Hoops Preview: Lady Vols vs. No. 1 South Carolina

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Thursday marks the final women’s basketball home game of the regular season at Thompson-Boling Arena, as Tennessee (20-9, 12-2 SEC) welcomes No. 1/1 South Carolina (27-0, 14-0 SEC) for a 7:03 p.m. ET matchup.

The Lady Vols are assured of at least a third-place finish in the SEC standings, but they could earn a share of higher placement with victories in their last two contests along with assistance from others.

This will mark the 63rd meeting between these programs, with UT holding a 51-11 series advantage, including 23-3 vs. USC in contests played in Knoxville. The Lady Vols secured a victory over the Gamecocks in their last visit to The Summitt, recording a 75-67 triumph on Feb. 18, 2021.

UT has won four of its past five games and 16 of its past 20, with the only losses during that span coming at No. 3 Stanford (77-70), vs. No. 4 UConn (84-67), at No. 5 LSU (76-68) and at 19-8 Mississippi State (91-90 2OT).

On Sunday, the Lady Vols got 27 points from Rickea Jackson, 19 from Jordan Horston and 17 from Tess Darby to turn back Auburn, 83-76, and card season win number 20. Jackson (13) and Horston (9) combined for 22 of UT’s 23 points in the fourth quarter, as Tennessee outscored the Tigers in the paint, 16-2, over the final 10 minutes.

Ole Miss took South Carolina to overtime on Sunday in Oxford, but the Gamecocks stayed unbeaten with a hard-earned 64-57 victory. That seven-point differential was just one of five games all season where USC won by fewer than 10 points.

Game Info./Promotions

  • Tickets are available at AllVols.com
  • Gates C & E will open at 6 p.m. to ticketed fans.
  • Free parking and shuttle service are available 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.

Broadcast Information

  • Thursday night’s game will be televised by ESPN, with Ryan Ruocco (PxP), Rebecca Lobo (Analyst) and Holly Rowe (Reporter) on the call.
  • 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 stations and by audio stream, with Brian Rice on the call and Andy Brock serving as studio host. 
  • A link to the live audio stream can be found on the Hoops Central page or the 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 the Vol Network Affiliates tab.
  • Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.
  • The Lady Vol Network broadcasts occasionally are available on satellite radio via SiriusXM and the SXM App, but this game isn’t among them.

Tennessee All-Time vs. Number Ones

  • Tennessee is 14-36 all-time vs. No. 1 ranked teams through years.
  • The Lady Vols are 2-12 at home, 6-9 away and 6-15 at neutral sites.
  • UT’s last victory over a No. 1-ranked foe came on March 6, 2005, when a Pat Summitt-led squad claimed a No. 5/4 vs. No. 1/1 match-up vs. LSU in the SEC Championship game in Greenville, S.C., 67-65.
  • The last time the Big Orange took down a No. 1-ranked team at home was on Jan. 1, 1996, when the No. 4/5 Lady Vols toppled No. 1/1 Louisiana Tech, 77-72. UT head coach Kellie Harper was then known as freshman point guard Kellie Jolly, contributing two assists and two steals in 14 minutes to the victorious cause.
  • This will mark the fourth time Harper has led Tennessee vs. a No. 1 squad as coach, standing 0-3 thus far.
  • UT fell at No. 1/1 South Carolina, 67-53, on Feb. 20, 2022, in the last such meeting. 
  • In case you were wondering, the highest ranked opponent a Kellie Harper team has defeated was No. 2/3 South Carolina here in Knoxville, 75-67, on Feb. 18, 2021.

Winning 20 For The 46th Time

  • Tennessee has reached the 20-win plateau for the 46th time, dating back to 1974.
  • This marks Tennessee’s third 20-win season in Kellie Harper‘s four seasons as head coach (10th in her career), with the 2020-21 win total of 17 impacted by several COVID-related game cancelations that no doubt would have pushed the Lady Vols to the 20-victory mark.

UT Offense Shifting Into High Gear 

  • Over its past four games, Tennessee is averaging 86.5 points per game, with 91 at Mississippi State, 86 vs. Vanderbilt, 87 at Arkansas and 83 vs. Auburn.
  • That has elevated the Lady Vols to No. 2 in scoring in league games at 77.2 this season behind South Carolina (81.0).
  • Rickea Jackson is averaging 25.3 ppg. and 7.8 rpg. while shooting 59.7 percent from the field and 80.0 percent from the free throw line over the last four.
  • Jordan Horston (15.0 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) and Tess Darby (13.0) are also in double figures for points during that span, with Jillian Hollingshead (9.0 ppg., 7.5 rpg.) right behind them.
  • Darby is hitting 50 percent (12-24) from beyond the arc and 100 percent (8-8) at the charity stripe.
  • Jordan Walker and Jasmine Powell are dishing out 4.5 and 4.3 assists per game during that stretch.
  • UT is +18.2 in rebounding (47.5 to 29.3), including a 58-33 advantage on the offensive glass.
  • For the season, Tennessee is averaging 77.6 points per game to rank No. 23 nationally and No. 3 in the SEC after putting up 70.1 a year ago (72nd/8th).
  • The Lady Vols are producing 78.7 ppg. over the past 20 contests, despite losing Tamari Key.

