Courtest / UT Athletics
Game Recap: Women’s Basketball | January 14, 2024 | Kimberly Hood
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Lady Vols suffered their first SEC loss of the season on Sunday afternoon, falling to Texas A&M in Reed Arena, 71-56.
Junior Sara Puckett led Tennessee (10-6, 3-1 SEC) with 12 points and seven rebounds. Senior Jewel Spear was close behind with 11 points, and fifth-year senior Rickea Jackson ended the day with 10 as UT saw its six-game winning streak come to an end.
Aicha Coulibaly was the high scorer for the Aggies (14-3, 2-2 SEC), finishing with 19 points. Sahara Jones and Endyia Rogers were also in double figures with 15 each.
The Aggies got on the board first with a layup 12 seconds into play, but the Lady Vols answered with six straight points capped by a Spear three to lead 6-2 by the 8:23 mark. TAMU tied things up 30 seconds later, but Jasmine Powell reclaimed the lead for UT with 7:00 left in the first. Tennessee then went cold from the floor, as Texas A&M built a 15-8 advantage over the next four minutes. Jillian Hollingshead ended the drought with a layup at the 2:36 mark to get UT into double figures, and by the end of the quarter, Tennessee had trimmed the deficit down to four at 18-14.
Both teams struggled to score at the outset of the second, with Lauren Ware netting the first points of the quarter at the 7:39 mark to extend TAMU’s lead to six. Jackson and Powell combined for back-to-back buckets to narrow the margin to two with 6:18 to go in the half, but two layups and a free throw by Coulibaly had the Aggies on top 25-20 midway through the period. Jackson answered with a layup to cut it to three, but Texas A&M closed out the half with an 11-0 run to take a 36-22 lead into halftime.
Spear swished a trey on UT’s first possession of the second half to pull her team within 11, but Rogers countered with a three on the other end. Karoline Striplin and Puckett combined for back-to-back buckets to cut it to 10 by the 6:59 mark, but the Aggies extended their lead to 13 a minute later. Hollingshead responded with a layup before TAMU countered with six straight points to go up 48-31 with 3:04 left in the third. Spear hit her third 3-pointer of the game, but Texas A&M outscored the Lady Vols 6-2 to close out the quarter to lead 54-36 at the end of three.
Kaiya Wynn knocked down a jumper and Puckett followed with a three on the next play to pull UT within 15 with 7:37 left in the game, but Janiah Barker and Coulibaly answered with scores on consecutive plays to give TAMU its largest lead of the game at 60-41. Puckett drained another three-pointer, and Avery Strickland hit a free throw to trim the deficit to 15 with 5:48 to play. The Lady Vols pulled within 14 multiple times in the closing minutes, but that’s as close as they would get.
NEXT UP: UT is back on the road on Thursday at Mississippi State, tipping at 6 p.m. CT (7 ET) on SEC Network.
PUCKETT PRODUCTION: Junior forward Sara Puckett led Tennessee in three statistical categories, carding 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Her five dimes tied her career and season highs (set vs. Liberty on Dec. 31, 2023) and stand as her best total vs. an SEC opponent. Her previous league high of four assists came on Feb. 24, 2022, vs. Mississippi State.
SPEAR FROM DEEP: Senior guard Jewel Spear was second in scoring, rebounding and assists for the Lady Vols with totals of 11, six and two, respectively. She knocked down a trio of three-pointers on five attempts, marking her highest total of long balls vs. an SEC foe and her most since swishing four vs. Wofford on Dec. 19.