Women's Basketball vs. ETSU-12.jpg

Tennessee center no. 31 Emily Saunders attempts a shot at the Lady Vols basketball game vs. ETSU on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.

The Lady Vols handled business as they took on the second straight in-state competitor Chattanooga in a dominant fashion, winning 91-41. The Lady Vols totaled a 50-point win even while missing a key piece in their offense — Jordan Horston who was out with a non-COVID related illness.

The Lady Vols started off hot. Sara Puckett nailed the first score and three of the game, immediately drawing a charge foul right after. Tess Darby continued to stay behind the arc as she hit a three, and eventually Alexus Dye found the net with back-to-back scores.

Not long into the first quarter, the substitutions came in with Kaiya Wynn, Karoline Striplin, Brooklyn Miles and Jessie Rennie.

“Our freshmen, we knew coming in our four freshmen were special and I think they continue to show everybody and every game. We are excited for the future for our freshmen,” center Tamari Key said.

Chattanooga struggled to find the net, as it only accumulated 5 points. UTC’s defensive efforts made an appearance, however, the Mocs tipped several passes, had 3 steals and even forced 7 turnovers.

Tennessee finished the first quarter ahead 22-5 with 19 rebounds, as Key led the quarter with 6 points as she established her presence in the paint early on.

Key finished as UT’s leading scoring with 18 points, shooting 8-for-10 from the field with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. She also tallied only 1 personal foul despite playing over 16 minutes.

The Lady Vols continued their strategy into the second quarter with perhaps a bit more physicality. Puckett continued to impress with a nice assist to Dye inside, followed up by a block. Emily Saunders recorded a block and a steal. Jordan Walker totaled 2 steals, swiping the ball back from the opposing player’s hands immediately after giving it up.

As Key continued to find the net, so did Dye. Miles eventually hit her first three of the night after a scrum for the ball was recovered by Keyen Green.

Tennessee entered the half up 43-19 with 15 assists as well, and over half of its points came from inside the paint.

Eight different Lady Vols scored in the third quarter as they tallied 16 rebounds and 8 more assists.

Tennessee finished with a season high of 30 assists. Walker led the way with 8, while Darby provided 6 and Puckett had 5. Tennessee’s freshmen made up 12 assists in total.

“Thirty assists is really awesome for us,” Rennie said. “We shared the ball really well. That’s something this team does well, is pass the ball around until we get the best shot or when our teammates in the best position to score — I think we showed that tonight.”

Wynn and Saunders led the finish for UT. Wynn went 2-for-3 with 3 assists, including several moments where she was able to drive to the basket after not having any open passes. Saunders was able to find the net as well as take a trip to the line. Wynn finished 2-for-9 with three trips to the free throw line.

“I’m definitely feeling more comfortable in the offense,” Wynn said. “Just being able to get my teammates into position to score and knowing their strengths. We discussed a bunch — just knowing where they like to get their shots and how they like to shoot it. Each game I’m getting more comfortable and confident.”

Although Striplin was close with 12 points and 9 rebounds, Tennessee’s 11-game streak of a player having a double-double ended in the win, but that was not a problem according to Harper.

“Snoop (Dye) talked me into letting her try so she got to play an extra minute or two,” Harper said. “Karoline was the one closest to the double-double. It’s fun and I love that they pull for each other, but Tamari Key plays 16 minutes and if I played her a few more minutes, she might have gotten it. It’s not worth it at this point. It’s more important that Emily Saunders gets a few more minutes. We got a whole sheet full of stats we can be proud of.”

Next up, the Lady Vols begin conference play as they host Alabama at 6:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 30.

UT Sponsored Content