Hot-Shooting Lady Vols Cruise Past Green Bay In NCAA First Round, 92-63
Courtesy / UT Athletics

Hot-Shooting Lady Vols Cruise Past Green Bay In NCAA First Round, 92-63

RALEIGH, N.C. – No. 6 seed Tennessee blew the game open in the second quarter vs. No. 11 seed Green Bay and cruised to a 92-63 victory in NCAA First Round play on Saturday afternoon at Reynolds Coliseum.

The Lady Vols (20-12) scorched the nets with 70-percent field-goal marksmanship in the second frame and limited the Phoenix to 18.8 percent shooting, outscoring their foes, 21-7, during the period en route to a season-best 58.3-percent day of accuracy from the floor.

Fifth-year forward Rickea Jackson paced the UT attack with game highs of 26 points and nine rebounds, connecting on 10 of 14 field goal attempts and all six free-throw tries. Senior guard Jewel Spear, who exploded for 11 points in the second quarter, finished with 13, while junior forward Sara Puckett and senior guard/forward Tess Darby chipped in 14 and 11, respectively.

Green Bay (27-7), which hit 60-percent of its field goal attempts in the opening 10 minutes before finishing at 37.9 percent, was led by Maddy Schreiber with 13 points.

Tennessee scored first on a hook in the paint by Puckett and pushed its lead to 6-4 at the 8:02 mark on a corner jumper by Jackson and a layup from Tamari Key, who was playing for the first time as a collegian near her hometown of Cary, N.C. Green Bay fought back, grabbing a 12-6 advantage on a Bailey Butler three-pointer with 6:38 to go in the opening period. Jackson, though, contributed a three-point play and scored off an alley-oop pass from Jasmine Powell to cut the deficit to 12-11 by the 5:53 mark. Following a Phoenix bucket, Puckett knotted the score at 14 with a three from the top of the key before GB moved back in front by the media timeout, 17-14, on a trey by Callie Genkie with 4:34 left. Darby knotted the score at 17 with 4:18 on the clock with a three ball, and the teams exchanged buckets over the rest of the quarter before a Darby put-back sent UT into the second quarter with a 23-21 lead.

After going scoreless in the first quarter, Spear made her presence known in the second, knocking down a three-pointer to lift her team to its biggest lead at 26-23 with 9:23 to go. She then followed with a jumper to make it 28-23 at the 8:24 mark. After a three by Green Bay’s Cassie Schiltz trimmed the margin to 28-26 with 7:41 left in the half, Tennessee went on a 16-2 run over the remainder of the period. Spear added threes at the 6:24 and 5:06 marks to run her personal total to 11 points in the stanza and force a Phoenix timeout with UT leading, 38-28. Buckets by Puckett and Jackson and a pair of free throws by Jackson sent the Lady Vols into the locker room with a 44-28 lead on an 11-0 run, while its defense was stifling in holding GB scoreless over the final 5:50 of the half.

The Lady Vols extended their run to 12-0 and lead to 45-28 on a Key free throw at the 9:49 mark, but the Phoenix began to generate some offense and whittle the gap to 49-35 with 7:51 to go in the third. UT roared right back, however, getting a pair of baskets by Jackson and a three from Puckett to make it 55-35 with 7:06 remaining. After GB responded with a two from Jenna Guyer, Key scored inside, Puckett hit a fast-break layup and Jackson tallied off a rebound of her own missed shot and was fouled on the play to force a Green Bay timeout with 5:22 left. Right after the break, Jackson hit her free throw and pushed UT’s lead to 25, 62-37. A Darby three gave her squad a 65-39 lead heading into the 4:42 media timeout. The squads exchanged buckets the rest of the period before Powell buried a mid-range jumper to close out the frame with UT clutching a 70-44 lead.

Tennessee scored the first six points of the final stanza on a Jackson old-fashioned three-point play, a Powell charity toss and a jumper in the paint by Jillian Hollingshead to run its advantage to 76-44 by the 8:17 mark. Hollingshead later contributed an old-fashioned three-point play of her own, and Kaiya Wynn drained a transition jumper to build the Lady Vols’ lead to a game-high 35 with 2:44 remaining, 91-56.  Green then closed its final contest of 2023-24 by outscoring the Big Orange 7-1 over the remainder of the game to account for UT’s 29-point margin of victory.

