Hoops Preview: NCAA Sweet 16: #4 Seed Lady Vols vs. #1 Seed Virginia Tech

No. 4 seed Tennessee (25-11) continues its 41st-straight NCAA Tournament journey, facing No. 1 seed Virginia Tech (29-4) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. PT (6:30 p.m. ET) in a Seattle 3 Regional Semifinal game at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington.

The winner of that matchup will meet the victor of Saturday’s other semifinal contest (1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET/ABC) between No. 2 seed UConn (31-5) and No. 3 seed Ohio State (27-7). The Seattle 3 Regional Final on Monday is scheduled for 6 p.m. PT (9 p.m. ET). The TV designation will be announced later.

The Lady Vols advanced to their NCAA-record 36th Sweet 16 by blowing past No. 13 seed Saint Louis (95-50) and No. 12 seed Toledo (94-47) in the opening two rounds in Knoxville on March 18 and 20. Toledo had upset No. 5 seed Iowa State, 80-73, in the first round to set up the date with Tennessee. According to @ESPNStatsInfo, UT became the second program and fourth team to win each of its first two NCAA games in a tournament by 45-point margins. UConn also did so in 2001, 2010 and 2016, winning NCAA crowns the last two of those occasions.

The Big Orange women have won 21 of their past 27 games in 2022-23, 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), at Mississippi State (91-90 2OT), vs. No. 1/1 South Carolina (73-60) at home and vs. No. 1/1 South Carolina in the SEC Tournament championship game (74-58). Head coach Kellie Harper led her squad through a gauntlet of a schedule. She patiently put the pieces of the 2022-23 Lady Vol puzzle together, helping talented returnees and newcomers find their roles for this team and guiding them through absences of key players (Horston, Jackson, Hollingshead, Franklin) and the loss of two more (Key, Suárez) for the season.

Tennessee placed third in the SEC for the fourth-straight season, finished 13-3 for its highest league victory total since 2014-15 and advanced to its first SEC Tournament title game since 2015, with a 69-67 triumph over No. 4/3 LSU serving as a signature win.

Virginia Tech earned its second-ever berth in the Sweet 16 by crushing Chattanooga, 58-33, on March 17 in Blacksburg and holding off a determined South Dakota State club, 72-60, on March 19.

Tennessee and Va. Tech will meet for the second time this season and for the 12th occasion, with the Lady Vols holding an 8-3 advantage in the series.


  • Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPN2, with Ryan Ruocco (PxP), Rebecca Lobo (Analyst), Andraya Carter (Sideline Analyst) and Holly Rowe (Reporter) on the 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 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 generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.
  • Westwood One Sports will air games via affiliate stations, Sirius Ch. 136/XM Ch. 204 or online at www.WestwoodOneSports.com/Seattle. Dick Fain and Kristen Kozlowski will have the call.


  • UT has advanced to the NCAA Regional round for the 36th occasion, owning a 28-7 mark in the Sweet 16.
  • The 36 trips stand as a record for the NCAA women’s tournament.
  • The only seasons UT did not make the regional level were in 2009 and from 2017 to 2021. UT lost its opening round contest as a No. 5 seed to No. 12 Ball State in Bowling Green, Ky., in 2009. No. 5 seed UT lost its second-round game at No. 4 seed Louisville in 2017. No. 3 seed UT lost its second-round game to No. 6 seed Oregon State in Knoxville in 2018. No. 11 seed Tennessee fell to No. 6 seed UCLA in the first round at College Park, Md., in 2019. No. 3 seed UT dropped a 70-55 second-round decision to No. 6 seed Michigan in 2021 in San Antonio, Texas.
  • The Lady Vols have made the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2015 and 2016.
  • Kellie Harper has guided her third team to the Sweet 16, taking UT the past two seasons and Missouri St. in 2018-19. Graduate Jasmine Franklin was on that MSU team.
  • At the regional round, UT has made its way to the Elite Eight 28 times, posting an 18-10 record in that phase.
  • UT has advanced to 18 NCAA Final Fours and won eight of them (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008), ranking second to UConn.
  • Tennessee has finished second in the nation five times and third on five more occasions.


  • Tennessee’s well-documented most-difficult schedule in the country put it in the path of many of the nation’s best teams, including six of the AP Poll’s final top 10.
  • The Lady Vols, in fact, have played eight members of the NCAA Sweet 16 and all of the tourney’s No. 1 seeds.
  • The three teams with the Big Orange in the Seattle 3 Region were all 2022-23 opponents.
  • Kellie Harper‘s squad has a 3-7 against the remaining teams in the field, with victories over LSU, Ole Miss and Colorado.
  • Tennessee dropped a Dec. 4 home battle with Virginia Tech, 59-56, with Rickea JacksonJillian Hollingshead and Jasmine Frankin all out for that contest. Tamari Key played her final game of the season vs. the Hokies before being sidelined for medical reasons. She held Elizabeth Kitley to six points on 3-of-13 shooting.
  • UT fell to the two teams on the other side of the Seattle 3 bracket, losing the season opener at Ohio State on Nov. 8, 87-75, after a disastrous third quarter, and suffering an 84-67 setback to UConn on the strength of 26 points from Lou Lopez Senechal on Jan. 26.
  • The Lady Vols, of course, are joined by three fellow SEC teams in the Sweet 16, including South Carolina, LSU and Ole Miss. UT is 2-3 vs. these squads.
  • The other two teams are Colorado, which UT beat in Knoxville by 18 on Nov. 25 (69-51), and UCLA, which hit 16 three-pointers to run away from a still-developing Lady Vols squad at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 20 (80-63).


