Lady Vols pick up dramatic win over 4/3 LSU, advance to SEC Championship

GREENVILLE, SC – The Lady Vols erased a 17-point second-quarter deficit to claim a 69-67 victory over 4/3 LSU at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday night and advance to the program’s first SEC Championship appearance since 2015.

No. 3 seed Tennessee trailed by 14 at the half and fell behind by 16 early in the third quarter, but the Big Orange stormed back by outscoring the No. 2 Tigers 43-27 over the final 20 minutes to pick up their signature win so far of the 2022-23 campaign.

Senior Rickea Jackson was UT’s (23-10, 13-3 SEC) leading scorer, posting a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds. With senior Jordan Horston also had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Jillian Hollingshead and junior Tess Darby each also had productive performances, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

LSU (28-2, 15-1 SEC) was led by Angel Reese, who recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Alexis Morris was also a top producer with 20 points.

The Tigers came out hot with an 8-1 run before Jackson converted on a three-point play at the 6:20 mark to pull UT within four. LSU went up eight on back-to-back buckets by Reese, and UT didn’t allow the deficit to grow until the 3:37 mark when Reese hit a layup to start an 8-0 run that had the Tigers on top 22-8 with just over a minute left in the first. Jackson ended the drought for the Lady Vols with a 10-foot jumper, sending the game into the second period with the Tigers leading 22-10.

LSU started the second by sinking threes on consecutive plays to go up by 17 with 8:29 left in the first half. After a timeout, Caroline Striplin and Jackson produced an 8-2 run that had the Lady Vols within 11 two minutes later. Morris responded with four quick points to stretch the Tigers’ lead back to 15 with 4:33 remaining. Tess Darby drained a three to cut it back to 12 at 35-23, but LSU bounced back to lead by 16 in the final seconds until Jackson hit a contested jumper just before the buzzer to make the halftime score 40-26.

Both teams scored on their first possessions of the second half, but Tennessee forced a punt on LSU’s second possession and Darby knocked down a three in transition to cut LSU’s advantage to 11 and give the Lady Vols some momentum. At the media timeout, UT had pulled within nine at 44-35 off back-to-back jumpers by Horston. Darby was fouled on a 3-pointer after the timeout and hit all three free throws, closing the gap to six with 4:23 left in the third. The Tigers managed one point from the free throw line, but Tennessee held them without a field goal for more than six minutes while pulling within three points at 45-42 with 2:26 left in the third. Reese answered for LSU, reeling off six straight points, but a three-point play by Hollingshead with just under a minute on the clock sent the game into the fourth quarter with UT trailing by four at 51-47.

The teams traded buckets to start the final period until Jackson found Horston on the fast break to pull UT within two, then Jackson made it 56-all with a jumper with 6:41 left. Sa’Myah Smith put the Tigers back up with two 20 seconds later, but Horston scored back-to-back baskets to give Tennessee its first lead of the game at 60-58 with 5:11 left. Reese tied it up again, but Jackson and Horston combined for four quick points to move the Big Orange ahead 64-40 with 3:46 left. Morris brought LSU back within one on three occasions, but the Tigers never took the lead as Tennessee won 69-67.

NEXT: The Lady Vols will face No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game at 3 PM ET on Sunday. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN.

‘KEA KEEPS THE STREAK GOING: Jackson’s 26 points against LSU marked her eighth straight contest with 20 or more points. Her eight-game streak surpasses seven-game highs by Candace Parker (2006-07) and Bridgette Gordon (1987-88) and moves her within one of Chamique Holdsclaw’s best streaks, when the four-time All-American recorded nine straight in season 1997-98.

LOOKING DOUBLE: Seniors Rickea Jackson (26/10) and Jordan Horston (10/17) both posted double-doubles against South Carolina, marking the third time this season two Lady Vols have managed a double-double in a single game. Previously, Jackson (12/25) and Horston (12/15) managed double-doubles in Arkansas, and Jillian Hollingshead (18/12) and Rickea Jackson (11/28) recorded double-doubles at Mississippi State.

COMEBACK KIDS: Tennessee’s comeback from a 17-point deficit was the biggest of those Kelly Harper era. Previously, the largest deficit erased during Harper’s tenure was 16 points against #2/3 South Carolina on February 18, 2020, in a 75-67 UT triumph in Knoxville.

TEST FOR THREE: Tess Darby hit two threes against LSU, marking the 21st time this season she has hit multiple threes in a game and the 13th time against an SEC opponent. She now has 122 career 3-pointers, moving within 11 treys of tying Sidney Spencer to land in the top 10 career totals in program history. With 64 of those coming during the current campaign, she is three away from entering the top 10 for single-season hits at Tennessee.

CASH ON THE LINE: Tennessee shot 84 percent from the free throw line against LSU, going 21 of 25 on the night. In the previous outing, UT managed a season-best 24 of 26 from the line. Through two games in the SEC Tournament, the Lady Vols have scored 45 points from the charity stripe and are hitting 88.2 percent of their free throws.

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