Hoops Preview: NCAA First Round: #24/RV Lady Vols vs. Saint Louis

Hoops Preview: NCAA First Round: #24/RV Lady Vols vs. Saint Louis

No. 24/RV Tennessee (23-11), the No. 4 seed in the Seattle 3 Region, begins its 41st-straight NCAA Tournament journey at home, playing host to No. 13 seed Saint Louis (17-17) on Saturday in the first round at 1:06 p.m. ET at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The winner of that game will advance to Monday’s NCAA Second Round and face the victor of the other Knoxville Saturday first-round matchup between No. 5 seed #17/20 Iowa State (22-9) and Toledo (28-4).

The Lady Vols are serving as a host for the NCAA First and Second Rounds for the second year in a row, and this marks the 19th occasion UT has welcomed the NCAA First and Second Rounds to Rocky Top since that format was instituted in 1994.

The Big Orange women have won 19 of their past 25 games in 2022-23, with the only losses during that span coming at No. 3 Stanford (77-70), vs. No. 4 UConn (84-67), at No. 5 LSU (76-68), at Mississippi State (91-90 2OT), vs. No. 1/1 South Carolina (73-60) at home and vs. No. 1/1 South Carolina in the SEC Tournament championship game (74-58).

Head coach Kellie Harper led her squad through a gauntlet of a schedule. She patiently put the pieces of the 2022-23 Lady Vol puzzle together, helping talented returnees and newcomers find their roles for this team and guiding them through absences of key players (Horston, Jackson, Hollingshead, Franklin) and the loss of two more (Key, Suárez) for the season. Tennessee placed third in the SEC for the fourth-straight season, finished 13-3 for its highest league victory total since 2014-15 and advanced to its first SEC Tournament title game since 2015, with a 69-67 triumph over No. 4/3 LSU serving as a signature win.

Saint Louis, meanwhile, tied for third in the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2022-23 at 10-6 before winning the league tourney over UMass, 91-85 in overtime to punch its ticket for a first-ever NCAA bid.

UT and SLU will be meeting for the second time, with the Lady Vols standing 1-0 after defeating the Billikens at the 2002 San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Saturday’s UT-SLU game will be televised by ABC, with Pam Ward (PxP) and Stephanie White (Analyst) 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 Tennessee broadcast also will be available via SiriusXM Ch. 138 & 206 as well as SiriusXM App Ch. 969.

TICKETS AT ALLVOLS.COM

  • Tickets are available at AllVols.com.
  • There are single-session options as low as $10 for adults and $5 for youth, as well as all-session prices of $35 for adults and $25 for youth. 

TENNESSEE – THE ONLY SCHOOL IN ALL 41

  • The Lady Vols are enjoying their 41st appearance in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, and UT is the only program to appear in all 41 tournaments.
  • Tennessee is an at-large qualifier for the 2023 NCAA Tournament, finishing third in the SEC regular season for the fourth-straight season and falling to No. 1/1 South Carolina in the SEC Tournament title game.
  • UT earned a No. 4 seed for only the third time and has a 5-2 record in that role after defeating Iowa, Georgia and LSU before falling to USC in the NCAA Final Four semifinals in 1986 in Lexington, Ky., and adding first- and second-round wins over Buffalo and Belmont and a Sweet 16 setback vs. Louisville in 2022.
  • The Lady Vols are 128-32 in NCAA Tournament play, and they rank first in games played (160) and second in victories (128) in NCAA tourney history.
  • Tennessee is second behind UConn in winning percentage at .800 in tourney play.
  • UT is 3-2 in NCAA action under Kellie Harper, making the second round in 2021 and the Sweet 16 in 2022.
  • UT has advanced to the NCAA regional round on 35 occasions, owning a 28-7 mark in the Sweet 16.
  • The only seasons UT did not make the regional level were in 2009 and from 2017 to 2021. UT lost its opening round contest as a No. 5 seed to No. 12 Ball State in Bowling Green, Ky., in 2009. No. 5 seed UT lost its second-round game at No. 4 seed Louisville in 2017. No. 3 seed UT lost its second-round game to No. 6 seed Oregon State in Knoxville in 2018. No. 11 seed Tennessee fell to No. 6 seed UCLA in the first round at College Park, Md., in 2019. No. 3 seed UT dropped a 70-55 second-round decision to No. 6 seed Michigan in 2021 in San Antonio, Texas.
  • UT has made the Elite Eight 28 times and in five of the past 11 tournaments, posting an 18-10 record in that round.
  • The Lady Vols have seen their season ended in the regional championship game in five of the past 11 years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016).
  • UT has advanced to 18 NCAA Final Fours and won eight of them (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008), ranking second to UConn.
  • Tennessee has finished second in the nation five times and third on five more occasions.
  • In facing Saint Louis, UT is playing its 91st different opponent during all rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
  • The Atlantic 10 becomes the 29th different conference played during the postseason.

