The Lady Vols (10-6) defeated Alabama (12-3) 89-76 on Sunday in Thompson-Boling Arena. Rickea Jackson led Tennessee offensively, finishing with 22 points on 10-14 shooting.
The Lady Vols started fast on Sunday and ran away with the win.
“We needed to score well to get the win,” head coach Kellie Harper said. “(I'm) proud of our team. There are things that we are going to continue to work on, continue to get better at, but I'm really excited about their focus and how they come to practice, how they come ready to games right now. They've been a joy to coach."
Here are three takeaways from Tennessee’s New Year’s Day victory.
The ideal offense
The offense head coach Kellie Harper envisioned finally showed on Sunday.
The Lady Vols tallied 26 assists on 36 made-field goals, tying their season-high in assists. Despite spreading the ball around, they only turned it over 13 times.
“This is kind of what you want it to look like on the offensive end,” Harper said. “You want to see ball movement, you want to see sharing the basketball, you want to get players in position for them to be successful.”
Jordan Horston – who has consistently lit up the scoring stat – was relatively quiet on Sunday. She finished the day with nine points, six points below her season average.
Horston, however, finished with nine assists. Tennessee finally answered the question of what happens if Horston has a bad game. If Horston’s shots aren’t falling, someone else’s will.
“She's such a playmaker, and she's such a threat that she's dangerous,” Harper said about Horston. “She's always dangerous. You didn't see it with the point total. That's 18 points off of assists, that's a lot."
Jillian Hollingshead is growing into her role
With Tamari Key sidelined for the rest of the season, the Lady Vols will need other bigs to step up and fill the many roles she played. For most of the season, it has been by committee.
On Sunday, Hollingshead took over the game in the paint. She finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
Hollingshead finally played how Harper envisioned her playing when she transferred to Tennessee from Georgia.
Her stat sheet performance may not have been the best thing she did on Sunday. At 6-foot-5, she is able to guard one through five. For the 25 minutes she was on the floor on Sunday, Alabama struggled to create a mismatch.
Tennessee had no issue getting Hollingshead solo in the post, and she did the rest.
"She's a dynamic player, she's so skilled,” Harper said. “She can step out on the floor, but we're using her a lot on the block right now… She's getting a lot of one-on-one opportunities and we're really confident in her ability to go make a play in those situations. I think our spacing has been good to help her, but she's playing with great confidence.”
The Lady Vols’ 500th win in Thompson-Boling Arena
Pat Summit. Holly Warlick. Bridgette Gordon. Daedra Charles. Chamique Holdsclaw. Tamika Catchings. Candace Parker.
The list of Lady Vol greats is endless, and Harper added her name to the history on Sunday. The win on Sunday marked the 500th win in the 36th year of the venue.
Then Kellie Jolly, Harper was a point guard for some of Pat Summit’s best teams.
The history of the building, one Harper has both played and coached in, is not lost on the fourth-year head coach.
“It's a lot of wins and a wonderful place to play,” Harper said. “I love playing here. I joked numerous times that I would love to petition to play all of our games here… There have been a lot of memories made here, a lot of memories. A lot of good memories made here. A lot of legends have graced this floor. Just to be part of that is something really unique, it's something really special and it's something that I don't take lightly, and I don't think our team does as well."