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GREENVILLE, S.C. – Senior Rickea Jackson poured in 16 fourth-quarter points en route to a season-high 34 points, leading third-seeded Tennessee to an 80-71 victory over 14th-seeded Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena late Friday night.
Senior Jordan Horston was also in double figures for UT (22-10, 13-3 SEC) with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while junior Tess Darby turned in 12 points on 80 percent shooting from behind the arc. It marked the second time this season that Jackson and Horston scored 20+ points in the same contest, with the Colorado game being the other occasion.
Kentucky (12-19, 2-14 SEC) was led by Robyn Benton with 20 points. Maddie Scherr, Jada Walker and Ajae Petty were also in double digits with 13, 12 and 11, respectively.
Tennessee won the tip and quickly went to work, scoring six straight points before the Wildcats got on the board with a jumper at the 7:19 mark. Fifty seconds later, Darby hit the first of three first-quarter treys to put Tennessee up 9-2, and Jordan Walker drew a charge that Jackson turned into two points on the other end to stretch that lead to nine points four minutes into the contest. Both teams settled in offensively, scoring on alternate possessions until a Scherr three set off an 8-0 run that had UK within two at 17-15 with 2:45 to go in the first. The Lady Vols responded with 10 unanswered points before Petty hit a layup at the buzzer to set the score at 27-17 at the end of one.
Kentucky crept back within single digits off a jumper by Amiya Jenkins to start the second period, but Jackson hit a layup on the next play in the first of nine straight Big Orange points that put the Lady Vols on top 36-19 with 4:01 to go in the first half. Scherr ended the drought for UK with a trey at the 2:46 mark, and Blair Green followed it up with another on the Wildcats’ next possession as UK closed out the half with a 10-2 run for a halftime score of 38-30.
Benton scored the first basket of the second half to pull UK within six, and Horston answered with a jumper in the paint on the other end. Adebola Adeyeye once again cut it to six at the 7:42 mark, but back-to-back buckets put UT on top by 10 a minute later. The Lady Vols maintained that advantage until Benton and Petty combined for a 4-1 run that moved the Wildcats within seven with 2:28 left in the third. Horston hit a layup on UT’s next possession, but a 6-0 streak had UK within three two minutes later. Jackson knocked down a contested jumper at the buzzer to send the game into the final stanza with Tennessee leading 53-48.
Jackson opened the fourth with a turnaround-jumper to stretch the Lady Vols’ lead to seven, but Benton countered with a three on the other end that had the Wildcats back within four with 7:59 to play. Jackson sank two pairs of free throws to grow UT’s lead to eight and went on to single-handily fuel a 10-4 UT run that put the Lady Vols ahead 65-55 by the 4:46 mark. The Wildcats continued to fight, clawing back within four off a Benton trey with under a minute to play, but Tennessee converted on free throws in the closing seconds to take an 80-71 win and advance to the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament.
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols will take on second-seeded LSU in the semifinal round of the SEC Championship game at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday following the conclusion of the South Carolina vs. Ole Miss contest. Tip time will be approximately 7 p.m., and the contest will be broadcast on ESPNU.
TRIPLES BY TESS: Tess Darby swished four 3-pointers against Kentucky, marking the 11th time this season she’s tallied three or more treys and the seventh time against an SEC opponent.
DARBY CHASING SPENCER: With 120 made threes in her career, Tess Darby is within 13 treys of catching Sidney Spencer to land among the top 10 career totals in program history. She has 64 of those during the current campaign and is five away from entering the single-season top 10 at Tennessee.
DIME-DROPPIN’ TRIO: With seven assists against Kentucky, Jordan Horston (104) joins Jasmine Powell (106) and Jordan Walker (105) as Tennessee’s first 100-assist trio since Shanna Zolman (114), Alexis Hornbuckle (113) and Candace Parker (103) accomplished the feat in the 2005-06 season.
‘KEA IN GOOD COMPANY: Rickea Jackson’s 34 points against Kentucky gave her a seventh straight contest with 20 or more points. Her seven-game streak ties efforts by Candace Parker (2006-07) and Bridgette Gordon (1987-88) and is topped by only Chamique Holdsclaw, who logged nine in a row during the 1997-98 season.
RICKEA OWNING THE LINE: Senior Rickea Jackson was a perfect 14 of 14 from the free-throw line against Kentucky, surpassing her previous best effort of 13 of 13 at Mississippi State that tied Gail Dobson at the top of UT’s record book for the highest free throw percentage (100.0 pct.) with the most made attempts.
LADY VOLS GETTING 20 WITH HIGH FREQUENCY: Tennessee had two quarters of 20+ points vs. Kentucky, including 27 in the first quarter and 27 in the fourth frame. Over their last five games, the Lady Vols have registered 11 periods of 20 points or more out of 20 possible quarters.
PUTTING 80 ON THE BOARD AGAIN: Tennessee scored 80 points for the sixth time in the past seven games. The Lady Vols began their run with 90 in a double overtime loss at Mississippi State and followed suit vs. Vanderbilt (86), Arkansas (87), Auburn (83), Kentucky regular season (83) and Kentucky SEC Tournament (80). The only game in that span when UT did not reach 80 was in a 73-60 loss to South Carolina.