UT IN THE FIRST & SECOND ROUNDS

  • Tennessee is making its 41st appearance in the NCAA First/Second Rounds, and it owns a 61-5 record during games played in those rounds.
  • The Lady Vols are 32-2 all-time in the NCAA First Round and 29-3 in the NCAA Second Round.
  • The only blemishes are a first-round loss to Ball State, 71-55, in Bowling Green, Ky., on March 22, 2009, a second-round setback to Louisville, 75-64, in Louisville, Ky. on March 20, 2017, a second-round loss to Oregon State, 66-59, in Knoxville, on March 18, 2018, a first-round ouster by UCLA, 89-77, on March 23, 2019, in College Park, Md., and a second-round loss to Michigan, 70-55, in San Antonio, Texas, on March 23, 2021.
  • In NCAA First/Second Round play, Tennessee is 47-1 at home, 4-2 away and 10-2 at neutral sites.
  • The breakdown for that is 24-0 home/0-1 away/8-1 neutral for the first round and 23-1 home/4-1 away/2-1 neutral for the second round.

UT VS. THE NCAA FIELD

  • Tennessee has played 18 games vs. 15 different teams in the 2023 NCAA Tournament field and has a 7-11 record against those foes.
  • UT captured victories over LSU, Colorado, Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia, Mississippi State and Chattanooga, and it fell to South Carolina (twice), Indiana, Virginia Tech, Stanford, UConn, LSU, Ohio State, Gonzaga, UCLA and Mississippi State.
  • Tennessee is 2-7 vs. non-conference NCAA Tournament-qualifying foes this season and 5-4 vs. SEC opponents who made the field.
  • The SEC placed seven teams in the tournament, which tied for the second most of any league (with the Big Ten and Pac-12). The ACC had eight.
  • The SEC’s teams going dancing in 2023 include Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee.

HARPER NCAA HISTORY AS A COACH

  • Kellie Harper is making her eighth overall NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach and third with UT. She also went to the tourney four other times as an assistant coach.
  • The Lady Vols have been a top-four seed the past three seasons, including No. 3 in 2021 and No. 4 in 2022 and 2023, hosting this year and last and playing in the “NCAA bubble” in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Kellie Harper is 5-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach, including 3-2 while at Tennessee.
  • She is 2-0 at home (2-0 while at UT), 1-2 away and 2-5 at neutral sites (1-2 while at UT).
  • She is 3-4 in NCAA First-Round games (1-0 at home/0-2 away/2-2 neutral), 2-1 in NCAA Second-Round games (1-0 at home/1-0 away/0-1 neutral) and 0-2 in the Sweet 16 (0-0 home/0-0 away/0-2 neutral).
  • Harper has made two Sweet 16 appearances, including 2022 with UT and 2019 with Missouri State.
  • In 2022, Tennessee defeated Buffalo (80-67) and Belmont (70-67) in Knoxville and fell to Louisville in Wichita, Kansas, in the Sweet 16, 76-64.
  • After the 2020 tourney was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in her first season on Rocky Top, Harper led Tennessee to the 2021 tournament in her second year, finishing 1-1. The Lady Vols beat Middle Tennessee, 87-62, in the opening round in Austin, Texas, before falling to Michigan, 70-55, in the second round in San Antonio.
  • During the 2018-19 NCAA Tournament, Harper piloted #11 seed Missouri State to the Sweet 16, beating #6 seed DePaul and #3 seed Iowa State before falling to #2 seed Stanford by nine en route to 2019 Kay Yow National Coach of the Year acclaim.
  • Harper’s previous entries fell in first-round matchups: #16 Western Carolina at #1 Tennessee in 2005, #13 Western Carolina vs. #4 Vanderbilt in Albuquerque in 2009, #9 NC State vs. #8 UCLA at Minneapolis in 2010 and #13 Missouri State at #4 Texas A&M in 2016.

HARPER’S STAFF EXPERIENCE

  • In addition to this being Kellie Harper‘s eighth NCAA berth as a head coach and 12th occasion overall including time as an assistant (Chattanooga-3, Auburn-1), UT’s coaching staff has plenty of postseason experience.
  • UT assistant coach Jon Harper has been on his spouse’s staff for all of eight of her NCAA appearances, including Western Carolina (2), NC State (1), Missouri State (2) and Tennessee (3). He also went as an assistant at Chattanooga (3) for 11 total.
  • First-year Lady Vol assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Samantha Williams has gone to 18 NCAA Division I Tournaments as part of staffs at Auburn (1), DePaul (3), Duke (4), Louisville (8) and Tennessee (2).
  • First-year Lady Vol assistant Joy McCorvey has gone to seven NCAA Tournaments as part of staffs at St. John’s (1), Michigan (2), Florida State (2) and Tennessee (2).