Looking Back At The Auburn Game

  • The Lady Vols took an 83-76 victory over a scrappy Auburn squad on Sunday in front of a crowd of 9,039 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
  • Prior to the game, Tennessee recognized seven Lady Vols in a Senior Day ceremony. Rickea JacksonJordan HorstonTamari KeyJessie RennieJasmine PowellJordan Walker and Jasmine Franklin were all recognized at half court for their contributions during their Big Orange careers.
  • Tennessee (20-9, 12-2 SEC) was led by Jackson, who poured in 27 points, hitting an impressive 12 of 15 shots from the floor. Horston also put up big numbers with 19 points and eight rebounds, while junior Tess Darby knocked down a season-best five three-pointers to tie her career high of 17 points.
  • Honesty Scott-Grayson was the leading scorer for the Tigers (14-12, 4-10 SEC) with 23 points on the day. Aicha Coulibaly turned in 15 points, and Sania Wells and Romi Levy each finished with 10.

Rickea & Jordan Dazzle On Senior Day

  • Rickea Jackson and Jordan Horston were UT’s top scorers, finishing with 27 and 19, respectively, to produce 46 of UT’s 83 points.
  • Twenty-two of those points came in the fourth quarter and were crucial to securing the victory.
  • One of the two has now led Tennessee in scoring in 26 of 29 games this season.

Count On ‘Kea

  • With 27 points against Auburn, Rickea Jackson logged her fourth straight game with 20+ points, 12th of the season, the ninth in SEC play, and notched her 25th double-digit effort of 2022-23, the 13th time against an SEC opponent. 

Darby From Distance

  • With a season-high five made threes against Auburn, Tess Darby tied her career-best effort from beyond the arc and logged her 10th game of the season with three or more treys.
  • That moved her career total of made threes to 114, pulling within 19 of catching Sidney Spencer to land among the top 10 career totals in program history.

Tess Heating Up

  • Tess Darby tied her career high of 17 points against Auburn to land in double figures for the fourth straight game.
  • It is her ninth double-digit performance of the season, with eight of those coming in SEC play. She is averaging 7.8 ppg. on the season but 9.9 ppg. in conference games and 13.0 ppg. over the last four contests.

JP With Clutch Assists

  •  Jasmine Powell dished out a season-high-tying eight assists against the Tigers, recording her 13th game this season with four or more dimes.
  • The senior has now led the Lady Vols in assists in 12 contests this season and is averaging 3.2 apg.

UT/USC Notes 

  • Tennessee is 23-3 in Knoxville, 21-4 in Columbia and 7-4 at neutral sites vs. South Carolina.
  • UT is 5-4 vs. USC in the postseason and is 1-0 in OT, taking a 79-73 extra-frame decision over the Gamecocks in the Palmetto State on Feb. 15, 1996. UT is 3-3 vs. USC in the SEC Tourney.
  • Tennessee captured the regular-season meeting two years ago, coming from 16-down and erasing a 15-point third-quarter deficit en route to toppling the No. 2/3 Gamecocks in Knoxville, 75-67, on Feb. 18.
  • Kellie Harper has a 2-6 record vs. USC as a head coach. She is 1-3 while at UT and was 0-1 at Western Carolina and 1-2 at NC State.
  • Harper was 5-0 vs. USC as a player, participating in the only OT game between these schools in 1996.
  • Since 2010, USC has won six and UT four SEC regular-season titles, with UT winning or sharing in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015 and USC doing so in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2022.

A Look At The Gamecocks

  • Guard Zia Cooke leads the Gamecocks in scoring (15.5 ppg.) and three-pointers (49).
  • South Carolina’s inside presence is embodied by Aliyah Boston (13.0 ppg., 9.9 rpg., 52 blks.), Kamilla Cardoso (9.7 ppg., 8.6 rpg., 50 blks.) and Laeticia Amihere (6.7 ppg., 3.3 rpg., 30 blks.).
  • USC produces 82.0 ppg. and 50.3 rpg. while holding opponents to 49.5 and 28.9, respectively.
  • They outscore foes +28.6 and outboard them +21.8.

South Carolina’s Last Game

  • Zia Cooke scored five of her 24 points in overtime to help No. 1 South Carolina remain unbeaten with a 64-57 victory over Mississippi on Sunday.
  • The defending national champion Gamecocks got one of their biggest scares of the season before winning their 33rd straight game. The Rebels (20-7, 9-5) never trailed by more than six points in regulation and flirted with their first win over a No. 1 team in 46 years.

Last Meeting Between UT/USC

  • Junior Tamari Key turned in a double-double with 10 points and 10 blocks and two other Lady Vols scored in double figures against No. 1 South Carolina, but No. 12/8 Tennessee fell in Columbia on Feb. 20, 2022, 67-53.  
  • Senior Rae Burrell was the high scorer for UT (21-6, 10-4 SEC) with 14, and graduate Jordan Walker was also in double figures with 11 points.
  • South Carolina was led by Aliyah Boston (16 pts./12 rebs.).

Last Time In Knoxville

  • Senior Rennia Davis scored all 24 of her points in the second half, as No. 21 Tennessee erased a 12-point halftime deficit to upset No. 2/3 South Carolina in Thompson-Boling Arena, 75-67, on Feb. 18, 2021.
  • The win snapped USC’s 31-game SEC win streak.
  • Rae Burrell added 19 points, while Jordan Horston chipped 12 along five assists and no turnovers for UT. 
  • Aliyah Boston paced USC with 17 points and 16 boards.

Upcoming Games

  • The Lady Vols will conclude the regular season schedule on Sunday, traveling to Lexington to take on Kentucky at Memorial Coliseum. Tip time for that matchup is slated for 2 p.m. on SEC Network.
  • Tennessee is assured of a double bye in next week’s SEC Tournament, so the Big Orange will begin play on Friday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. The bracket will be shared on Sunday evening.

-UT Athletics

Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

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