior last season, had tough luck shooting and found herself in foul trouble in two of UT’s first four contests this season. A breakout game of 19 points and 15 rebounds vs. Indiana on Dec. 17, however, helped Davis get her mojo back.
  • The senior has posted double-doubles in three of her last five contests, including 19 points and 15 rebounds vs. No. 15/15 Indiana, 19/11 vs. Lipscomb and 26/11 vs. No. 13/13 Arkansas.
  • The double-double vs. Arkansas was the 33rd of Davis’ career, moving her past Tamika Catchings into sole possession of sixth place on UT’s career list.
  • Davis has climbed to 20th on UT’s all-time scoring list with 1,520 points and 18th on the rebounding list with 812 rebounds.
  • Sophomore Jordan Horston, an SEC All-Freshman performer a year ago is third on the team in scoring at 8.9 ppg. and is first in assists average (3.7) and  steals average (1.8). She has started the past five games after coming off the bench the first four, tallying 11 points each in UT’s first two SEC contests.
  • Horston has had five or more assists in four of her past seven contests, including an 11-point, eight-rebound, five-dime outing vs. Arkansas.
  • Freshman guard/forward Marta Suárez, joining Burrell and Davis as UT’s only starters in every game this season, is second on the Lady Vols in rebound average (6.2) and is seventh in scoring at 6.0 ppg.
  • Kasiyahna Kushkituah is averaging 10.3 ppg. and 5.2 rpg. off the bench over the past four contests, connecting on 63 percent of her shots (17-27).
  • Freshman Destiny Salary played 14 minutes vs. LSU,  tallying five boards and two assists with no turnovers.
  • Nine different players have scored in double figures thus far, led by Burrell doing so in eight games.
  • Nine different Lady Vols have hit at least one three-pointer this season. The last season Tennessee had nine different players hit a trey was in 2011-12.

RECAPPING UT’S LAST GAME

  • The Lady Vols held off a scrappy LSU squad in a back-and-forth affair on the road on Sunday, winning 64-63 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
  • It was Tennessee’s first win in Baton Rouge in its last four trips (last win in 2014), and Kellie Harper picked up her first career victory in the venue as a head coach and former Lady Vol player. She was 0-2 as a player and previously was 0-1 as UT’s coach and 0-1 while at NC State.
  • Junior Rae Burrell led Tennessee (8-1, 2-0 SEC), finishing with 18 points and three rebounds. Sophomore Tamari Key turned in a season-high 12 points and six rebounds, and sophomore Jordan Horston also found her way into double figures with 11 points.
  • LSU (4-6, 2-2 SEC) was paced by senior Khayla Pointer who logged 25 points and five assists. Tiara Young was the next highest scorer for the Tigers with 11 points and three rebounds.

UT-UGA SERIES NOTES

  • UT enters Thursday’s contest with a 52-17 advantage in the series. Tennessee has won 20 of the past 23, but the programs have split the past four meetings.
  • The Lady Vols are 23-4 in Knoxville and 15-3 at neutral sites all-time vs. the Lady Bulldogs. UT is 14-10 vs. Georgia in Athens, including losses there in 2017 and 2019.
  • Tennessee is 1-3 vs. UGA in overtime games.
  • The Lady Vols have a 14-3 postseason record against Georgia after winning in the 2015 SEC quarterfinals.
  • These programs have met 54 times when both teams were ranked and twice with neither team ranked. This is the 14th occasion when only one squad is ranked.
  • This is Kellie Harper‘s second meeting with UGA as a head coach. She was 6-2 vs. the Lady Bulldogs as a player (1995-99) and 1-0 as coach.
  • Tennessee and Georgia met in the 1996 NCAA Championship game in Charlotte, with the Lady Vols prevailing, 83-64, in the first of three straight national championship seasons.
  • Tennessee and Georgia rank No. 1 and No. 2 in SEC regular season championships, with the Lady Vols owning 18 and the Lady Bulldogs having seven.
  • Dawn Marsh dished out a Lady Vol record 18 assists vs. Georgia on March 6, 1988.

ABOUT GEORGIA

  • The Lady Bulldogs are off to a 10-1 start this season, including 2-1 in the SEC after knocking off Auburn (76-44) and Florida (68-58) in their last two games. UGA’s only loss this season is to Mississippi State in the SEC opener, 69-62.
  • Georgia is led by 6-4 redshirt senior center Jenna Staiti, who is averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while hitting 54 percent from the field.
  • Senior guard Gabby Connolly also averages double digits, firing in 10.1 ppg.
  • Joni Taylor is in her sixth season as head coach of the Lady Bulldogs and has directed her charges to a 108-59 (.647) record during that span.
  • UGA returned four starters and 10 total letterwinners from last season (17-14 / 7-9, t9th SEC).

RECAPPING UGA’S LAST GAME

  • The University of Georgia Lady Bulldog basketball team overcame an early deficit and found its stride in the second quarter to beat the Florida Gators, 68-58, Sunday afternoon in Athens.
  • The victory improved Georgia’s record to 10-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC. It also marked the program’s 500th all-time win at Stegeman Coliseum.
  • Jenna Staiti scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, marking her fifth double-double of the season. Staiti has scored in double figures in 19 of the last 20 games.
  • Maya Caldwell added 11 points to help the Lady Bulldog seniors improve to 7-0 against the Gators in their careers.

THE LAST TIME THESE TEAMS MET

  • The No. 23/24 Lady Vols picked up their third SEC win on Jan. 12, 2020, defeating Georgia at Thompson-Boling Arena, 73-56, in front of a season-high crowd of 10,036.
  • UT (13-3, 3-1 SEC) was led by junior Rennia Davis with 17 points and six rebounds. Senior Lou Brown and freshmen Tamari Key and Jordan Horston were also in double figures with 12, 13 and 14, respectively.
  • Junior Maya Caldwell paced Georgia (10-7, 1-3 SEC) in scoring with 13 points. Gabby Connally chipped in 11 points, and Que Morrison finished with 10.
  • Horston led Tennessee in assists, dishing out seven, while the Lady Vols out-rebounded UGA, 35-29, and outscored UGA in the paint, 36-22, with 20 of those coming in the second half.

WHAT’S NEXT

  • Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa this weekend to face RV/NR Alabama (10-1/3-1 SEC) in a 3 p.m. ET (2 CT) Sunday matinee streamed on SECN+ from Coleman Coliseum. UT’s Revival Series match-up with No. 4 UConn (7-0/6-0 BIG EAST) looms next Thursday in Knoxville (7 p.m. ET / ESPN or ESPN2).
  • Georgia, meanwhile, will play host to Ole Miss on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (SEC Network).

-UT Athletics

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