LADY VOL NCAA EXPERIENCE

RECAPPING THE 2022 NCAA TOURNEY

  • Tennessee advanced to its first Sweet 16 since 2016 a year ago, defeating Buffalo and Belmont before falling to #4/4 Louisville, the No. 1 seed in the Wichita Regional.
  • No. 18/17 Tennessee advanced to the NCAA Second Round on March 19, 2022, defeating Buffalo in Thompson-Boling Arena, 80-67.
  • Graduate forward Alexus Dye turned in a double-double for fourth-seeded UT (24-8), tallying 18 points and 11 rebounds, as did junior center Tamari Key, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Senior guard/forward Rae Burrell was the high scorer for UT with 19 points, and graduate guard Jordan Walker added 13.
  • The Lady Vols advanced to the Sweet 16 on March 21, defeating in-state foe Belmont in Thompson-Boling Arena, 70-67.
  • The Big Orange (25-8) were led by graduate Alexus Dye who posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Tamari Key and freshman Sara Puckett were also in double figures with 18 and 12, respectively. Puckett hit a corner-three with just under 18 seconds remaining to put the Lady Vols ahead for good.
  • Wichita Regional All-Tournament Team member senior Rae Burrell poured in a season-high 22 points for #18/17 Tennessee, but it wasn’t enough to overcome #4/4 Louisville in a hard-fought NCAA Sweet 16 setback on March 26 at INTRUST Bank Arena, 76-64.
  • Graduate Jordan Walker joined Burrell in double figures for No. 4 seed UT (25-9), finishing with 10 on the day. Junior Tamari Key led UT in rebounds with 10.

LOOKING BACK AT THE SO. CAROLINA GAME

  • Tennessee fell to No. 1/1 South Carolina, 74-58, in a hard-fought battle in the SEC Championship game on March 5 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
  • Senior Jordan Horston was the high scorer for Tennessee (23-11, 13-3 SEC) with 19 points and nine rebounds. Fellow senior Rickea Jackson was close behind with 17 points, and sophomore Jillian Hollingshead also had another solid showing with nine points. 
  • South Carolina (32-0, 16-0 SEC) was led by Zia Cooke who turned in 24 points, while two-time SEC Player of the Year Aliyah Boston posted 18 and Kamilla Cardoso added 13.

2023 SEC TOURNEY UT SUPERLATIVES

  • Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson were both recognized as members of the SEC All-Tournament Team.
  • It marked the first time UT has had two All-Tournament Team members since Cierra Burdick and Jordan Reynolds earned that recognition in 2015.
  • Rickea Jackson averaged 25.7 ppg. and 7.7 rpg. while shooting 52.0 percent from the field and 95.7 percent (22-23) from the free-throw line during the 2023 event.
  • Jackson’s season-high 34 points against Kentucky in the quarterfinals were the most scored in any game by a Lady Vol since Diamond DeShields had 34 vs. Georgia on Feb. 5, 2017.
  • A 14-of-14 (100-percent) effort at the charity stripe for Jackson vs. Kentucky in the quarterfinals was a school record for percentage with the most attempts.
  • Jordan Horston (19.0 ppg.) also scored in double figures for the weekend, with Horston leading the team in rebounding (8.7 rpg.), assists (3.0 apg.) and blocks (2.3 bpg.) en route to SEC All-Tournament honors.
  • Tess Darby went six of 12 beyond the arc (50 percent) in three games.
  • Jordan Horston’s career-best seven blocks vs. Kentucky on March 3 tied centers Tamari Key (2020) and Kelley Cain (2009) for most swats ever in an SEC Tournament contest by a Lady Vol.

