Hoops Preview: No. 16/19 Lady Vols at No. 6/5 Texas A&M

Rae Burrell – Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No. 16/19 Tennessee (12-4, 6-2 SEC) travels to College Station, where it will finally face off against No. 6/5 Texas A&M (18-1/9-1 SEC) on Sunday at 2:02 p.m. CT (3:02 p.m. ET) at Reed Arena.

This game originally was slated to be each team’s SEC opener on Dec. 31, but it was rescheduled to Feb. 6 after a positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing within the Lady Vol program caused the game to be postponed. Tennessee suffered a second pause due to COVID-19, so the meeting then was moved to Feb. 14 after UT’s previous match-up vs. Vanderbilt was canceled after the Commodores opted out of the season due to the pandemic.

Kellie Harper‘s squad also has had its game with Mississippi State reset to Feb. 16 in Starkville, meaning the Lady Vols will face three ranked teams, all on the road, during a six-day span from Feb. 11-16. Including a home game vs. No. 1/3 South Carolina next Thursday and a road game at No. 24/25 Georgia next Sunday, UT is in a challenging stretch of facing five ranked opponents in a span of 11 days, including four on the road.

UT stands in third place in the league standings and is one of only three SEC teams with two losses or fewer in conference play (along with first-place South Carolina (11-0) and second-place Texas A&M (9-1).

Tennessee enters Sunday’s contest on the heels of a 71-56 loss at No. 20/18 Kentucky on Thursday night. That setback, which came with all-star forward Renna Davis missing the game for medical reasons, ended a three-game winning streak that began with a UT home win over UK on Jan. 24.

Texas A&M should come in with fresh legs after being idle on Feb. 11. The Aggies’ opponent was supposed to be Vanderbilt before the Commodores opted out of the season due to COVID-19 and other factors.

After beating Arkansas, 69-67, in College Station on Feb. 7, A&M has won six straight entering Sunday’s tilt. Its only loss in 2020-21 came in Baton Rouge, where LSU handed Gary Blair’s squad a 65-61 setback in overtime on Jan. 14.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday’s game will be televised by ESPN with Courtney Lyle (PxP) and Carolyn Peck (Analyst) on the call.
  • All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) and the SEC Network will be available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 or Xbox One to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.
  • Institutions can produce for SEC Network+ (SECN+) any conference and non-conference games that are not otherwise televised. Those are available on the ESPN app and SECSports.com.
  • The contest also can be heard on Lady Vol Network radio stations and by audio stream, with Mickey Dearstone behind the microphone. Now calling the action for his 22nd season, Dearstone is joined by studio host Bobby Rader.
  • A link to the live audio stream can be found on each game’s Hoops Central page or the Lady Vol schedule on UTSports.com.
  • For a list of Lady Vol Network affiliates, please click on the Fans tab at the top of UTSports.com, select Vol Network and then click on Vol Network Affiliates in the black bar at the top of the page.
  • Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.

RESERVE LINK PINK/FIGHTER CUTOUTS NOW

  • The Lady Vols are hosting their annual Live Pink, Bleed Orange game on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. vs. South Carolina.
  • During the pandemic, it is understandable that many of those who are battling or have battled cancer are unable to attend the game. The Lady Vols want to continue to honor fighters, survivors, and remember those who fought to the end.
  • This year, fans can nominate a survivor or fighter to receive their very own “Fighter CutOut” for the Lady Vols’ Live Pink, Bleed Orange game.
  • Fighter CutOuts will be placed courtside with recognition during a timeout. One lucky nominee also will win a game-worn, pink Lady Vols jersey. CutOuts will be available for socially distant pick-up at a later date.
  • Deadline to submit is 8 a.m. on Feb. 17. Please go to the following link and be sure to read instructions carefully: https://form.jotform.com/210384010900136

