KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee improved to 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play on Sunday, defeating Georgia 68-55 in front of a season-best crowd of 9,772 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Debuting their Summitt Legacy series Summitt Blue uniforms, the Lady Vols (14-6, 6-0 SEC) won their seventh straight game and claimed victory for the 12th time in their last 14 contests, remaining in a tie for first place in the league standings. The triumph also was the 50th home win for Kellie Harper as head coach at her alma mater.
Senior Rickea Jackson was the game’s high scorer with 23 points. Junior Tess Darby was also in double digits for Tennessee (14-6, 6-0 SEC), tying her season high of 16. Graduate Jordan Walker dished out eight assists for the second straight game, tying her season high set at Texas A&M.
UGA (13-7, 2-4 SEC) was led by Brittney Smith and Diamond Battles with 14 and 12, respectively. The Lady Bulldogs were limited to 30.2 percent shooting from the field and suffered an 0-for-14 afternoon beyond the arc, becoming the first team since LSU (0-for-4) on Feb. 2, 2017, to be held without a three-pointer by the Big Orange.
Darby kicked the game off with a three on UT’s first possession, as the Lady Vols opened the contest on a 7-0 run. Georgia’s first points came from the free-throw line at the 6:28 mark, but eight straight points had Tennessee on top 15-2 a minute and a half later. Audrey Warren scored UGA’s first field goal with 2:47 left in the first, and Chapman cut UT’s advantage down to single digits with a pair of free throws, but the Lady Vols closed out the period with 6-2 run to lead 21-8 at the end of the first.
The Lady Bulldogs opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run to pull within seven until a 3-pointer by Sara Puckett put Tennessee back on top by double figures with 6:38 to go in the half. Horston and Jackson followed that up with seven unanswered points to fuel a 10-0 run that gave the Lady Vols a 31-14 lead by the 1:40 mark. Battles hit a jumper on the next play to end the skid for Georgia, and Tennessee maintained its 15-point margin through the buzzer, leading 33-18 at the break.
Walker hit a three as the shot clock was winding down on UT’s first possession of the second half, and Darby and Karoline Striplin followed it up with treys on consecutive plays to open the third with a 9-2 Lady Vol run. The Lady Bulldogs came out of a timeout and scored four quick points, but Darby answered with her third 3-pointer of the game to give Tennessee a 45-24 lead with 7:27 left in the quarter. UT maintained a 21-point lead through the 3:13 mark when five straight points by UGA cut the deficit to 18. The teams traded free throws until the closing minute, when Georgia closed out the quarter with back-to-back buckets to send the game into the last frame with the Big Orange leading 55-39.
Both teams struggled to find the basket at the beginning of the fourth, with neither team scoring until Smith hit a second-chance layup two minutes in. Darby drained her fourth trey of the game a minute later to stretch UT’s lead back to 17. The Bulldogs whittled the deficit down to 12 by the midway point of the period, but two and a half minutes later the Lady Vols were back up by 18. Georgia strung together an 8-3 run to close out the game, but UT held on to a double-digit lead, winning 68-55.
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols will have a rematch with Florida on Thursday, hosting the Gators in a 6:30 p.m. ET contest that will be streamed on SECN+. The game is Tennessee’s annual We Back Pat event.
DARBY ON A ROLL: Tess Darby drained four threes on the en route to a season-high-tying 16 points. She has now finished in double figures five times this season, with four of those coming in conference play. It’s also the 12th contest in which she’s hit multiple treys and the eighth time she has made three or more this season.
COUNT ON ‘KEA: With 23 points against Georgia, Rickea Jackson logged her eighth 20+ point performance of the season and fifth during SEC play. She is now averaging 22.7 ppg. against conference foes through six games.
JOJO DROPPING DIMES: Jordan Walker matched her season high with eight assists vs. Georgia on Sunday. It marked the second straight game with eight dimes for the graduate guard, as she also dropped that same number on Texas A&M on Thursday night in College Station.
UT DEFENSE SET THE TONE EARLY: For the third straight game and sixth time this season, Tennessee held an opponent to a single-digit point total in the first quarter. UT held Georgia to eight on Sunday after limiting Vanderbilt to nine and Texas A&M to seven over the previous two contests. The Big Orange didn’t allow the Lady Bulldogs to score a field goal until the 2:59 mark of the first stanza.
PUTTING UP 20 IN A QUARTER: Tennessee tallied 21 points in the first period and 22 in the third frame, running its total of quarters with 20 points or more this season to 37 out of a total of 80.