Hoops Preview: Lady Vols vs. Florida

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — RV/RV Tennessee (14-6, 6-0 SEC) hosts its annual “We Back Pat” game at 6:32 p.m. on Thursday, as Florida (12-6, 1-4 SEC) makes its way to Thompson-Boling Arena for the second meeting of the 2022-23 campaign between these squads.

The Lady Vols and Gators opened their SEC seasons back on Dec. 29, with UT taking a 77-66 victory at Exactech Arena in Gainesville. Tennessee and Florida will meet for the 61st time in a series that dates back to 1980, with UT holding a 55-5 advantage through their first matchup this season.

Through six games, UT remains tied atop the SEC standings along with South Carolina and LSU, while Florida stands alone in 10th place. Kellie Harper‘s squad enters on a seven-game winning streak and has been victorious in 12 of its past 14 contests, with its only two losses coming vs. (then) No. 9/9 Virginia Tech (59-56) on Dec. 4 and at No. 2/2 Stanford on Dec. 18 (77-70). A UT win vs. UF would equal last year’s 7-0 league start as the best by the Lady Vols since opening at 13-0 in 2014-15 en route to a 15-1 league record and regular-season title that year.

On Sunday in Knoxville, Tennessee remained perfect in SEC play by taking care of Georgia with a 68-55 victory behind 23 points from Rickea Jackson and 16 from Tess Darby in front of a season-best crowd of 9,772. UT improved to 10-2 at home this season, including 3-0 in league games. The Lady Vols traditionally have been hard to beat at Thompson-Boling Arena with a 90-percent winning percentage and 502-54 record there over 36 years

Following an 11-1 start this season and 11-2 non-conference record, Florida has lost three in a row and five of its last six games with leading scorer Leilani Correa absent for seven contests due to injury before returning the last game. On Sunday in Gainesville, Florida took an 18-10 lead after the opening stanza, but Kentucky outscored the Gators 71-57 the rest of the way by tallying 20 points or more in the final three quarters to win its first SEC game of the year.

We Back Pat Week

  • The 12th annual “We Back Pat” Week, a week-long initiative focused on bringing awareness and recognition to the Pat Summitt Foundation, a fund of East Tennessee Foundation, and its fight against Alzheimer’s disease is set for Jan. 19-26.
  • SEC member institutions will support The Pat Summitt Foundation during their home basketball games. During the women’s games slated for the week, various efforts will be made to increase awareness of The Pat Summitt Foundation.
  • The Lady Vols are slated to wear their “We Back Pat” edition uniforms for the Florida game at home and the Missouri contest on the road.

Game Promotions

  • For the “We Back Pat” game, the first 3,000 fans will receive a replica Pat Summitt statue.
  • Weekday Family 4 Pack Deal: Get four tickets & four $10 concession vouchers starting at $48 (plus tax/fees).
  • Ticket packages are available at AllVols.com.
  • Free parking for Lady Vol games is available on the UT Ag Campus, in lot CF (across from Brehm and Food Science) and S65/66 (behind Vet Hospital).
  • Free shuttle buses also run from the Ag Campus to Thompson-Boling Arena and back, starting two hours prior to the game and one hour afterward.
  • The shuttle location on the UT Ag Campus is on River Drive near Brehm and across from the CF lot.
  • All shuttles are fully accessible for those with disabilities (purple star).

Broadcast Information

  • Thursday’s game will be streamed on SECN+, with Michael Wottreng (PxP), Kamera Harris (Analyst) and Sarah Detwiler on the call.
  • All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) 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.
  • The contest also can be heard on Lady Vol Network stations and by audio stream, with Brian Rice on the call and Andy Brock serving as studio host. 
  • A link to the live audio stream can be found on the Hoops Central page or the 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 the Vol Network Affiliates tab.
  • Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.
  • The Lady Vol Network broadcast also can be heard frequently on satellite radio via SiriusXM and the SXM App. but will not be available this game.

