Hoops Preview: #7/8 Lady Vols at RV/RV Ole Miss

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No. 7/8 Tennessee (14-1/3-0 SEC) and RV/RV Ole Miss (14-1/1-0 SEC) put their unbeaten league records on the line Sunday afternoon, when the Lady Vols and Rebels meet in Oxford, Mississippi.

The Lady Vols and Rebels will tangle at 12:02 p.m. CT (1:02 p.m. ET) at the 9,500-seat Sandy and John Black Pavilion at Ole Miss. This will mark the 59th contest between these programs, with UT owning a 50-8 all-time record and entering with a six-game series winning streak.

Both teams are riding on winning sprees as well, as the Lady Vols have claimed victories in the last five contests after suffering their only loss of the season on Dec. 18 vs. (then) No. 3/3 Stanford, 74-63, in Knoxville. Ole Miss, meanwhile, carries a 13-game run of Ws into Sunday’s matinee, with its only loss coming at home in the season opener vs. Belmont, 62-50.

Lady Vols G Alexus Dye / Credit: UT Athletics

With Jordan Horston recording an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double and Tamari Key blocking a career-high 11 shots, Tennessee picked up its third victory this season over a ranked foe in very dominant fashion, blowing out No. 25/23 and defending SEC champion Texas A&M, 73-45, in Knoxville on Thursday night. The win ended a three-game series losing streak to the Aggies and propelled the Lady Vols to their best conference start since going 3-0 in 2017-18.

Ole Miss, which had its first two SEC contests against Arkansas and South Carolina postponed due to COVID protocols, played its first game since Dec. 21 on Thursday. The Rebels took care of Florida in Gainesville, 74-56. UM had 18 steals and caused 25 Gator turnovers, resulting in 26 points off those miscues.

The Lady Vols, who are No. 1 nationally in field goal percentage defense (29.9) and No. 22 in scoring defense (54.2), will face an Ole Miss team that shoots a similar field goal percentage as Texas A&M did, but the Rebels prefer to get to the rim or free-throw line as opposed to shooting threes. UM has hit only 45 treys in 2021-22. Also aggressive defensively, Ole Miss ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense (50.0), 10th in total steals (162) and No. 31 in turnovers forced (21.21).

Comparing schedules, UT and UM both claim victories over a ranked South Florida team. UT topped the (then) No. 23/22 Bulls, 52-49, in Knoxville on Nov. 15, while Ole Miss defeated (then) No. 18 USF, 61-53, at the Palm Beach Invitational on Dec. 21.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Tiffany Greene (play-by-play), Steffi Sorensen (analyst) will be on the call for the SEC Network broadcast.
  • All of the games included in the ESPN package (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU) 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.
  • 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 23rd 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.
  • Air time for games on the Lady Vol Radio Network generally occurs 30 minutes prior to tip-off.

TENNESSEE IN SEC PLAY

  • UT is 417-88 (.826) in SEC regular-season games through Arkansas, winning 18 regular-season championships and capturing 17 SEC tourney titles.
  • Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper is 22-10 in SEC games in her third year on Rocky Top, including 3-0 in 2021-22, and has a 2-2 record in SEC Tourney play.
  • UT tied for third in 2019-20 and finished third outright in 2020-21, marking its best back-to-back outcomes in league play since taking second in 2013-14 and first in 2014-15.
  • The Lady Vols were picked second in the 2021-22 SEC Preseason Media Poll and No. 3 in the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll, marking their best positions since 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively.

