Hoops Preview: #7/9 Lady Vols vs. Alabama

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No. 7/9 Tennessee (11-1) and Alabama (9-2) open 2021-22 Southeastern Conference action on Thursday evening in Knoxville. 

The Lady Vols and Crimson Tide are set to tip off at 6:32 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena in what will be the final game of 2021 for both programs. The UT and UA men’s teams also opened league play against one another, facing off on Wednesday evening at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa.

Thursday night’s match-up marks the end of a five-game run of home events in December for UT and the sixth home tilt out of seven total contests during the year’s final month.

Tennessee returned from winter break to a week with three games, starting at home with Chattanooga on Monday and then looking ahead to Alabama on Thursday and then at Arkansas on Sunday. The Lady Vols opened the trio of games with a resounding 91-51 romp over Chattanooga, shooting 54.4 percent from the field via a season-best 30 assists, out-rebounding the Mocs, 56-24, and holding UTC to 22.6 shooting from the field.

Alabama, meanwhile, has been idle since Dec. 13, when the Crimson Tide claimed its seventh-straight victory with an 84-50 triumph over Sam Houston in Tuscaloosa. The Tide had games slated for Dec. 16 at Little Rock and Dec. 20 vs. Winthrop, but those games were canceled because of a flu outbreak at UALR and then due to COVID protocol within the UA program for the contest vs. WU. Of note, Bama met UT’s most recent opponent, Chattanooga, on Dec. 5, and registered a 16-point victory over the Mocs.

Rae Burrell – Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Andy Brock (play-by-play) and LVFL Kamera Harris (analyst) will be on the call for the SECN+ broadcast.
  • All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) will be available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 or Xbox One to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.
  • The contest also can be heard on Lady Vol Network radio stations and by audio stream, with Mickey Dearstone behind the microphone. Now calling the action for his 23rd season, Dearstone is joined by studio host Bobby Rader.
  • A link to the live audio stream can be found on each game’s Hoops Central page or the Lady Vol schedule on UTSports.com.
  • For a list of Lady Vol Network affiliates, please click on the Fans tab at the top of UTSports.com, select Vol Network and then click on Vol Network Affiliates.
  • Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.

GAME PROMOTIONS

  • Spark the Summitt!: Get $5 tickets for all price zones (excluding courtside), available in advance or on game day. Plus, $1 tickets are available for kids 12 & under.
  • Flex Pack: Get admission to five games vs. SEC opponents, with prices starting at $24.
  • Free parking and free shuttle service from the Ag Campus (Lot CF near Brehm & Food Science Bldgs.).
  • For additional details and information, please call 865-974-1734 or visit the Fans tab on UTSports.com and click on the Fan Experience link.

LADY VOLS, HARPER IN SEC OPENERS

  • Tennessee is 33-6 all-time in its first SEC game of a season, including 18-3 at home and 15-3 on the road after defeating No. 13/13 Arkansas in Knoxville on Jan. 7, 2021, 88-73.
  • The Lady Vols have won their past seven SEC openers, last losing to LSU, 80-77, on Jan. 2, 2014.
  • Kellie Harper is 2-0 at UT in SEC openers, winning vs. Missouri and Arkansas in her first two seasons.
  • In its first SEC home game of the season, Tennessee is now 34-5, winning four of its last five such games.
  • The Lady Vols are 30-9 in their initial SEC road game of a season after defeating LSU in 2020-21, winning 11 of the past 12.
  • Harper is 1-1 in UT’s first SEC road game of the season, falling at Kentucky in 2020 and defeating LSU last season.

TENNESSEE IN SEC PLAY

  • UT is 414-88 (.825) in SEC regular-season games through 2020-21, winning 18 regular-season championships and capturing 17 SEC tourney titles.
  • Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper is 19-10 in SEC games in her third year leading the team and has a 2-2 record in SEC Tourney play.
  • UT tied for third in 2019-20 and finished third outright in 2020-21, marking its best back-to-back outcomes in league play since taking second in 2013-14 and first in 2014-15.
  • The Lady Vols were picked second in the 2021-22 SEC Preseason Media Poll and No. 3 in the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll, marking their best positions since 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively.

