Hot-Handed Lady Vols Take Down Kentucky, 87-69

Courtest / UT Sports

Hot-Handed Lady Vols Take Down Kentucky, 87-69

Kimberly HoodWomen’s BasketballJanuary 07, 2024

Box Score KNOXVILLE, TENN. – Tennessee outscored Kentucky 48-20 in the second half to overcome a 17-point second-quarter deficit and take an 87-69 victory against the Wildcats in front of a season-high crowd of 8,823 in Food City Center on Sunday afternoon.

The Lady Vols, who won their fifth-straight contest and ended UK’s four-game streak, hit 32 of 60 attempts for a season-best field goal percentage of 53.3 on the day. The Big Orange, meanwhile, held Kentucky to 38.2 percent, including an icy 23.5-percent rate (8-34) in the second half.  

Fifth-year senior Rickea Jackson led UT (9-5, 2-0 SEC) with 27 points, and senior Jewel Spear poured in a season-high 21 points. Fifth-year senior Jasmine Powell also had a productive outing, racking up nine points, seven rebounds and nine assists.

Kentucky (8-8, 1-1 SEC) was led by Eniya Russell, who finished with 16 points and Ajae Petty who posted a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Maddie Scherr and Saniah Tyler were also in double figures with 13 and 10, respectively. 

Tennessee won the jump and wasted no time getting on the board, with Powell finding Karoline Striplin wide open under the basket for an easy layup 10 seconds into play. Scherr responded with a long-range jumper for UK, and Brooklynn Miles followed it up with a steal and a layup on the inbound play, putting Kentucky on top by the 8:50 mark. Sara Puckett tied it up at four on the next possession, but the Wildcats scrapped back to lead 14-8 with 6:13 to go in the first. UK maintained that advantage until Striplin drained a jumper two minutes later to inch UT within four at 18-14. That score would hold through the buzzer as both teams remained scoreless for the final four minutes of the first.

Tess Darby came up with the steal and found Jackson on the fast break to start the second period, and Kaiya Wynn narrowed the gap to one with a free throw, but back-to-back treys had UK ahead by five with 8:06 to go in the half. Jackson responded with a three for UT on the other end, but a 16-2 UK run pushed the Wildcats on top by a 40-24 count by the 4:47 mark. Jillian Hollingshead hit a short jumper to end the skid for Tennessee, and with 4:02 to play, Spear hit a jumper to tally the first of her 11 second-quarter points as UT outscored UK 13-7 over the closing minutes to set the halftime score at 49-39.

Kentucky notched the first bucket of the third quarter in the form of a Petty layup, but UT whittled the deficit down to single digits by the 9:21 mark. Kentucky went up by 11 twice more before Tennessee rattled off eight straight points to pull within three by the 6:19 mark at 55-52. A Darby 3-pointer 90 seconds later extended it to an 11-0 UT run and tied the game at 55-all. Scherr ended the UK drought with a jumper with 4:22 to go in the third, but free throws by Jackson and Spear had UT leading 59-57 two minutes later. Kentucky took the lead once more off an old-fashioned three-point play by Russell, but the Lady Vols closed out the quarter with seven unanswered points to take a 66-60 lead into the final stanza.   

Russell opened the scoring in the fourth to pull the Wildcats within four, but UT responded with an 8-0 run to lead 74-62 with 8:09 to play. A Scherr three pulled UK within single digits on the next play, and the teams swapped buckets until the 4:01 mark when consecutive layups by Spear kicked off a 9-0 Tennessee run to close out the game for the 87-69 victory.

UP NEXT: Tennessee welcomes Florida to Food City Center on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. The contest will be televised by SEC Network, while the radio broadcast will be available via the Lady Vol Network and on

FLIPPING THE SCRIPT: Tennessee trailed by 17, 45-28, with 2:43 remaining in the first half before outscoring Kentucky the rest of the way, 59-24. The erasure of the 17-point lead tied as the biggest comeback win of the Kellie Harper era, matching last year’s 17-point come-from-behind victory to defeat LSU in the SEC Tournament semifinal round, 69-67.