ABOUT THE LADY VOLS

  • The Lady Vols are one of the nation’s biggest stories of 2021-22, opening up at 14-1 against one of the NCAA’s toughest schedules despite losing returning starter Marta Suárez for the season to injuries and playing without top returning scorer Rae Burrell for 12 games (injury) and this year’s leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Horston for three (injury/illness).
  • Tennessee picked up its third victory over a ranked team this season on Jan. 6, as the Lady Vols rolled past No. 25/23 Texas A&M in Knoxville, 73-45. UT, which carded four wins over ranked foes last season, only had one ranked win at this point a year ago.
  • The Big Orange women also have victories over No. 23/22 South Florida (52-49) and No. 12/21 Texas (74-70 OT) to their credit and beat an RV/RV Virginia Tech squad, 64-58, all without Rae Burrell playing.
  • Tennessee is led by Jordan Horston, a 6-2 junior guard, who paces the team in scoring (15.1 ppg.), rebounding (9.5) and assists (4.0 apg.) in a breakout season.
  • Horston is second on the team with six double-doubles and has topped UT in scoring seven times.
  • Tamari Key, a 6-6 junior center, is putting up 10.7 ppg. and 9.0 rpg. to go along with 4.3 bpg. She had a triple-double of 10 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks in UT’s 74-70 OT victory over No. 12/21 Texas.
  • After carding a career-best and No. 2 all-time Lady Vol total of 11 swats against Texas A&M, Key’s block average (4.3) currently ranks No. 1 all-time among Lady Vols in a season and she is No. 1 nationally. Key leads Tennessee with seven double-doubles thus far and has scored in double figures in eight of her last 10 games for the best stretch of her career
  • Alexus Dye, a 6-0 forward, is third among active UT players in scoring at 9.9 ppg. She is third in rebounding at 8.3 rpg and has three double-doubles, including a 13/10 effort vs. Arkansas on Sunday.
  • Freshman guard/forward Sara Puckett is UT’s fourth-leading scorer. She is putting up 8.0 ppg. and is shooting 48.9 percent from the field, 35.9 percent on threes and 77.8 percent on free throws and has scored in double figures five times. She got her first career starts vs. UTC and Alabama during Horston’s absence because of illness.
  • After playing 12 minutes at Arkansas, Rae Burrell logged 17 minutes vs. Texas A&M on Thursday night, scoring nine points and adding three rebounds and two steals with the team’s best +/- at 22. Burrell also hit an off-balance buzzer-beating three at the end of the first quarter to cut the Aggie lead to 21-20 entering the second stanza. She now is averaging 7.7 ppg. and hitting 50 percent on field goals.
  • Graduate guard Jordan Walker tallied nine points, five assists, three boards and two steals in 27 minutes vs. A&M, surpassing 1,000 career points between her time at Western Michigan and Tennessee in the victory on Thursday. She now is averaging 7.7 ppg., 3.9 rpg. and 3.5 apg.
  • Graduate forward/center Keyen Green is UT’s seventh player averaging better than 7.0 ppg., contributing 7.2 ppg. and 3.2 rpg. and shooting 58.2 ppg.
  • Tennessee has 10 players averaging double figures in minutes per game, with freshmen Sara Puckett (22.9), Brooklynn Miles (21.5) and Kaiya Wynn (10.0) among them.

THE LADY VOLS IN SEC GAMES THIS SEASON

  • UT is scoring 68.3 ppg. and allowing 50.7. ppg., while shooting 42.1 percent from the field and holding opponents to only 26.8 percent.
  • Tennessee is out-rebounding SEC teams, 50.7 to 38.7 for +12.0.
  • The Lady Vols have limited foes to shooting only 20.5 percent from the three-point arc, including games vs. noted three-ball teams Arkansas and Texas A&M.
  • Jordan Horston (15.0 ppg., 10.0 rpg. and 4.5 apg.), Tamari Key (13.0 ppg., 8.0 rpg. and 7.0 bpg.) and Jordan Walker (12.7 ppg., 5.3 rpg. and 4.7 apg.) have led UT in its first three conference games.
  • Alexus Dye (8.3 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) and Keyen Green (7.7 ppg., 2.7 rpg.) are right behind them. Green is hitting 83.3 percent (10-12) in league games.

LOOKING BACK AT THE LAST GAME

  • No. 7/8 Tennessee rolled to a decisive victory over No. 25/23 Texas A&M on Thursday night, posting a 73-45 win in Thompson-Boling Arena.
  • With three straight SEC wins to open league play, it is UT’s best start in conference action since going 3-0 at the outset of the 2017-18 SEC slate.
  • The Lady Vols (14-1, 3-0 SEC) were led by junior Jordan Horston, who posted a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Junior Tamari Key narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and a career-high 11 blocked shots.
  • Destiny Pitts led the Aggies (10-4, 0-2 SEC) with 12 points and five rebounds. Kayla Wells and Qadashah Hoppie were also in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.

NOTABLES FROM OUR LAST GAME

  • JOJO CROSSES 1K: With 3:42 to go in the second quarter, graduate Jordan Walker scored on a put-back to record her 1,000th career point. Her tally of 1,004 through the Texas A&M game includes 755 in two seasons at Western Michigan and 250 in two years at Tennessee.
  • BIG GAME HORSTON: Junior Jordan Horston has excelled in Top-25 match-ups this season, averaging 22.3 ppg. and 12.3 rpg. against ranked opponents in 2021-22.
  • FROM DOWNTOWWWWN: Tennessee tied its season-high of seven treys against TAMU. Sophomore Tess Darby led that effort, nailing two on 50 percent shooting from behind the arc.
  • DOUBLE-DOUBLE TIME: Jordan Horston recorded her sixth double-double of the season against the Aggies. Tennessee has logged 17 double-doubles on the season and at least one Lady Vol has managed a double-double in 14 of 15 games this season.
  • SHOT SWATTING: Junior Tamari Key blocked a career-best 11 shots against TAMU, ranking second all-time in Lady Vol single-game records behind Kelley Cain’s 12 vs. LSU on Feb. 22, 2010.
  • 20+ POINT QUARTERS: Tennessee tallied 20+ points in each of the first three quarters vs. A&M, giving the Lady Vols 20+ scoring efforts in 15 of their last 20 quarters. UT also has hit 20+ points in five straight contests and in six of the past seven games.