LOTS OF CONNECTIONS IN THIS ONE

  • This year’s Tennessee squad features three players who hail from Alabama, two coaches who spent their childhood in the state, and two more coaches who worked at a university there. Alabama features a former UT staffer on its payroll.
  • Graduate Alexus Dye calls Birmingham home, while freshmen Sara Puckett and Karoline Striplin come from Muscle Shoals and Hartford, respectively.
  • Dye and Bama’s Brittany Davis were teammates at Gulf Coast State College in 2018-19 and helped the school to a JUCO national title.
  • UT assistant Samantha Williams was born in Luverne, Ala., before later moving to Louisville, Ky., while Joy McCorvey is from Brewton, Ala., and graduated from T.R. Miller High School.
  • Head coach Kellie Harper spent two years from 1999-2001 on Joe Ciampi’s staff at Auburn (admin. asst., then assistant coach), while Jon Harper graduated from Auburn and spent three seasons as a practice player, manager and intern for Ciampi from 1996-99.
  • Samantha Williams played for the Tigers during Jon Harper‘s time there.
  • Alabama director of operations Brian Johnson is in his sixth season with the Tide and spent four seasons on Holly Warlick’s Lady Vol staff as a manager, graduating from UT in 2016.

ABOUT THE LADY VOLS

  • The Lady Vols are one of the nation’s biggest stories of 2021-22, opening up at 11-1 against one of the NCAA’s toughest schedules despite losing returning starters Rae Burrell and Marta Suárez to injuries and with Jordan Horston missing two games.
  • Tennessee is among the nation’s best at rebounding and defending, but its offense is emerging with different members of the team stepping up each game and younger players gaining experience.
  • Eleven different players have scored in double figures this season, including eight who have done so in multiple games. Karoline Striplin became the eighth Lady Vol to twice hit double figures, doing so with 10 vs. ETSU and 12 against Chattanooga.
  • The Lady Vols had at least one player record a double-double in the first 11 games this season, led by Tamari Key with six (including a triple-double), Jordan Horston with five, Alexus Dye with two and Kaiya Wynn with one.
  • That gives Tennessee 14 total double-doubles this year, surpassing the total of 13 in all of 2020-21.
  • The 11-game streak, which was both a season-opening UT record and an overall program best, came to an end vs. UTC. Karoline Striplin (12/9) and Alexus Dye (15/8) were oh-so-close to continuing the run.
  • Over the last four games, there are five Lady Vols averaging double figures in points, including Tamari Key (12.8), Jordan Horston (12.0), Sara Puckett (12.0), Alexus Dye (11.0) and Keyen Green (10.3). Karoline Striplin nearly gives UT six players in double figures during that span, putting up 9.7 ppg.
  • During that stretch, UT has a scoring margin of +29.3, a rebounding margin of +21.5 and 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio (88-59). UT also is shooting 44.7 percent from the field while allowing only 30.5 percent by its opponents.
  • UT has shown itself to be a tough, gritty team, coming from behind in the fourth quarter four times this season to win games (Southern Illinois, South Florida, Texas, Va. Tech). UT also came from 20-down in the second quarter vs. No. 3/3 Stanford, cutting the deficit to three in the second half with a 17-0 run spanning the second and third periods before eventually falling to the Cardinal.
  • Tennessee is led by 6-2 junior guard Jordan Horston, who paces the team in scoring (15.1 ppg.), rebounding (9.4) and assists (3.9 apg.) in a breakout season. She missed the Chattanooga game due to illness.
  • Horston is second on the team with five double-doubles and has topped UT in scoring six times.
  • Alexus Dye, a 6-0 forward, is second among active UT players in scoring at 10.3 ppg. She is third in rebounding at 8.4 rpg.
  • Tamari Key, a 6-6 junior center, is putting up 10.2 ppg. and 9.3 rpg. to go along with 3.6 bpg. She had a triple-double of 10 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks in UT’s 74-70 OT victory over No. 12/21 Texas and her block average currently ranks No. 1 all-time among Lady Vols in a season and No. 4 in the nation. Key leads Tennessee with six double-doubles thus far and has hit season highs in scoring in three of her past four games, including 18 vs. UTC.
  • Freshman guard/forward Sara Puckett is UT’s fourth-leading scorer. She is putting up 9.0 ppg. and is shooting 50.6 percent from the field, 39.4 percent on threes and 81.3 percent on free throws and has scored in double figures in five of her past seven contests. She got her first career start vs. UTC.
  • Graduate forward/center Keyen Green, graduate guard Jordan Walker, freshman forward Karoline Striplin and sophomore guard/forward Tess Darby average 7.1, 6.5, 5.1 and 4.5 ppg., respectively, with Walker and Darby the typical starters alongside Key, Horston and Dye.
  • Tennessee now has 10 players averaging double figures in minutes per game, with freshmen Sara Puckett (24.3), Brooklynn Miles (21.3), Karoline Striplin (10.6) and Kaiya Wynn (10.4) among them.
  • Point guards Jordan Walker and Brooklynn Miles have been UT’s most secure regulars with the ball, accumulating 39/22 and 29/20 assist-to-turnovers totals.