  • Tennessee is making its fourth trip to the Pacific Northwest for NCAA Tournament play and is 3-2 in games played in the region.
  • This is UT’s third trip to the Seattle-Tacoma metro area, carding a pair of NCAA Final Four appearances at the Tacoma Dome, which is 35 miles south of Climate Pledge Arena on Interstate 5.
  • The Lady Vols won the 1989 NCAA title there, the program’s second, on March 31 and April 2, defeating Maryland (77-65) and Auburn (76-60) with Most Outstanding Player Bridgette Gordon leading the way.
  • UT came up short a year earlier, falling in the Final Four semifinals to Louisiana Tech on April 1, 1988 (68-59).
  • The Big Orange’s most recent postseason trek to Washington came during the 2015 Spokane Regional, where Tennessee came from 17 down to force overtime and beat Gonzaga (73-69) on March 28 in the Sweet 16 and then fell to Maryland (58-48) on March 30 in the Elite Eight at Spokane Arena.


  • Climate Pledge Arena is the home of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and LVFL Mercedes Russell (2013-18).
  • The 6-foot-6 center from Springfield, Oregon, is expected to return for her sixth season with the Storm and has started 60 or 113 games with the franchise, helping it win WNBA titles in 2018 and 2020.
  • Russell was a first-team All-SEC player and the sixth Lady Vol in history to record 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.
  • She was a member of the 2016 UT squad that was the last to advance to an Elite Eight, doing so in the Sioux Falls Regional.


  • There are four universities (Tennessee, UConn, UCLA and Miami) with their teams making the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Sweet 16s in 2023.
  • The only school, however, accomplishing that feat and securing a New Year’s Day 6 Bowl win this athletic year is located in Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Josh Heupel’s No. 6 gridiron Vols rolled past No. 7 Clemson, 31-14, in the Capital One Orange Bowl, and Rick Barnes’ basketball Vols traveled to NYC this week for the men’s Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden.
  • From 1998-present (the past 25 years), UT is the only SEC school and one of three nationally to card that same trifecta. Louisville (2012-13) and Ohio State (2010-11) are the others.
  • Tennessee also is the only school to accomplish that twice, also doing so in 1999-2000.


  • Tennessee has reached a pair of victory plateaus this season, dating back to 1974.
  • With the win over Toledo in the NCAA Second Round, the Lady Vols hit the 25-win target for the 38th time.
  • Kellie Harper also tied her career best win tally for a season with that outcome, giving her back-to-back 25-win campaigns at Tennessee in 2022-21 and 2022-23 and four total for her career.
  • Harper also won 25 contests at Missouri State in 2018-19 en route to a Sweet 16 and at Western Carolina in 2007-08.
  • The regular-season finale triumph at Kentucky gave the Big Orange a 20-win campaign for the 46th time.
  • It marked Tennessee’s third 20-win season in Kellie Harper‘s four years as head coach (10th in her career), with the 2020-21 total of 17 wins impacted by several COVID-related game cancelations that no doubt would have pushed the Lady Vols to 20 victories.