UP NEXT: A TRIP TO MUSIC CITY

  • The Lady Vols will wrap up their two-game stint of road tilts, facing Vanderbilt on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET) at Memorial Gymnasium.
  • The contest is slated to be televised by SEC Network.

UT-OLE MISS SERIES NOTES

  • UT will enter the 59th meeting in the series with a 50-8 edge, including a 23-2 record in games played in Knoxville, a 21-4 mark in Oxford and a 6-2 slate at neutral sites.
  • Tennessee has won 34 of the last 35 meetings with Ole Miss, with the only setback in that sequence coming in Oxford, 67-62, on Jan. 12, 2017.
  • The Lady Vols have won 20 straight over the Rebels in Knoxville, with the last Ole Miss victory (69-65) coming on Jan. 31, 1987, in Stokely Athletics Center.
  • On Jan. 9, 2020, in its last trip to Oxford, Tennessee held a short-handed Ole Miss squad to 28 points, which tied for the third fewest UT has allowed in a game and the fewest by an SEC foe.
  • The Rebels scored only 14 points in the second half of that game, which was the sixth fewest ever tallied in the final 20 minutes by a UT opponent. Ole Miss’ two fourth-quarter points tied for second fewest ever in a quarter by a Big Orange opponent.
  • UT Head Coach Kellie Harper is 5-0 vs. Ole Miss as a head coach, including 4-0 while leading the Lady Vols. Harper took Missouri State to Oxford on Nov. 19, 2015, and came away with a 91-78 victory over the (then) Matt Insell-coached Rebels. Her first UT unit claimed the 84-28 triumph in Oxford on Jan. 9, 2020 in Yolett McPhee-McCuin’s first year.
  • Harper was 6-1 vs. Ole Miss during her playing days at Tennessee from 1995-99.
  • Rae Burrell has scored 14, 17 and 18 points in her last three games vs. the Rebels.
  • Jordan Horston had 13 and 12 points, respectively, last season.
  • As a freshman in 2019-20, Tamari Key tallied 19 points the last time UT played in Oxford.

ABOUT OLE MISS

  • Ole Miss is led by Shakira Austin (13.6 ppg., 8.7 rpg.) and Madison Scott (11.5 ppg., 5.7 rpg.).
  • The Rebels have held opponents to 50.0 ppg. and 34.7 percent shooting on field goals.
  • Ole Miss is averaging 11.6 steals per contest, forcing opponents into 21.2 turnovers per game.
  • The Rebels’ 13 straight wins add up to the third longest winning streak in program history.
  • UM returned 10 letterwinners and all five starters from a squad that made it to the 2021 WNIT Final.
  • UM’s Destiny Salary is a transfer from Tennessee.

ABOUT THE HEAD COACH

  • Ole Miss is led by Yolett McPhee-McCuin, who is 44-58 in her fourth season in Oxford and 138-121 overall in her ninth year as a head coach.
  • “Coach Yo” was 94-63 at Jacksonville University before making the move to the Magnolia State.
  • She has led Ole Miss to one WNIT berth and saw JU play in one NCAA and two WNIT tournaments.

LAST TIME OLE MISS PLAYED

  • In its first contest in over two weeks due to COVID-19 postponements, Ole Miss proved that it’s still one of the hottest teams in the nation, walking away from Exactech Arena with a 74-56 win over Florida Thursday night in its SEC opener
  • A balanced scoring attack from the Rebels (13-1, 1-0 SEC) allowed them to control the Gators (10-5, 0-2 SEC) the final 20 minutes of the night to move to 1-0 in conference play.
  • Shakira Austin led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Madison Scott and Lashonda Monk added 15 and 11, respectively.

WHEN UT AND UM LAST MET

  • The No. 14/16 Lady Vols fended off an upset-minded Ole Miss team in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals in Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 5, 2021, winning 77-72 to advance to the semifinals.
  • No. 3 seed UT (16-6) was led by senior Rennia Davis, who turned in a career-high-tying 33 points and added 14 rebounds to record her sixth-straight game with 20+ points and ninth double-double of the year. Junior Rae Burrell had 18 points and sophomore Jordan Horston added 12.
  • Top scorers for Ole Miss (11-11), the No. 11 seed that had already ousted sixth-seeded #13/13 Arkansas on Thursday, were Donnetta Johnson with 20 points, Shakira Austin with 14, and Jacorriah Bracey with 13.

-UT Athletics

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