KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Overcoming a six-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, the No. 16/12 Lady Vols took down No. 23/22 South Florida at Thompson-Boling Arena, 52-49, Monday night. With the win, Tennessee improved to 3-0 on the season.
Jordan Horston led the furious fourth-quarter comeback, scoring 12 of the 14 points for UT. The junior tied a career high with 24 points, adding nine rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. Her offensive prowess was complemented by Tamari Key’s dominance in the paint. Key pulled down 10 rebounds, five in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 and blocking six shots. She posted the fifth double-double of her career and first this season.
The program secured its 489th win over a ranked opponent. In the current rankings, the Lady Vols have five remaining ranked opponents on their schedule, including the next matchup with No. 12/21 Texas on Sunday.
Tennessee dominated the glass in the first frame, collecting 15 rebounds and generating six second-chance points. It was a group effort, as eight of the nine Lady Vols that checked into the quarter logged a board. Tamari Key led the charge, pulling down four rebounds and collecting six points. The Lady Vols continued their stifling defense, holding the Bulls to 2-of-10 (.200) from the floor in the quarter.
USF (2-1) took the momentum in the second quarter by way of the three. The Bulls hit 5-of-6 from beyond the arc during the frame, while four different contributors knocked down a trey. USF capitalized, taking a 14-2 run, spanning five minutes, in which they connected on five-straight field goals.
The third quarter was an offensive explosion, as the Lady Vols and Bulls traded baskets throughout the 10 minutes. Tennessee won the highest scoring period of the young season, 18-17. Horston (6) and Alexus Dye (4) led the offensive attack, with each nabbing three rebounds.
A drama-filled fourth quarter saw the Tennessee defense buckle down, forcing five USF turnovers and blocking a pair of shots. Horston exploded in the period, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, carding the same total from the line. On the defensive end, Tennessee only conceded one field goal in the last seven minutes of play on 11 Bulls attempts. Key was clutch on the glass, nabbing five boards when the Lady Vols needed it most.
Tennessee trailed by as much as nine and regained the lead with 1:38 left in the game, 47-46. USF hadn’t trailed since there were three minutes left in the second period. USF’s Elisa Pinzan drained a 3-pointer with 45 seconds on the clock to put the Bulls up by two, 49-47. Horston had an answer six seconds later, running the floor, draining a layup and drawing a foul. She converted the and-1, and the Lady Vols never looked back, scoring the game’s final five points.
The Lady Vols will be back in action Sunday as they host No. 12/21 Texas at 1 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena. It is 12K in TBA day, as the Lady Vols seek to pack 12,000 fans in for a battle with a future SEC foe. The teams meet after not squaring off during the 2020-21 season after the game was canceled due to a positive COVID contact tracing. It marked the first time since the 1980-81 season the programs didn’t meet on the hardwood.
TAKING ON CHAMPS: This USF squad is the reigning AAC champion. The match-up is the first of four UT contests in which the Lady Vols will square off with conference champions during the 2021-22 campaign. Other conference champions on the schedule are South Carolina (SEC), Stanford (PAC-12) and UConn (Big East).
SHOT SWATTING: Tamari Key recorded a season-high six blocks on the night to surpass Nicky Anosike (161), landing at seventh on UT’s all-tie career blocks list with 167. She is now 27 shy of catching Michelle Snow for sixth all-time at 194.
FIRST QUARTER D: Tennessee held USF to just nine first-quarter points. Coming into the contest, the Bulls were averaging 22 points in the opening period.
COMEBACK KIDS: The Lady Vols outscored the Bulls 14-5 in the final stanza to erase a six-point fourth-quarter deficit. It’s the second time this season UT has come from behind to win, previously coming back from 42-38 to win by 10 points against SIU.