LADY VOL ODDS & ENDS

  • JORDY & ‘KEA DROPPIN’ 20Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson have recorded 16 20-point scoring performances each during their time at Tennessee, tying for No. 8 in school history for a career. Jackson’s 16 such games in 2022-23 also rate as the ninth-best mark in a single season.
  • RICKEA ON A ROLLRickea Jackson has hit her stride, averaging 23.6 ppg. and shooting 54.8 on FGs and 83.1 on FTs during UT’s last 10 contests with eight scoring efforts of 20+ points.
  • TOP-10 LISTS IN SIGHT FOR DARBYTess Darby has 66 three-pointers this season, and 122 for her career, leaving her three from entering the Lady Vol single-season top 10 and 11 from cracking the career list.
  • MAKING HER PRESENCE KNOWN: Over her last 10 games, Jillian Hollingshead has averaged 8.6 ppg. and 5.6 rpg. while shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 81.3 percent from the charity stripe.
  • PRODUCTIVE JOJO: Over her last 10 games, Jordan Walker is averaging 5.8 ppg., 4.9 rpg. and 4.0 apg. while hitting 84.2 percent of her free throws. She also leads UT with 20 charges taken this year.
  • A-LIST SENIOR SCORERRickea Jackson’s 19.6 ppg. ranks No. 5 all-time for a UT senior behind Trish Roberts (29.9), Chamique Holdsclaw (21.3), Bridgette Gordon (20.4) and Cindy Brogdon (20.1).
  • HORSTON NO. 9 IN CAREER DIMES: With 445 assists, Jordan Horston stands at No. 9 on UT’s career list. She is four dimes behind No. 8 Michelle Marciniak (449) and seven shy of equaling her head coach’s 452 during her playing days at Tennessee.
  • DROPPING 20 IN A FRAME: Tennessee has tallied 20 or more points in 58 of 136 quarters, including 13 in the past 28 periods.
  • SCORING 20 IN A GAME: UT had a 20-point scorer in nine of the past 10 games.
  • PROJECT FREE THROW: Tennessee shot 88.7 percent (55-62) on free throws during its three SEC Tourney games and has hit 76.0 percent (174-229) over its last 10 contests. Credit “Project Free Throw.”
  • HOME-COURT EDGE: UT has a 506-56 record at Thompson-Boling Arena, including 14-4 at home in 2022-23 and 24-0 all-time in NCAA First Round games.

UT/SLU NOTES

  • Tennessee is 0-0 at home, 0-0 on the road and 1-0 at neutral sites vs. Saint Louis.
  • The Lady Vols and SLU have met only once previously, with No. 4/5 UT defeating the Billikens, 75-40, on Dec. 2, 2002, in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico.
  • UT is 25-0 all-time vs. schools currently in the Atlantic 10 Conference, defeating 2023 league co-champ UMass, 74-66, on Nov. 10, in game two this season.
  • This will mark Kellie Harper‘s first meeting with Saint Louis in her four coaching stops.

A LOOK AT THE BILLIKENS

  • Saint Louis is led by double-figure scorers in 5-11 senior guard Kyla McMakin (17.4 ppg.) and 6-5 senior forward/center Brooke Flowers (12.0 ppg.).
  • Flowers is SLU’s top rebounder, pulling down 9.4 per contest, and has blocked a nation-leading 128 shots (3.76 bpg.).
  • Julia Martinez (9.9 ppg.), a 5-10 senior guard, and 5-11 junior forward Peyton Kennedy (9.8 ppg.) are just shy of scoring in double figures.
  • Martinez leads her team with 159 assists and 116 steals (2nd in the NCAA), while McMakin is tops in three-pointers with 62.
  • The Billikens have won six straight and 11 of their last 12 entering the tournament.
  • Saint Louis has four players on its roster who followed head coach Rebecca Tillett from her previous position at Longwood University, including her daughter, 5-9 freshman guard Isabel.
  • Tillett was 51-68 in four seasons as head coach at the school in Farmville, Va.

SAINT LOUIS’S LAST GAME

  • Kyla McMakin led five Saint Louis double-figure scorers with a game-high 27 points, tournament Most Outstanding Player Julia Martinez recorded the second triple-double in SLU women’s basketball history, and the third-seeded Billikens secured the first NCAA Tournament bid in program history with a 91-85 overtime victory over top-seeded Massachusetts on March 5 in the Atlantic 10 Championship final at CHASE Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Del.
  • The Billikens, playing in the A-10 Championship title game for the first time, improved to 17-17 with their 11th win in 12 games and sixth consecutive triumph.
  • Martinez, who flirted with a triple-double earlier this season, finished with 17 points and game highs of 13 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by McMakin and Brooke Flowers.

LAST MEETING BETWEEN UT, SLU

  • Gwen Jackson fired in 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting to pace the #5/4 Lady Vols to a 75-40 victory over Saint Louis in the Big Orange’s third and final game at the San Juan Shootout on Dec. 1, 2002.
  • Shyra Ely had 12 points on six-of-nine shooting to help fuel UT.
  • Tennessee shot 56.9 percent from the field and limited the Billikens to 30.2 percent shooting and only 20 points in each half.
  • Eleven Lady Vols saw action in the contest, and all 11 contributed points and rebounds to the victorious cause.

-UT Athletics

Lady Vols vs. St. Louis / Credit: UT Athletics

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