QUICK GLANCE AT THE LADY VOLS

  • Tennessee remains in third place in the SEC standings with a 6-2 league record, holding a two-game lead over 7-4 squads Georgia and Kentucky.
  • Tennessee has posted three victories over ranked teams (No. 13/13 Arkansas, No. 15/15 Indiana, No. 12/12 Kentucky), marking the most by the program in a season since 2017-18 when it had seven.
  • UT also suffered setbacks to two squads ranked at the time it played them: No. 3/5 UConn (67-61) and No. 20/18 Kentucky (71-56), with Rennia Davis missing the UK game due to medical reasons.
  • Tennessee’s other two losses are to a pair of teams who are now ranked: No. 19/21 West Virginia (79-73 OT) and No. 24/25 Georgia (67-66).
  • With UT’s schedule offering a gauntlet of ranked teams in the coming 11 days, that slate currently ranks No. 13 on the NCAA’s Toughest Schedule report and will continue to rise in difficulty.
  • Due to injuries and illness, the Lady Vols have sent three different starting lineups out to the jump circle in their last three games vs. Ole Miss, Florida and Kentucky after having the same quintet in games five through 14.
  • Junior guard Rae Burrell is the only Lady Vol to start in every game this season.
  • UT is paced in scoring in all games by Burrell (17.2 ppg.) and senior forward Rennia Davis (14.5 ppg.), with sophomore center Tamari Key chipping in 9.4 ppg. and 5.1 rpg., and sophomore point guard Jordan Horston contributing 8.4 ppg. and 4.0 apg.
  • In SEC play, three Tennessee players are scoring in double figures, including Burrell (17.6), Davis (17.1 ppg.) and Key (12.6).
  • Against ranked foes, Burrell puts up 19.4 ppg., while Davis fires in 17.8 ppg.
  • Burrell tallied 22 points vs. Kentucky on Thursday night, marking her team-best eighth time leading UT in scoring in 2020-21 and fifth game this season with 20 or more points. It was the eighth 20+ game of her career.
  • Davis stands 16th on UT’s all-time scoring list with 1,617 points and also is 16th on the rebounding list with 869.
  • Tamari Key has blocked 16 shots in her last two games (10 vs. Florida, 6 vs. Kentucky) and has 43 for the season to rank second in the SEC at 2.7 per game. The sophomore has 129 in 47 career games and needs only two blocks to move into a tie for 10th on UT’s all-time career list.
  • Redshirt junior guard Jordan Walker, who stands 5-8, was the leading rebounder in the Kentucky game with a season-best nine boards. She has 373 for her career.
  • With 11 points vs. UK, Jordan Horston now has scored in double figures nine times this season.
  • Kasiyahna Kushkituah had eight rebounds vs. Kentucky, giving her 8+ boards in the past three games.

AILMENTS ADDING UP

  • UT was down three of its original starters and a senior reserve in the rematch vs. Kentucky on Feb. 11.
  • Starting center Keyen Green, of course, was lost four games into the year with a season-ending leg injury. Tamari Key stepped in.
  • Starting forward Marta Suárez missed the Florida game and played sparingly vs. Ole Miss and at Kentucky due to a lower leg injury. Kasiyahna Kushkituah stepped in.
  • Starting wing and returning All-SEC First Team selection Rennia Davis did not make the trip to Kentucky on Feb. 11 due to medical reasons. Jordan Walker, who started the first four games of the season, stepped back into the lineup vs. the Wildcats.
  • Reserve power forward Jaiden McCoy has missed the last 12 games due to a head injury.

RECAPPING UT’S LAST GAME

  • No. 16/19 Tennessee outscored Kentucky 21-9 in the third quarter to erase an 11-point halftime deficit but couldn’t hold off a No. 20/18 UK team that went a perfect 5-of-5 from behind the arc in the fourth quarter, falling 71-56 in Rupp Arena on Thursday night.
  • Junior Rae Burrell was the high scorer for the Lady Vols (12-4, 6-2 SEC), turning in 22 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Horston pitched in 11 points and three assists, and redshirt-junior Jordan Walker led the team in rebounding with nine boards.
  • UT played without all-star senior forward Rennia Davis, who did not make the trip to Lexington due to medical reasons.
  • Chasity Patterson had the hot hand for the Wildcats (14-5, 7-4 SEC) with 21 points, and Jazmine Massengill added 11.

