GREENVILLE, S.C. – The Lady Vols erased a 17-point second-quarter deficit to take a 69-67 victory over 4/3 LSU in Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday night and advance to the program’s first SEC Championship appearance since 2015.
No. 3 seed Tennessee trailed by 14 at the half and fell behind by 16 in the early going of the third quarter, but the Big Orange stormed back by outscoring the No. 2 Tigers 43-27 over the final 20 minutes to pick up their signature win thus far of the 2022-23 campaign.
Senior Rickea Jackson was UT’s (23-10, 13-3 SEC) leading scorer, posting a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Jordan Horston also had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Jillian Hollingshead and junior Tess Darby each had productive performances as well, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
LSU (28-2, 15-1 SEC) was led by Angel Reese, who recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Alexis Morris also was a top producer with 20 points.
The Tigers came out hot with an 8-1 run before Jackson converted on a three-point play at the 6:20 mark to pull UT within four. LSU went up eight again off back-to-back buckets by Reese, and UT didn’t allow the deficit to grow until the 3:37 mark when Reese hit a layup to set off an 8-0 run that had the Tigers on top 22-8 with just over a minute to go in the first. Jackson ended the drought for the Lady Vols with a 10-foot jumper, sending the game into the second period with the Tigers leading 22-10.
LSU started the second by sinking threes on consecutive plays to go up by 17 with 8:29 to go in the first half. Following a timeout, Karoline Striplin and Jackson produced an 8-2 run that had the Lady Vols within 11 two minutes later. Morris responded with four quick points to stretch the Tigers’ lead back to 15 with 4:33 to go. Tess Darby drained a three to cut it back to 12 at 35-23, but LSU bounced back to lead by 16 in the final seconds until Jackson hit a contested jumper just before buzzer to set the halftime score at 40-26.
Both teams scored on their first possessions of the second half, but Tennessee forced a stop on LSU’s second possession, and Darby knocked down a three in transition to whittle LSU’s advantage down to 11 and give the Lady Vols some momentum. By the media timeout, UT had pulled within nine at 44-35 off back-to-back jumpers by Horston. Darby was fouled on a 3-pointer following the timeout and hit all three free throws, narrowing the gap to six with 4:23 to go in the third. The Tigers managed one point from the free-throw line, but Tennessee held them without a field goal for more than six minutes while pulling within three points at 45-42 with 2:26 remaining in the third. Reese responded for LSU, rattling off six straight points, but a three-point play by Hollingshead with just under a minute on the clock sent the game into the fourth quarter with UT trailing by four at 51-47.
The teams traded buckets to start the final period until Jackson found Horston on the fast break to pull UT within two, then Jackson tied it up at 56-all with a jumper with 6:41 to play. Sa’Myah Smith put the Tigers back up by two 20 seconds later, but Horston scored back-to-back baskets to give Tennessee its first lead of the game at 60-58 at the 5:11 mark. Reese tied it up once more, but Jackson and Horston combined for four quick points to move the Big Orange ahead 64-40 with 3:46 to play. Morris inched LSU back within one on three occasions, but the Tigers never recovered the lead as Tennessee went on to win 69-67.
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols will face No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC Championship game at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN.
‘KEA KEEPS THE STREAK GOING: Jackson’s 26 points against LSU marked her eighth straight contest with 20 or more points. Her eight-game streak surpasses lofty seven-game efforts by Candace Parker (2006-07) and Bridgette Gordon (1987-88) and pulls her within one of Chamique Holdsclaw’s program-best spree, when the four-time All-American recorded nine in a row during the 1997-98 season.
SEEING DOUBLE: Seniors Rickea Jackson (26/10) and Jordan Horston (17/10) both posted double-doubles against South Carolina, marking the third time this season two Lady Vols have managed a double-double in a single game. Previously, Jackson (25/12) and Horston (15/12) managed double-doubles at Arkansas, and Jillian Hollingshead (18/12) and Rickea Jackson (28/11) recorded double-doubles at Mississippi State.
COMEBACK KIDS: Tennessee’s comeback from a 17-point deficit was the largest of the Kellie Harper era. Previously, the largest deficit successfully erased during Harper’s tenure was 16 points against #2/3 South Carolina on Feb. 18, 2020, in a 75-67 UT triumph in Knoxville.
TESS FOR THREE: Tess Darby pitched in two threes against LSU, marking the 21st time this season she has hit multiple treys in a game and the 13th time against an SEC opponent. She now has 122 3-pointers in her career, moving within 11 treys of catching Sidney Spencer to land among the top 10 career totals in program history. With 64 of those coming during the current campaign, she is three away from entering the single-season top 10 at Tennessee.