Sharp-Shooting Lady Vols Race Past Vanderbilt, 86-61

Courtesy / UT Athletics

Sharp-Shooting Lady Vols Race Past Vanderbilt, 86-61

Courtesy / UT Athletics

Game Recap: Women’s Basketball | February 18, 2024 | Eric Trainer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee scored a season-high 30 points in the first quarter and never looked back, racing past Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium, 86-61, on Sunday afternoon.

The Lady Vols (16-9, 9-4 SEC) shot a sizzling 76.9 percent in the first frame, including an eye-popping 83.3 percent from the three-point arc, to seize a 15-point lead in the first 10 minutes en route to their eighth straight victory in the series with the Commodores (19-8, 6-7 SEC). The Lady Vols finished the game at 52.5 percent from the floor, marking their second-best percentage of the season behind a 53.3 rate vs. Kentucky on Jan. 7.

Fifth-year forward Rickea Jackson enjoyed an 11-for-15 day from the field to lead the Big Orange in scoring, with 24 points, as well as in rebounds (7), assists (4) and steals (1). Senior guard Jewel Spear connected on three of six three-point attempts and contributed 16 points, while fifth-year point guard Jasmine Powell tossed in 12.

Vanderbilt was led by Iyana Moore’s 25 points, while Jordyn Cambridge and Sacha Washington added 14 and 13, respectively.  

The Lady Vols were sizzling from the field in the opening quarter, shooting 71 percent from the field early to build a 17-7 lead by the media timeout at the 4:17 mark. Jackson, Spear and Powell all drained three-pointers during that stretch, helping UT ride a 12-2 run into the first break. UT extended a 9-0 scoring spree to 12 straight with a Tess Darby trey to push the lead to 20-7 before Vanderbilt answered with a Jordyn Oliver layup with 3:52 to go. UT closed out the quarter by outscoring VU, 10-6, with Spear contributing a three-pointer and an old fashioned three-point play. Her efforts helped the Big Orange finish the period with 10 made field goals in 13 attempts (76.9), including five of six from long range (83.3), to propel UT to a 30-15 lead.

Tennessee expanded its advantage to 18 by the 6:48 mark in the second quarter, forcing the Commodores to call a timeout. Darby’s second three, sandwiched by inside buckets from Tamari Key, provided the juice for UT’s 7-4 opening surge in the stanza. Vandy scored the next seven points to cut its deficit to 11, 37-26, with 4:38 to go before Jackson answered to push the lead back to 13. Jackson would counter VU surges twice more, hitting a three and a layup to close out the first half scoring and send her squad into the locker room with a 44-29 lead.

The Lady Vols and Commodores exchanged buckets through the first five and a half minutes of the third frame, heading into the media break with UT up, 56-41. Spear drew first in the period, hitting a layup 29 seconds in, before Jackson connected for eight straight points and Kaiya Wynn added a driving layup to put her team back up by 15. Following the break, the Lady Vols increased the lead to 19, 62-43, on the strength of Jackson and Kaiya Wynn putbacks, and then headed to the fourth with a 66-48 advantage as Wynn drained a short jumper to end the stanza just before the buzzer sounded.

Vanderbilt burst out on a 6-2 run to open the final frame, but Jewel Spear drained her third three of the game to force the Commodores to call a timeout with UT leading 71-57 with 6:24 to go. A Jackson layup and Powell jumper put the game out of reach at 75-58 with 3:34 to go, and UT outscored VU, 11-3, the rest of the way on the strength of a Darby three and pairs of free throws by Powell, Karoline Striplin and Avery Strickland.

UP NEXT: Tennessee will be idle on Thursday before welcoming #13/11 LSU to Food City Center on Feb. 25 for a noon test vs. the Tigers. The game will be televised by ESPN and carried on Lady Vol Network stations statewide and via live stream on UTSports.com.

DOMINANCE ON ALL FRONTS: The Lady Vols never trailed in today’s contest and held their largest lead of 25 at the final buzzer. Tennessee possessed leads of 15,15 and 18 at the end of the first three quarters. Vanderbilt, which was shooting 41.8 percent heading into today’s game, shot 32.9 percent from the floor during the matchup. The Commodores allowed Tennessee to shoot 52.5 percent from the field, which is nearly 13 percentage points higher than Vanderbilt’s season defensive average of 39.7. 

RICKEA RISING: With 24 points in today’s matchup, Rickea Jackson moved into seventh place on UT’s career scoring list, now having 2,078 points for her career. She surpassed Meighan Simmons, who tallied 2,064 points from 2010-14. Jackson also eclipsed the 700-rebound milestone for her career, tallying seven boards to bring her career total to 704. 

JACKSON DROPPING 20+ AGAIN: Rickea Jackson delivered her seventh game with 20 or more points this season and the 23rd of her career. She tied Rennia Davis (2017-21) for fifth on the Lady Vol all-time list and stands four games behind Tamika Catchings (27), who starred from 1997-2001.

SPEAR RESPONDS: Jewel Spear bounced back from a tough outing vs. South Carolina to score 16 points against the Commodores. Spear, averaging 12.8 ppg. against all teams and 14.6 ppg. vs. SEC foes coming into the game, has now scored in double figures 16 times on the year. 

DARBY FROM DEEP: With a trio of three-pointers made in the Vandy game, Tess Darby is now tied for seventh all-time in Tennessee history with 161 threes. She joins Brittany Jackson, who played for the Big Orange from 2001-05, on the career leaderboard.

KEY DENYING ACCESS: With two blocks against Vanderbilt, Tamari Key moved into a tie for sixth place all-time in SEC history with South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, totaling 330 total blocks for her career. The redshirt senior from Cary, North Carolina, now has 35 swats on the year. 

EARLY OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION: In the first quarter, the Big Orange shot 76.9 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from three-point range to jump out to a 30-15 lead at the end of the frame. That total is the most points that Vanderbilt has given up in a stanza this year, and it is the third-most points scored in a quarter, as the Lady Vols scored 31 in the third frame against Troy and 33 in the same frame versus Liberty. 

VOLUNTEER STATE SUPREMACY: With today’s win, Tennessee moves to 263-62-1 in matchups against four-year in-state foes. Kellie Harper is 19-1 in those matchups, with a 3-1 record this year. The Lady Vols have now won the past eight outings against the Commodores, bringing the series total to 80-10 in favor of the Big Orange.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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