UP NEXT: SEC ROAD TRIP TO ARKANSAS

  • Tennessee hits the road for its first trip to an SEC campus this season, with a 1 p.m. ET (Noon CT) tilt Sunday at Arkansas on SEC Network.
  • The Lady Vols return home to host #23/17 Texas A&M at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thurs., Jan. 6 (SEC Network).

UT-ALABAMA SERIES NOTES

  • The Lady Vols hold a 51-7 all-time record vs. Alabama, dating back to Jan. 22, 1977.
  • After the Tide halted a 42-game UT winning streak by claiming five straight from 2016 to 2019, Tennessee has struck back by winning the past two meetings.
  • Against the Crimson Tide, the Lady Vols are 23-1 in games played in Knoxville, 19-3 in Tuscaloosa and 9-3 at neutral sites.
  • After Alabama held Tennessee to 65 points or fewer in six straight meetings, the Lady Vols exploded for 82 in Tuscaloosa last season.
  • UT is 16-2 vs. Alabama in Coleman Coliseum, losing for the first time there on Feb. 16, 2017, 65-57.
  • From 2011-16, the Crimson Tide women played in Foster Auditorium, where UT was 2-1, including a 54-46 loss on Feb. 25, 2016.
  • Prior to the 2016 UA victory, the last Alabama win was on March 3, 1984, at the SEC Tournament in Athens, Ga., by a score of 85-66.
  • The other came at the 1981 SEC Tournament, as the Tide knocked off #10-ranked Tennessee, 77-71, on Jan. 30.
  • Kellie Harper is 3-2 vs. Alabama as a head coach, forging a 1-1 mark vs. the Tide while at NC State, a 0-1 record as Missouri State’s coach and a 2-0 edge at Tennessee.
  • Harper (then Kellie Jolly) was 7-0 vs. Alabama as a player at Tennessee.
  • Alabama director of operations Brian Johnson is a 2016 Tennessee graduate who served as a manager on the Lady Vol staff for four seasons.

ABOUT ALABAMA

  • Guards Brittany Davis (15.8), Megan Abrams (14.5) and JaMya Mingo-Young (11.1) pace Alabama.
  • UA has hit 87 three-pointers, led by Davis (26), Hannah Barber (23) and Abrams (22), compared to UT’s 52 on the season.
  • The Crimson Tide pushed Duke (now ranked No. 15/22) before falling 74-71 on Nov. 21.

ABOUT THE HEAD COACH

  • Alabama is led by head coach Kristy Curry, who is 142-120 in her ninth season in Tuscaloosa. She is 451-269 overall in her 23rd year.
  • She guided the Tide to a 17-10 overall record and 8-8 SEC mark in 2020-21, good for seventh place.

LAST TIME BAMA PLAYED

  • Alabama earned its 800th win in program history, defeating Sam Houston, 84-50, on Dec. 13 in Tuscaloosa.
  • Megan Abrams led Alabama (9-2) in scoring, recording 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including knocking down a pair of 3-pointers, and a 5-of-8 effort from the line. It marked the graduate’s fourth game of scoring more than 20 points this season.
  • Five players scored in double figures for the third time this season, as JaMya Mingo-Young (15), Brittany Davis (14), Hannah Barber (11) and Taylor Sutton (11) rounded out the fivesome. Mingo-Young put together back-to-back double-double games, adding 11 rebounds, two steals and two assists to her stat line against Sam Houston (4-5), and in just 22 minutes of action.

WHEN UT AND UA LAST MET

  • Senior Rennia Davis poured in 21 points to lead the No. 23/24 Lady Vols to a commanding 82-56 victory over Alabama in Coleman Coliseum on Jan. 17, 2021.
  • Davis added 10 rebounds to her 21 points to record her 34th career double-double. Junior Rae Burrell and sophomores Tamari Key and Jordan Horston were also in double figures for Tennessee (9-2, 3-1 SEC), finishing with 17, 15 and 14 points, respectively.
  • UT, which won its second straight over the Crimson Tide, improved to 51-7 in the all-time series and 17-2 in games at Coleman Coliseum.
  • Jordan Lewis paced Alabama (11-2, 4-2 SEC) with 22 points, and Jasmine Walker turned in a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

-UT Athletics

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