UP NEXT: The Lady Vols advance to Monday’s NCAA Second Round and will face 11th-ranked and No. 3 seed NC State (28-6). The Wolfpack defeated No. 14 seed Chattanooga (28-5), 64-44, in Saturday’s second game in Raleigh. Tip time and TV information for Monday’s contest will be released later.

WINNING 20 FOR THE 47TH TIME: With its victory over Green Bay, Tennessee picked up its 20th win of the 2024 campaign. That marks the 47th time the Lady Vols have registered 20+ victories in a season dating back to 1974. It also is UT’s fourth 20-win season in Kellie Harper‘s five years as head coach (11th in her career), with the 2020-21 total of 17 wins impacted by several COVID-related game cancelations that no doubt would have pushed the Lady Vols to 20.

STRONG SHOOTING PERFORMANCE: UT shot an impressive 58.3 percent from the floor in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, recording its highest shooting percentage of 2023-24 and its eighth time shooting 50 percent or better in a contest this season. In fact, today’s marksmanship was the Lady Vols’ best NCAA percentage under Kellie Harper and highest since making 61.7 percent vs. Liberty in the NCAA First Round in Knoxville on March 16, 2018.

PUTTING UP 20 IN A QUARTER: Tennessee tallied 20 or more points in all four quarters vs. the Phoenix, doing so for only the second time this season. The other occasion was against Troy on Nov. 19, 2023. The Lady Vols now have scored 20 or more points in 59 of 128 quarters played during this campaign.

ANOTHER 20-POINT EFFORT FROM KEA: Jackson registered her third consecutive 20-plus point game vs. Green Bay, her 12th of 2023-24 and 28th as a Lady Vol, which ranks fifth all-time at UT. The forward was just shy of a double-double, adding nine rebounds and two assists to her performance.

HOT FROM DEEP: Tess DarbyJewel Spear and Sara Puckett accumulated UT’s eight 3-pointers vs. the Phoenix, with Darby and Spear knocking down three from deep apiece and Puckett notching two. This marks the eighth and 16th time, respectively, that Darby and Spear have led the team in threes this season. Additionally, Darby’s 170 career threes rank fifth in program history, while Spear is just one three-pointer shy of moving into the top 10 on UT’s all-time single-season list.

SECOND-QUARTER SURGE: The Lady Vols were firing on all cylinders in the second period, shooting a sizzling 70 percent from the floor (7-10). They were sparked by 11 points from Jewel Spear while holding Green Bay to just 18 percent shooting (3-16). Spear hit all four of her field goal attempts in the frame, including 3-of-3 accuracy beyond the arc.

A TEAM SCORING EFFORT: Four Lady Vols registered double-digit points vs. Green Bay, marking the 10th contest in 2023-24 where four or more Big Orange women notched 10-plus points in a single game.

ANOTHER “W” IN NCAA PLAY: The Lady Vols improved to 131-33 in NCAA Tournament play, and they rank first in games played (164) and second in victories (131) in NCAA tourney history.

UT IN THE FIRST & SECOND ROUNDS: Tennessee improved to 64-5 all-time in NCAA First and Second Round games, including 49-1 at home, 4-2 away and 11-2 at neutral sites. The Lady Vols now are 34-2 all-time in first-round contests, including 25-0 at home, 0-1 away and 9-1 at neutral sites.

HARPER EVENS NCAA TOURNEY RECORD:Kellie Harper evened her all-time record in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach at 8-8, including 6-3 while at Tennessee. She is 4-0 at home (4-0 while at UT), 1-2 away and 3-6 at neutral sites (2-3 while at UT). Harper is 5-4 in NCAA First-Round games (2-0 at home/0-2 away/3-2 neutral), 3-1 in NCAA Second-Round games (2-0 at home/1-0 away/0-1 neutral) and 0-3 in the Sweet 16 (0-0 home/0-0 away/0-3 neutral).

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