Looking Back At The UGA Game

  • Tennessee improved to 6-0 in SEC play on Sunday, defeating Georgia 68-55 in front of a season-best crowd of 9,772 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
  • Debuting their Summitt Legacy series Summitt Blue uniforms, the Lady Vols (14-6, 6-0 SEC) won their seventh straight game and claimed victory for the 12th time in their last 14 contests, remaining in a tie for first place in the league standings.
  • The triumph also was the 50th home win for Kellie Harper as head coach at her alma mater.
  • Senior Rickea Jackson was the game’s high scorer with 23 points. Junior Tess Darby was also in double digits for Tennessee, tying her season high of 16. Graduate Jordan Walker dished out eight assists for the second straight game, tying her season high set at Texas A&M.
  • UGA (13-7, 2-4 SEC) was led by Brittney Smith and Diamond Battles with 14 and 12, respectively. The Lady Bulldogs were limited to 30.2 percent shooting from the field and suffered an 0-for-14 afternoon beyond the arc, becoming the first team since LSU (0-for-4) on Feb. 2, 2017, to be held without a three-pointer by the Big Orange.

Darby On A Roll

  • Tess Darby drained four threes en route to a season-high-tying 16 points.
  • She has now finished in double figures five times this season, with four of those coming in conference play.
  • It’s also the 12th contest in which she’s hit multiple treys and the eighth time she has made three or more this season.

Counting On Kea

  • With 23 points against Georgia, Rickea Jackson logged her eighth 20+ point performance of the season and fifth during SEC play.
  • She is now averaging 22.7 ppg. against conference foes through six games.

JoJo Dropping Dimes

  • Jordan Walker matched her season high with eight assists vs. Georgia on Sunday.
  • It marked the second straight game with eight dimes for the graduate guard, as she also dropped that same number vs. Texas A&M last Thursday night in College Station.

Taking Charges

A Look At The Gators

  • Florida features the trio of Leilani Correa (15.1), KK Deans (14.8) and Nina Rickards (13.7) averaging double figures in points. Correa, however, returned to the lineup vs. Kentucky on Sunday after last playing Dec. 11 vs. Miami.
  • UF holds foes to 38.9 FG pct. and 67.7 ppg. for the season but to 44.9 pct. and 78.0 ppg. in league play.
  • The Gators grab 8.4 steals per contest (6.4 in SEC).

Florida’s Last Game

  • Florida fell at home in a heartbreaker Sunday to Kentucky, 81-75, after a second-half Wildcat surge.
  • The Gators (12-6, 1-4 SEC) were led by KK Deans with 21 points, which included five triples, while Nina Rickards added 18 and Ra Shaya Kyle tallied 13 points.
  • The Gators shot 27-of-64 (42.2%) for the game and 6-of-18 (33.3%) from three-point range. At the free throw line, UF finished with a 15-of-28 (53.6%) clip.

UT/UF Notes

  • UT is 24-2 vs. UF in games played in Knoxville, 23-3 in Gainesville and 8-0 at neutral sites.
  • UT is 3-1 in overtime contests vs the Gators, including 3-0 in Gainesville in those extra-frame affairs.
  • UT’s record for most free throws made in a game (40-46) came at Florida on 2/3/05.
  • Tamari Key’s 10 blocks vs. Florida in Knoxville on Jan. 31, 2021, as part of a triple-double rank as the second-most ever swatted in a game by a Lady Vol.

Last Meeting Between UT, UF

  • Senior forward Rickea Jackson fired in a season-high 28 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds to propel Tennessee to a 77-67 road win over Florida on Dec. 29 to open SEC play.
  • The Lady Vols also got 15 points from senior guard Jordan Horston, who made up for first-half foul trouble with 12 second-half points on 5-of-9 shooting.
  • Florida had four players in double figures, led by 21 points from Alberte Rimdal. KK Deans added 16, while Nina Rickards and Ra Shaya Kyle tossed in 11 each.

Upcoming Games

  • Tennessee will be at Missouri on Sunday, facing the Tigers at 2 p.m. CT (3 p.m. ET) in a contest streamed on SECN+.
  • The Lady Vols return home to host No. 5 UConn on Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, followed by a Jan. 30 game at No. 3/4 LSU on ESPN2 (6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET).

-UT Athletics

Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

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