LADY VOLS, HARPER IN SEC OPENERS: Tennessee improved to 37-5 all-time in its first SEC home game of a season, winning seven of its last eight such contests. Kellie Harper is now 5-0 in the first SEC of a campaign on The Summitt as Tennessee’s head coach, defeating Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Alabama and Kentucky in her five seasons on Rocky Top.

TWENTY 20s FOR JACKSON: Rickea Jackson has tallied four efforts of 20 points or more in 2023-24 (FSU, Liberty, Auburn, Kentucky) and now is tied with Meighan Simmons for seventh place on UT’s career list of 20+ performances with 20 in her two years on Rocky Top. The top nine are Chamique Holdsclaw (83), Bridgette Gordon (58), Candace Parker (48), Tamika Catchings (27), Rennia Davis (23), Diamond DeShields (21), Rickea Jackson and Meighan Simmons (20), and Jordan Horston (16).

TWO LADY VOLS BOAST 20+ POINTS: Rickea Jackson and Jewel Spear posted 20+ points apiece against the Wildcats, scoring 27 and 21 points, respectively. The last time two Lady Vols scored 20+ points in the same game also was against Kentucky (3/3/23), during the 2023 SEC Tournament, with Rickea Jackson and Jordan Horston putting up 34 and 21 points, respectively.

FEAR DA SPEAR: For Jewel Spear, her season-best 21 points marked her second 20-plus point effort of the campaign. The Wake Forest transfer had opened the campaign with 20 vs. Florida A&M. Sunday’s effort was her eighth double-figure effort of the season, elevating her scoring average to 11.4 ppg. for the season and 14.0 ppg. during SEC play.

TK’S BLOCK PARTY: Tamari Key blocked a season-high six shot attempts by Kentucky on Sunday, marking her most since swatting six vs. Mississippi State on Feb. 24, 2022. UT’s career leader in blocked shots now has 314 during her UT career and stands just seven from moving into a tie with LSU’s Sylvia Fowles (321, 2004-08) for eighth on the SEC career list. Key was honored before the game as the only Lady Vol to record 300 blocks or more during a career.

OFFENSE HAS BEEN CLICKING: Tennessee has shot 50+ percent from the field in back-to-back SEC games for the first time since the 2019-20 season. The Lady Vols hit 50.0 percent vs. Auburn last game and season-best 53.3 vs. Kentucky on Sunday. The last time UT did that, it knocked down 51.9 percent vs. Georgia on Jan. 12, 2020, and followed with 53.3 percent at Florida on Jan. 17, 2020. These efforts have pushed UT to a 51.9 rate in league play and a 43.3 clip in all games. UT also shot better than 50 percent in three different quarters vs. UK, hitting 50 in the first and second and a sizzling 69.2 in the final stanza. The Lady Vols also had three 50-percent quarters vs. Auburn (Q1: 50%, Q3: 60%, Q4: 50%) and Troy (Q1: 56.3%, Q2: 50%, Q3: 55.6%) this season.

COMING UP BIG IN THE FOURTH QUARTER: Tennessee shot an impressive 69.2 percent from the field in the fourth quarter to secure its win over Kentucky, notching its second-best field goal percentage in a frame this season. The Lady Vols made shots at a 71.4 percent clip in the third quarter of the 2023-24 opener vs. Florida A&M (11/7/2023).

JP DISHING THE ROCK: Jasmine Powell posted nine assists vs. Kentucky, recording her seventh game this season with three or more assists and coming up just shy of her recently-recorded career high of 10 against Wofford (12/29/23). The guard has led the Lady Vols in assists in four contests in 2023-24 and paces UT with 46 for the season (3.5 apg.) and 11 in SEC play (5.5 apg.).

HOLDING FOES UNDER 40 PERCENT: For the fifth straight game, Tennessee held an opponent under 40-percent field goal percentage. Kentucky managed just 38.2 percent on Sunday and hit just 14.3 percent of its shots in the third (4-17) and fourth quarters (4-17).  UT is holding opponents to 38.2 percent in all games and 35.7 percent in SEC contests.

Courtest / UT Sports

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