UT-TEXAS A&M SERIES NOTES

  • Tennessee holds an 8-6 all-time record vs. Texas A&M, dating back to Dec. 19, 1997.
  • UT is 3-2 in Knoxville, 1-3 in College Station and 4-1 at neutral sites vs. the Aggies.
  • The Big Orange women are 6-6 vs. hall-of-fame coach Gary Blair and A&M since the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference.
  • Kellie Harper is 0-2 vs. Texas A&M and Gary Blair. Her 2015-16 Missouri State team fell, 74-65, in College Station on March 19, 2016, in the NCAA Tournament First Round. UT suffered a two-point home loss (73-71) on Feb. 16, 2020.
  • A&M is 2-0 in overtime games vs. UT, defeating the Lady Vols in an extra frame in two of the past three times these squads met in College Station.
  • Rennia Davis has an 12.8 ppg. average vs. the Aggies in four career games, tallying 18 points, five rebounds, six assists and three blocks in last year’s meeting in Knoxville.
  • In the initial meeting between these teams in Knoxville, on Feb. 28, 2013, Tennessee defeated A&M, 82-72, on Senior Day to give UT an SEC regular-season championship on the Lady Vols’ home court. The squad had been picked to finish as low as fifth in the league and returned no starters.
  • Tennessee made its first-ever women’s basketball appearance in College Station on Jan. 26, 2014, and the (then) #11/12 Lady Vols picked up a key victory over the (then) #17/15 Aggies, 76-55. A&M was the SEC leader at the time of that defeat.
  • UT’s first two contests vs. Texas A&M came in tournaments, including one regular-season event in 1997-98 and one postseason event during the 2007-08 campaign.
  • In the first meeting, the #1/1 Lady Vols rolled to a 105-81 victory over the Aggies at the Northern Lights Invitational in Alaska in game two of a three-game stay.
  • The famed “Three Meeks” dazzled #8/9 A&M on Dec. 19, 1997, as Chamique Holdsclaw tallied 29, Semeka Randall tossed in 23 and Tamika Catchings added a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds for #1/1 UT in the high-scoring affair.
  • Kellie (Jolly) Harper was UT’s point guard in that game, and she was the Lady Vols’ fourth player in double figures with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a pair of three-pointers.
  • In 2008, Candace Parker scored 26 points and Alexis Hornbuckle chipped in 14, as the Lady Vols defeated Texas A&M, 53-45, in the Oklahoma City Regional Final to advance to the Final Four in Tampa.
  • After both of those tourney wins over the Aggies, the Lady Vols would advance to, and win, the NCAA Final Four in 1998 and 2008.

ABOUT TEXAS A&M

  • The Aggies feature a balanced attack, with Aaliyah Wilson (13.3 ppg.), N’dea Jones (12.6 ppg., 10.8 rpg.), Ciera Johnson (11.3 ppg.) and Kayla Wells (11.1 ppg.) scoring in double figures and starting all 19 games for head coach Gary Blair.
  • Jordan Nixon (8.4 ppg.) also started every contest.
  • The Aggies average 76.3 ppg. and hold foes to 59.8 ppg., shooting 48.2 percent from the field and allowing foes to hit only 38.2 percent.

RECAPPING THE AGGIES’ LAST GAME

  • Kayla Wells had a season-high 21 points and Jordan Nixon made a layup with eight seconds remaining to lift No. 7 Texas A&M to a 69-67 win over No. 16 Arkansas on Feb. 7 at Reed Arena.
  • A 3-pointer by Amber Ramirez tied it at 67-all with less than 90 seconds to go. Both teams missed a shot on their next possession before Nixon drove into the lane and put the Aggies up for good.
  • The victory came after the Aggies (18-1, 9-1 SEC) escaped with a 74-73 win in Fayetteville in the first meeting with Arkansas (14-7, 4-6) this season.

THE LAST TIME THESE TEAMS MET

  • No. 25 Tennessee pulled to within two points in the final minute but couldn’t overcome a No. 16/18 Texas A&M team that went 28 of 33 from the free-throw line en route to a 73-71 victory in Thompson-Boling Arena on Feb. 16, 2020.
  • Sophomore Rae Burrell led UT (17-8, 7-5 SEC) with 19 points and seven rebounds in front of a season-best crowd of 12,738. Junior Rennia Davis was also in double figures for the Big Orange, posting 18 points, six assists and five rebounds.
  • Junior Chennedy Carter was the high scorer for Texas A&M (20-5, 8-4 SEC), finishing with 37 points and five rebounds. Carter was 14 of 16 from the charity stripe for the Aggies.

LAST TIME IN COLLEGE STATION

  • Tennessee outscored No. 21/22 Texas A&M 20-17 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overtake an Aggies team that scored 27 points on nearly 70-percent shooting in the third quarter to send the Lady Vols to a 79-62 setback in Reed Arena on Feb. 21, 2019.
  • Rennia Davis managed double digits, finishing the day with 10 points for UT (17-9, 6-7 SEC).
  • Kayla Wells led Texas A&M (20-6, 9-4 SEC) with 29 points. Chennedy Carter had 28 points, followed by Shambria Washington with 11.

WHAT’S NEXT

  • Tennessee will continue its three-game road swing and also begin a three-game week that features a rescheduled match-up at No. RV/25 Mississippi State (Tues., 4 CT/5 ET, ESPNU). The contest was originally slated for Feb. 4 and postponed due to COVID-19 protocol.
  • UT returns home to face No. 1/3 South Carolina on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET in the Lady Vols’ Live Pink, Bleed Orange game (SEC Network) and heads to Athens for a noon Sunday tilt with No. 24/25 Georgia (SEC Network).
  • Texas A&M, meanwhile, plays host to Missouri on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT (SECN+).

-UT Athletics

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