Lady Vols Improve to 4-1 In SEC Play With 75-64 Win Over Bulldogs

Courtesy / UT Athletics

Lady Vols Improve to 4-1 In SEC Play With 75-64 Win Over Bulldogs

Courtesy / UT Athletics

Game Recap: Women’s Basketball | January 18, 2024 | Kimberly Hood

STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Lady Vols got back in the win column in a big way on Thursday evening, overcoming a 13-point second-quarter deficit to take a 75-64 victory over Mississippi State in Humphrey Coliseum.

Tennessee (11-6, 4-1 SEC) was led by fifth-year senior Rickea Jackson, who turned in 19 points and seven rebounds. Junior Kaiya Wynn came off the bench to contribute a career-high 13 points, and fifth-year senior Jasmine Powell and junior Sara Puckett each tallied 11.

Defensively, the Big Orange forced State into 15 turnovers on the evening and allowed the hosts only 19 points combined in the middle two quarters. UT also held MSU star Jessika Carter to four points over the final three periods after allowing her eight in the first.

Erynn Barnum was the top scorer for MSU (15-5, 2-3 SEC) with 15 points, and Carter and Debreasha Powe each had 12. Lauren Park-Lane also landed in double digits with 10 on the night.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 lead before Puckett swished a three at the 7:44 mark to get UT on the board. Powe knocked down a jumper on the other end to put MSU ahead by five, and the teams traded baskets until a Carter jumper set off a 5-1 run that gave Mississippi State a 16-8 advantage by the 3:29 mark. Jewel Spear ended the skid for UT with a 10-foot shot 20 seconds later, but MSU outscored UT 7-2 over the final minutes of the quarter to lead 23-12 at the end of one.

A pair of free throws by Barnum extended the Bulldogs’ advantage to 13 at the outset of the second, but Powell knocked down a contested three, and Wynn scored a fast-break layup on the next play to set off a 7-0 run that pulled the Lady Vols within six at 25-19 by the 6:28 mark. Barnum and Jordan combined to push MSU back on top by double digits a little over a minute later, but Tamari Key scored on back-to-back plays to help Tennessee creep within six. The remainder of the period was a back-and-forth affair, with Mississippi State taking a 37-30 lead into intermission.

Spear scored the first points of the second half with a layup, and Puckett followed it up with a short jumper to trim the deficit to three by the 8:37 mark. Carter answered by knocking down a shot on the other end, but four quick points by Puckett and Jackson had UT within one with 6:35 to play in the third. Park-Lane responded with a trey for the Bulldogs, but Tennessee countered with a Jackson jumper and a three by Spear as Tennessee took its first lead of the game midway through the third quarter at 43-42. The Lady Vols went on to score eight more points following the media timeout while holding MSU scoreless to send the game into the final stanza with UT leading, 51-42.

A three by Powell to start the fourth made it a 16-0 UT run and gave Tennessee a double-digit lead at 54-42. A pair of MSU layups trimmed that lead back to eight by the 8:51 mark, but the Lady Vols were on top by 13 just over two minutes later. The Bulldogs cut it down to single digits once more when Powe drained a 3-pointer with 3:42 to play to make it 65-57, but that’s as close as they would get as Tennessee converted on free throws to close out the game.

NEXT UP: The Lady Vols return home to host in-state rival Vanderbilt on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (SEC Network). The game vs. the Commodores is Tennessee’s We Back Pat game as part of the Southeastern Conference’s week-long initiative focused on bringing awareness and recognition to the Pat Summitt Foundation, a fund of East Tennessee Foundation, and its fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

COMEBACK KIDS: Tennessee recorded its fourth double-digit come-from-behind SEC win and fifth such victory of the season, clawing its way back from a 13-point second-quarter Mississippi State lead to win, 75-64. The Lady Vols previously won after trailing Auburn (11), Kentucky (17) and Florida (12) by more than 10. The Lady Vols also came from 10-down to Oklahoma in the third quarter to defeat the then No. 22/20 Sooners on Nov. 25. For the season, UT has bounced back from being behind to win nine of its 17 games.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Trailing by seven at the half, Tennessee buckled down on the defensive end in the third frame, holding the home team without a point the final 6:08 of the stanza. UT allowed MSU only five points for the entire quarter, marking the Lady Vols’ best defensive effort of the campaign in that period or any period for that matter. UT held an SEC foe to its lowest point total against the Big Orange this season and limited the Bulldogs to their lowest offensive output in league play and their second lowest of the year.

RICKEA GETS THE “W “THIS TIME: Rickea Jackson returned to the school where she played her first three college seasons for the second time in as many years. On this occasion, she walked away a victor, dropping a game-high 19 points and a team-best seven rebounds against the Bulldogs in 32 minutes. A year ago, she supplied Tennessee 28 points and 11 rebounds, but the Lady Vols came up just short, 91-90, in double overtime.

CAREER DAY FOR KAIYA: Junior guard Kaiya Wynn came off the bench and provided a spark for the Lady Vols. She went 6-of-10 from the field to finish with career highs of 13 points and three steals along with five rebounds and an assist in 23 minutes of action. Her +14 plus/minus rating was the game’s highest along with teammate Tamari Key.

POWELL DISHING AND SWISHING: Starting point guard Jasmine Powell filled up the stat sheet once again, firing in 11 points with three key three-pointers and contributing seven assists, four rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes. It marked the third time in the past seven games she has dished seven dimes or more, also doing so vs. Wofford (10) and Kentucky (9). She now has a team-high 59 for the season, averaging 3.5 per game.

TAMARI A BIG PLUS: Tamari Key played a season-most 29 minutes at Mississippi State, besting her previous high of 24 at Auburn. The 6-foot-6 redshirt senior contributed eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three blocks while matching Kaiya Wynn for Tennessee’s best plus/minus rating at +14.

CONSISTENT BUCKETS FROM PUCKETT: Sara Puckett scored in double figures for the third straight game and the 11th time in 17 contests. The junior forward went five for eight from the field and finished with 11 points and grabbed six rebounds while generating a plus/minus tally of +12.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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