Lady Vols vs. UConn

Jordan Horston (25) shoots a free throw against UConn at Thompson-Boling Arena. Thursday Jan. 26, 2023.

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The same thing that cost the Lady Vols a game in Knoxville against South Carolina cost them the SEC Championship – scoring droughts. 


Tennessee fell to the undefeated Gamecocks 58-74 in Greenville on Sunday.


South Carolina suffocated Tennessee on the offensive end, holding them to 37% shooting and over 18 minutes in scoring droughts. 


“They capitalize on every mistake,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “You’ve got to play your best basketball game to beat them, this wasn’t our best basketball game.”


Senior Jordan Horston led the way with 19 points and nine boards. Rickea Jackson wasn’t far behind with 17 points and nine rebounds. 

Both Jackson and Horston were named to the SEC All-Tournament team. 


“We’ve got find a little bit of balance,” Harper said. “Make sure that we’ve got some other people confident in knocking down shots.”


Jillian Hollingshead gave the Lady Vols some offense in the first quarter. As she has all weekend, she allowed Tennessee to have another scorer against talented bigs. 


“She’s gone up against some of the best players in the country this weekend,” Harper said. “She battled. That’s the biggest growth for her throughout the season.”


Despite Hollingshead’s success in the paint, Tennessee had to settle a lot on Sunday. Resorting to shots outside of the paint unlike what the Lady Vols would like to do.


“Their size really affected us (in the paint),” Harper said. “We’re having to make jumpers. If those jumpers aren’t falling, it puts your scoring in a tough spot.”


It took three minutes for South Carolina to miss a shot. After that, the first quarter was back-and-forth offensively. Horston ended the quarter with an acrobatic mid-range shot at the buzzer. 


The shot gave Tennessee some momentum that would not last long. 

South Carolina went on a 14-2 run in the second quarter, and Tennessee didn’t get a bucket for five minutes. Horston came back onto the floor and gave the Lady Vols some life. 


“We had some breakdowns execution wise,” Harper said. “But also we just didn’t have the bounce. We were a little bit heavy legged, we didn’t have the quickness to get around.”


Horston went 3-for-6 in the second quarter, picking up a steal and impacting the game at every level. The Lady Vols cut into the Gamecocks’ lead and went into halftime down six. 


Just like Saturday, Tennessee was down at half. Unlike Saturday, there would be no halftime comeback. The team was drained.


“Sometimes the fatigue is not just physical, sometimes it’s mental and emotional,” Harper said. “It’s not an excuse, (South Carolina) played three games in three days as well. I think we expended a lot of that emotional energy.”


Tennessee started the second half with back-to-back offensive rebounds followed by a Jackson bucket. But then another scoring drought hit, this time for two minutes. After a couple of free throws, Tennessee quickly had another scoring drought of over three minutes. 


Tennessee’s offensive issues persisted, and South Carolina went on a 7-0 run forcing Tennessee into a timeout. With their lead up to 15, the Gamecocks held Tennessee to 1 for its last 13 to end the third quarter. 


The Lady Vols suffered another three-minute scoring drought in the fourth that was the final nail in the coffin. The Gamecocks outscored Tennessee 19-16 in the fourth quarter to clinch the SEC Championship. 


Despite the loss, the Lady Vols maintain the confidence they’ve held all year. 


“Their mindset is everything,” Harper said. “Everything matters now. They still believe in this team.”


An almost two week hiatus gives the Lady Vols valuable time to rest and refresh before the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee lands right on the line between the possibility to host, and having to travel.


“They need a break physically and mentally, then come back refreshed,” “We’ll get back in the gym, make sure we’re ready to practice. That’s going to be suring up some things we already do and maybe deciding if we need some wrinkles going into the NCAA Tournament.”

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