Wearing “Summit Blue” jerseys in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Lady Vols (14-6, 6-0) defeated Georgia (13-7, 2-4) 68-55 on Sunday in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Lady Vol legend Candace Harper was also in attendance for Tennessee’s matchup with Georgia on Sunday.
“I’m always reminded when she comes back is how much she loves this program,” head coach Kellie Harper said. “I know she was really close to Pat, as many of us were, but I know they had a really special relationship. She also has that relationship with the program.”
Rickea Jackson continued to lead the way for Tennessee. She finished with 23 points on 8-10 shooting and seven rebounds.
It seems anytime Jackson plays, she’s due for at least 20 points.
“On the bench, we have looked up and we were like ‘how does she manage to get 20 points every single game?’" guard Jordan Walker said. “It’s so effortless for her. It’s just amazing to be able to have somebody who can come off and provide that spark.”
Jordan Horston had a relatively quiet day. She finished with eight points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Tennessee’s defense was suffocating for much of Sunday, holding the Lady Bulldogs to just 30% from the field.
The first quarter started off hot for Tennessee, before back-to-back turnovers slowed the Lady Vols’ momentum. Jackson led the first quarter with 8 points.
The second quarter saw big scoring droughts for both teams. The Lady Vols only scored 12 points in the second compared to their 21 in the first.
The Lady Bulldogs could not penetrate Tennessee's defense. Despite scoring the first six points of the second, the Lady Vols held Georgia scoreless for over five minutes. The Lady Bulldogs finished the half one for their last 11 shots.
Tennessee came out of half firing on all cylinders. The Lady Vols fired home back to back to back trey balls thanks to Jordan Walker at the buzzer, Tess Darby, and Karoline Striplin.
“In the locker room at halftime, we were talking about coming out strong in the third quarter,” Darby said. “That’s one of the things we’ve struggled on, hitting open threes and getting the energy and momentum coming our way."
Darby continued her hot streak, finishing with 16 points, shooting 4-10 from thee, and marking the 12th game she’s hit multiple threes.
The Lady Vols have struggled to close out games down the stretch, and Sunday was no different.
Questionable officiating led Katie Abrahansib-Henderson to be awarded a technical foul for arguing a call. After going to review, the officials also awarded Walker a foul. The play killed any momentum.
Walker only scored eight points for Tennessee, but she also finished with eight assists. It is the second game in a row she has had eight assists.
“Really, just trying to get my teammates open, setting them up to where they can score,” Walker said. “I enjoy that. They knock down shots so it makes it easy for me.”
Luckily, Tennessee had built a large enough lead that Georgia’s fourth-quarter play didn’t matter. The Lady Bulldogs outscored Tennessee 16-13 in the final quarter.
Despite the win, the offensive rebound numbers and turnovers were two things that stood out to Harper. The Lady Vols only had one offensive rebound in the second half.
“I think we just have to be mindful of execution,” Harper said. “And again, I thought we got a little passive. You stand around a little bit more, you start watching a little bit more. We’re the best when we’re active.”
Moving forward, with Florida coming to Knoxville on Thursday, Harper and Tennessee have been taking it one day at a time.
“We’ve just talked about who we are today and what we need to do today, being our best today,” Harper said. “Every day’s a new day. We’ve got a lot of motivation. We’ve got some things behind us that will really push us. If you’re, every single day, worried about the moment, I think that allows you to stay composed.”