Vols persevere in scrappy Senior Day victory vs. Auburn
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Lady Vols took an 83-76 victory over a scrappy Auburn squad on Sunday in front of a crowd of 9,039 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
The win is UT's 20th of the season, marking the program's 46th 20-win campaign. Head coach Kellie Harper carded her 10th 20-win campaign, including three in four seasons on Rocky with the 2020-21 total of victories limited by canceled contests due to COVID-19.
Prior to the game, Tennessee recognized seven Lady Vols in a Senior Day ceremony. Rickea Jackson, Jordan Horston, Tamari Key, Jessie Rennie, Jasmine Powell, Jordan Walker and Jasmine Franklin were all recognized at half court for their contributions during their Big Orange careers.
Tennessee (20-9, 12-2 SEC) was led by Jackson, who poured in 27 points, hitting an impressive 12 of 15 shots from the floor. Horston also put up big numbers with 19 points and eight rebounds, while junior Tess Darby knocked down a season-best five three-pointers to tie her career high of 17 points.
Honesty Scott-Grayson was the leading scorer for the Tigers (14-12, 4-10 SEC) with 23 points on the day. Aicha Coulibaly turned in 15 points, and Sania Wells and Romi Levy each finished with 10.
The Lady Vols jumped out to a 4-2 lead off buckets by Karoline Striplin and Jackson, but Auburn took its first lead three minutes into the game at 6-4 off a fast-break layup. Thirty seconds later a trey by Darby put Tennessee on top 9-8, and four straight points by Jillian Hollingshead stretched that margin to five by the 5:21 mark. The Tigers responded with an 11-0 run set off by a long-range two-pointer by Wells to lead 19-13 with 2:33 to go in the first. A pair of free throws by Hollingshead and a three by Darby pulled UT back within one, but AU outscored Tennessee 5-2 in the final minute to own a 24-20 advantage at the end of one.
Jackson scored the first points of the second period, and Darby followed it up with her third trey of the game to reclaim the lead for UT at 25-24. Tennessee turned that momentum into an 11-0 run to go ahead 31-24 with 6:35 left in the half. Coulibaly ended the drought for Auburn with a layup, but Horston answered with a layup on the other end, and Tennessee maintained its seven-point advantage until the last 30 seconds of the half when a pair of free throws by Mar'shaun Bostic pulled AU within five for a halftime score of 39-34.
Coulibaly and Horston opened the second half with two straight buckets for their respective teams, and Auburn crept within three points off a pair of free throws by Wells before Darby responded with five points on back-to-back buckets to give UT a 48-40 cushion by the 6:45 mark. Two and a half minutes later, the Tigers reclaimed the lead, going up 51-50 off an 11-2 run fueled primarily by Kharyssa Richardson. The Lady Vols bounced back with six straight points by Jackson that jumpstarted an 8-0 run that put Tennessee ahead 58-51 with a minute left in the third. Five quick points by Coulibaly trimmed UT's lead down to two, but Powell scored the last two points of the period from the free-throw line to send the game into the fourth with the Big Orange on top, 60-56.
Jackson stretched UT's lead to six with a bucket 11 seconds into the final stanza, but a 3-pointer by Wells had the Tigers back within three a minute later. The Tigers would pull within three again at the 4:14 mark, but that's as close as they'd get as Jackson and Horston combined for 22 of UT's 23 fourth-quarter points to lead the Lady Vols to an 83-76 victory on Senior Day.
DYNAMIC DUO: Rickea Jackson and Jordan Horston were UT's top scorers, finishing with 27 and 19, respectively, to produce 46 of UT's 83 points. Twenty-two of those points came in the fourth quarter and were crucial to securing the victory. One of the two has now led Tennessee in scoring in 26 of 29 games this season.
COUNT ON 'KEA: With 27 points against Auburn, Rickea Jackson logged her fourth straight game with 20+ points, 12th of the season, the ninth in SEC play, and notched her 25th double-digit effort of 2022-23, the 13th time against an SEC opponent.
DARBY FROM DISTANCE: With a season-high five made threes against Auburn, Tess Darby tied her career-best effort from beyond the arc and logged her 10th game of the season with three or more treys. That moved her career total of made threes to 114, pulling within 19 of catching Sidney Spencer to land among the top 10 career totals in program history.
TESS HEATING UP: Tess Darby tied her career high of 17 points against Auburn to land in double figures for the fourth straight game. It is her ninth double-digit performance of the season, with eight of those coming in SEC play. She is averaging 7.8 ppg. on the season but 9.9 ppg. in conference games and 13.0 ppg. over the last four contests.
JP WITH CLUTCH ASSISTS: Jasmine Powell dished out a season-high-tying eight assists against the Tigers, recording her 13th game this season with four or more dimes. The senior has now led the Lady Vols in assists in 12 contests this season and is averaging 3.2 apg.
OFFENSIVE ONSLAUGHT: Tennessee is averaging 86.5 points per game over its last four outings, generating nine scoring outputs of 20+ points in the last 12 quarters of action, including three 20-point stanzas vs. Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Auburn. UT reached 83 points on Sunday via 56.0-percent shooting, which was its second highest of the season.
The Lady Vols will play their final regular-season home game of the season on Thursday, hosting South Carolina in a 7 p.m. ET matchup that will be broadcast on ESPN.