  • HORSTON EQUALS HER COACH: With 452 career assists, Jordan Horston has tied Kellie (Jolly) Harper’s No. 7 total of 452 during her time at UT from 1995-99.
  • DARBY CLIMBING 3s LISTS: Tess Darby now has 70 3-pointers in 2022-23 and is No. 9 on the UT season list. Her 126 career threes are seven away from the UT top 10.
  • KEA NEARING CHARITY TOP 10: Rickea Jackson is four free throws away from joining UT’s season free throws made top 10. She enters the Va. Tech game with 137.
  • A-LIST SENIOR SCORER: Rickea Jackson’s 19.3 ppg. ranks No. 5 all-time for a UT senior behind Trish Roberts (29.9), Chamique Holdsclaw (21.3), Bridgette Gordon (20.4) and Cindy Brogdon (20.1).
  • ONLY TWO LIKE ‘EM: Jordan Horston (1,428/727/529) and Alexis Hornbuckle (1,333/740/503 from 2004-08) are the only Lady Vols to surpass 1,000 pts., 700 rebs. and 400 asts. in a career.
  • DROPPING 90+ BACK-TO-BACK: The Lady Vols’ 95 points vs. Saint Louis and 94 vs. Toledo marked UT’s first back-to-back 90+ efforts in postseason play since scoring 97 on Radford and Ohio State in the 1996 NCAA First and Second Rounds.
  • POINTS ON THE FLY: UT outscored its last two foes, 44-8, on fastbreak points.
  • DROPPING 20 IN A FRAME: After scoring 20+ points in three different quarters vs. Saint Louis and Toledo, UT has tallied 20 or more in 64 of 144 quarters this season, including 19 times in the past 36 periods.
  • TAKING AND MAKING THREES: The Lady Vols have shot 613 three-pointers and made 195 of them this season, with those numbers ranking No. 5 and No. 6 all-time in program history.
  • MORE SECURE WITH THE BALL: UT is averaging 11.0 turnovers over its last three games, down 4.2 from its season average of 15.2.
  • POTENT POSTSEASON PAIR: Rickea Jackson (21.4, 6.4) and Jordan Horston (17.6, 8.4) are combining for 39.0 of the Lady Vols’ 79.2 ppg. and 14.4 of their 42.0 rpg. in postseason play (NCAA/SEC).
  • JORDY & ‘KEA DROPPIN’ 20: Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson have recorded 17 and 16 20-point scoring performances during their time at Tennessee, ranking No. 8 and 9 on school career lists. Jackson’s 16 such games in 2022-23 also rate as the ninth-best mark in a single season.
  • JOJO STEPPING UP: In NCAA Tournament play, Jordan Walker is averaging 10.0 ppg., 5.5 rpg. and 3.0 apg. while shooting 47 percent from the field.
  • JP FINDING HER RANGE: Jasmine Powell had 12 points and hit two of three treys vs. Toledo and is averaging 8.5 ppg. and shooting 85.7 on FGs, 75.0 on 3FGs and 100.0 on free throws in NCAA play.
  • BALANCED LINEUP: In addition to Jasmine Powell in NCAA play, Jillian Hollingshead (8.5 ppg.), Sara Puckett (7.5 ppg.), Tess Darby (7.5 ppg.), Jasmine Franklin (6.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg.) and Karoline Striplin and Kaiya Wynn (5.0 ppg.) have been steady contributors.


  • 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 UT (25-11, 13-3 SEC), with sophomores Sara Puckett and Jillian Hollingshead leading the scoring with 13 each. Seniors Rickea Jackson and Jasmine Powell 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 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.


  • 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 marked the third time this season she hit three or more treys. Her 13 points were the most since she fired in 17 at Missouri on Jan. 22.


  • 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 first-half points versus Stetson en route to a 99-34 win in the NCAA First Round on March 19, 2011.


  • Tennessee shot 50 percent from beyond the arc against the Rockets, the best 3-point percentage in an NCAA Tournament game since 2014, when 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.


  • Va. Tech features four players scoring in double figures, led by 6-6 two-time ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley (18.2 ppg./10.8 rpg.).
  • Other double-figure scorers include Georgia Amoore (15.7), Taylor Soule (11.3) and Kayana Traylor (10.8).
  • Amoore paces VT with 106 3-pointers and 169 assists, while Kayla King (7.9 ppg.) has hit 71 treys.


  • Behind four Hokies in double figures, Virginia Tech defeated South Dakota State, 72-60, in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in Blacksburg on March 19.
  • With the win, the Hokies (29-4) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in VT history (1999) and earned their program-record 29th victory of the season.
  • Georgia Amoore drained a career-high seven treys on her way to a game-high 21 points, while Elizabeth Kitley notched her 21st double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.


  • Tennessee leads the all-time series over the Hokies, 8-3, including 3-2 in Knoxville, 4-1 in Blacksburg and 1-0 at neutral sites.
  • Kellie Harper is 5-2 all-time vs. the Hokies as a head coach, including a loss in 2007 while at Western Carolina, four victories as head of the program at NC State in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and a win in 2021 and loss in 2023 while at UT.
  • Harper played in a Tennessee win over Virginia Tech on March 20, 1999, as the #2/2-ranked Lady Vols prevailed over the #13/15 Hokies, 68-52, in the NCAA Sweet 16 at Greensboro, N.C.
  • In that contest, 13,204 fans were on hand as UT legend Chamique Holdsclaw went over 3,000 career points.
  • Tennessee is 112-31 vs. schools in the ACC, including 17-7 in the NCAA Tournament. UT is 1-0 vs. the Hokies in NCAA play.


  • Senior Jordan Horston recorded her second double-double of the season on Dec. 4, as RV/RV Tennessee battled No. 9/9 Virginia Tech down to the wire in a nail-biter before coming up short in Thompson-Boling Arena, 59-56, in the 2022 Jimmy V Women’s Classic.
  • The Lady Vols (4-5), who were playing without senior Rickea Jackson, graduate Jasmine Franklin and sophomore Jillian Hollingshead, were led by Horston who finished with a game-high 26 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. Senior Tamari Key, in her last game of 2022-23 before a medical issue sidelined her, contributed 11 points and held VT star Elizabeth Kitley to six points on 3-of-13 shooting, marking her second straight season of limiting the outstanding post player.
  • Four Hokies (8-0) scored in double figures, with Kayana Traylor leading the effort with 18. Cayla King turned in 11 points and Georgia Amoore and D’asia Gregg each finished with 10.

-UT Athletics

Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics


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