LADY VOLS CHALLENGE #13/10 LSU BEFORE FALLING
Courtesy / UT Athletics

LADY VOLS CHALLENGE #13/10 LSU BEFORE FALLING

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A determined Tennessee squad challenged No. 13/10 LSU and closed the gap to within one in the fourth quarter before the Tigers prevailed, 75-60, in front of a season-high crowd of 15,281 on Sunday afternoon at Food City Center.

UT (16-10, 9-5 SEC) trimmed LSU’s lead to 52-51 with 7:30 remaining in the game but could get no closer to the Tigers (24-4, 11-3 SEC) the rest of the way.

Fifth-year forward Rickea Jackson paced Tennessee with 16 points and nine rebounds, eclipsing the 1,000-point scoring mark with the program in only 53 contests. Redshirt senior Tamari Key also was in double figures, contributing 10 to the Big Orange offensive ledger.

LSU was led in scoring by Hailey Van Lith, who finished with 26 points. Mikaylah Williams chipped in 15, while Angel Reese produced a double-double with 11 points and 15 boards.

Tennessee got off to a quick start, taking a 5-2 lead on Jackson’s turnaround jumper and a three-pointer by Sara Puckett. LSU clawed back, taking a 9-5 advantage with 5:58 to go on a Van Lith jumper before Key pocketed a reverse layup to cut the gap to two, 9-7. The Tigers bounced back and outscored the Lady Vols 5-2 to take a 14-9 edge into the media timeout with 3:59 to go in the opening period. UT responded out of the break, netting a Tess Darby trey and Jillian Hollingshead jumper to knot it up at 14 with 3:21 left. Jackson then knocked down a jumper with 1:27 on the clock to tie it at 16 before Van Lith drained a three just seconds before the buzzer to provide LSU a 19-16 lead after one.

The Tigers tallied first in the second frame, but Key’s layup moved her team within four, 22-18. After LSU’s lead swelled to eight, 26-18, at the 7:36 mark, a Jasmine Powell layup and Jewel Spear jumper reeled the visitors back to within four, 26-22. LSU responded with an 8-0 run, ballooning its advantage to 11, 33-22, and forcing Tennessee to call a timeout with 2:33 to go. The teams would play nearly even the rest of the way, with the Tigers taking a 38-26 lead into the locker room at the intermission.

The squads traded baskets early in the third period, with the Lady Vols cutting the deficit to nine, 45-36, by the media timeout at the 4:58 mark with a Jackson jumper and a pair of Sara Puckett free throws going into the break. Over the rest of the quarter, Tennessee outscored LSU, 9-3, on the strength a Hollingshead put-back and two Powell free throws, followed by a Darby driving layup and three-pointer. That Darby three pulled UT within two, 47-45, with 1:35 to go, and a Reese free throw sent the Tigers into the final period with a 48-45 edge.

LSU upped its lead to 50-45 in the early going of the final stanza on a Williams layup, but Tennessee responded with a Jackson free throw and Key baby hook to cut the gap to 50-48 and force the Tigers to call a timeout with 9:02 to go. After LSU scored quickly out of the break, Key grabbed a rebound and scored off her own miss, and Jackson hit the second of two free throws to whittle the gap to one, 52-51, with 7:30 remaining. LSU, however, responded with a 10-4 burst to take a 62-55 lead by the media timeout with 4:54 to go. The Tigers then closed out the game by outscoring the Lady Vols 13-5 the rest of the way to secure the win.

UP NEXT: Tennessee is back at Food City Center on Thursday night, as Texas A&M comes to Knoxville for the second meeting between the teams this season. UT’s final regular season home game of the 2023-24 campaign also will be the Lady Vols’ Senior Night, with players being honored beforehand. The game will be televised by SEC Network at 7 p.m. ET and carried on Lady Vol Network stations statewide and via live stream on UTSports.com.

FANS SPARK THE SUMMITT: A season-high 15,281 fans sparked the Summitt in Sunday’s match-up vs. LSU, marking the largest home crowd since the 2014-15 season when 16,013 fans cheered on the Lady Vols vs. Kentucky (2/15/15). Today’s attendance marks the 124th all-time game UT has played in front of 15,000+ spectators, with 88 of those coming at home in Thompson Boling Arena at Food City Center.

RICKEA HITS 1,000 AS A LADY VOL: With 16 points against the Tigers, Rickea Jackson eclipsed the 1,000-point mark exclusively as a Lady Vol, tallying the milestone in under two seasons. Jackson, who became the eighth Lady Vol to surpass 2,000 career points on Feb. 4 vs. Missouri, leads the team at 18.7 points per game this season.

TK BRINGS IT:Tamari Key posted a stat-stuffing effort on Sunday vs. the Tigers, recording 10 points, tying her season high, and adding five rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 26 minutes. Her two blocks pushed her past Aliyah Boston to take sole possession of sixth place on the SEC’s all-time blocked shots list with 332.

JP SURPASSES 100 ASSISTS AGAIN:Jasmine Powell dished out a team-leading six assists vs. the Tigers to card her third consecutive season with 100+ dimes. She now has 105 in 2023-24, had a career-best 116 last year and dished 108 in 2021-22 while at Minnesota. The guard is averaging 4.4 assists per game in 2023-24 and 5.0 in SEC contests.

REBOUNDS GALORE: The Lady Vols brought down 53 rebounds vs. LSU to post their third-most boards in a game this season and seventh 50-carom game in 2023-24. Coming into Sunday’s contest, Tennessee ranked 11th nationally and fourth in the SEC in rebounds per game at 43.2.

DARBY CLIMBS THREES LIST: Tess Darby knocked down two three-pointers in five attempts on Sunday, running her career total to 163 at Tennessee. That mark ties her with Shekinna Stricklen (2008-12) for the sixth-most all-time by a Lady Vol. 

PUCKETT ON THE GLASS:Sara Puckett registered a season-high nine rebounds vs. LSU while leading the team with three offensive boards. The junior is averaging five rebounds per game in 2023-24.

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