KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 24/RV Tennessee snapped Toledo’s 17-game win streak to advance to its 36th NCAA Sweet 16, defeating the Rockets in Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night in the tournament’s second round, 94-47.
Five players were in double digits for No. 4 seed Tennessee (25-11, 13-3 SEC), with sophomores Sara Puckett and Jillian Hollingshead leading the scoring with 13 each. Seniors Rickea Jackson and Jasmine Powell each turned in 12, and classmate Jordan Horston posted 10. Graduate Jasmine Franklin added a game-high 10 rebounds.
Quinesha Lockett was the top scorer for No. 12 seed Toledo (29-5, 16-2 MAC) with 19 points, as the Big Orange kept everyone else in check and earned back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Regional Semifinals for the first time since 2015 and 2016.
The Lady Vols went up 3-0 early before a jumper by Lockett got the Rockets on the board two minutes into play. Toledo stayed within one until a three on the fast break by Powell put Tennessee up 8-4 at the 5:45 mark. The Rockets responded with a layup on the other end, but over the next four minutes the Big Orange rattled off eight unanswered points to lead 16-6. Jessica Cook hit a layup to end the skid for Toledo, but Puckett drained her first three of the game for the last bucket of the quarter to give the Lady Vols a 19-8 lead at the end of one.
Karoline Striplin kicked off the second quarter with back-to-back threes, as Tennessee outscored the Rockets 10-3 to lead by 18 with 7:10 left in the half. Lockett responded with a jumper, but five quick points by Jackson and Horston had UT ahead by 21 a minute later. Four straight points from the free-throw line pulled the Rockets back within 17, but Powell sank a three on the other end to give the Big Orange a 20-point lead with 3:37 to go. A pair of threes by Puckett and another by Powell fueled a 14-3 run over the closing minutes, giving Tennessee a 50-22 lead at the intermission.
The Lady Vols expanded their lead to 32 off consecutive layups by Walker in the first minute of the third. Khera Goss scored the Rockets first points of the half with a layup, but Tennessee followed it up with a free throw by Horston and a trey by Walker to put Tennessee on top 58-24 by the 7:18 mark. A jumper by Sophia Wiard gave Toledo some momentum, setting off a 9-0 run that pulled the Rockets back within 25 a minute and a half later. Tennessee closed out the period outscoring the Rockets 14-7, punctuated by a driving layup by Powell at the buzzer, to take a 72-40 advantage into the final stanza.
Sammi Mikonowicz opened the fourth with a steal and score to move within 30, but Horston and Jackson scored back-to-back buckets to put UT back up by 34. A trey by Jansen with 6:11 had the Rockets within 31, but Tennessee strung together a 17-0 run to lead 94-46 by the 1:13 mark. The Rockets hit a free throw in the final minute, bringing the final score to 94-47.
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols will travel to Seattle, Washington, for an NCAA Seattle Regional 3 Semifinal matchup against top-seeded Virginia Tech (29-4) on Saturday at Climate Pledge Arena. Game time and broadcast details will be announced later.
JORDY CATCHES COACH: With three assists against Toledo, Jordan Horston moved her career total to 452, tying Kellie (Jolly) Harper at No. 7 all-time in program history.
LOCKDOWN DEFENSE: The Lady Vols held Toledo to just 47 points, which is the fewest UT has allowed in an NCAA contest since 2014 when they held Northwestern State to 46. Toledo came into the match averaging 73.8 ppg. and hadn’t scored fewer than 50 points since being held to 41 against Duke on Nov. 20.
SARA BUCKETTS: After going without a 3-pointer since hitting one against Vanderbilt on Feb. 12, Sara Puckett went a perfect three of three from behind the arc against the Rockets. It marks the third time this season she has hit three or more treys. Her 13 points were the most since she fired in 17 at Missouri on Jan. 22.
50-POINT FIRST HALF: The Lady Vols put up an impressive 50 points in the first half against the Rockets, the most scored in an NCAA Tournament game by the Lady Vols since the 2011 postseason, when Tennessee tallied 55 points versus Stetson to record a 99-34 win in the NCAA First Round on March 19, 2011.
HOT 3-POINT SHOOTING: Tennessee shot 50 percent from beyond the arc against the Rockets, the best 3-point percentage in an NCAA Tournament game since 2014, where the Lady Vols shot 50 percent from deep against St. John’s en route to a 67-51 victory on March 24. Seven different Lady Vols combined to hit 11 threes Monday night, marking the third time this season UT has racked up 10 or more treys.
25 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: Tennessee won 25 games in a season for the 38th time in history and the second season in a row. Lady Vol skipper Kellie Harper, meanwhile, tied her career best with 25 victories in a season for the fourth time in her head coaching career. Her teams also won 25 at Western Carolina in 2007-08 and at Missouri State in 2018-19.
DOMINANT IN EARLY ROUNDS: Tennessee improved to 30-3 all-time in NCAA Second Round games, including 24-1 at home. Factoring in a 33-2 record in first-round play (25-0 at home), UT is 63-5 combined in the NCAA First and Second Rounds, including 49-1 on Rocky Top.
SCORING IN BUNCHES: Tennessee scored 20 points in three different quarters in both games of the NCAA First and Second Rounds. UT now has hit 20 points or more in 19 of its past 36 periods and in 64 of 144 for the season. The Lady Vols also have rung up 80 or more points in eight of their last 11 contests.