UT's Horston, Jackson end Wildcats' SEC tourney run
Greenville, S.C.- No. 3 seed Tennessee (21-10, 13-3 SEC) eliminated No. 14 seed Kentucky, 80-71, in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament on Friday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
UT came out the gate with a great start, shooting close to 60% from the field and 75% from three and Kentucky was unable to dig itself completely out of the hole.
Rickea Jackson posted a season-high 34 points, while Jordan Horston contributed 21 points with seven boards, seven assists and seven blocks.
Robyn Benton led the Wildcats with 20 points and Maddie Scherr tacked on 13, while continuing to be a force on defense with three blocks and four steals.
Tennessee opened the game on a 6-0 run led by Jackson and Horston, causing the Wildcats to call a timeout.
Tess Darby had the hot hand early as she drained three triples in the first quarter, matching the most she has scored in a quarter since Jan.1.
Kentucky was relentless in its repeated attempts to come back all night, and Walker and Scherr came up with timely steals that led to points that enabled the Wildcats to close the gap to 17-15.
The Lady Vols slowed UK's momentum with a 10-2 run to close the quarter, 27-17. This marked the seventh time UT had led by double digits after the first quarter this season.
Defensive pressure from Kentucky picked up as Tennessee went from shooting 58.8% from the field in the first to 23.5% in the second. The Wildcats made a late 11-0 push towards the end of the second frame, and Tennessee went into the break with a 38-30 advantage.
Robyn Benton led the Wildcats in points this season, averaging 16.2 per game, but was held to three in the first half. Benton was held to zero points in the second round of the tourney by Alabama.
She would not be contained much longer as she opened the scoring in the third and tabbed a steal and an assist in the opening minutes. She would end the game with 20 points.
Horston hit multiple mid-range jumpers to score six of the eight Lady Vol points to stretch the lead to 10, 46-36.
Twenty-eight of Kentucky's first 46 points came from Tennessee's turnovers, which totaled 17 by the end of the third. UK wouldn't let up and was able to stay within striking distance, 53-48, heading into the final quarter.
Despite the Wildcats closing the lead to four in the final minute, they were unable to complete the comeback bid.
This was the eighth time this season that Horston recorded at least 10 points, five boards and five assists. No other player in the SEC has done this more than five times.
Jackson logged her seventh straight 20-point game, matching Candace Parker in 2007 for the longest streak by a Lady Vol over the past 20 seasons.
Tennessee moved to 20-1 this season when entering the fourth quarter with at least a five-point lead.
It was the third time this season Kentucky scored 30 points or more off turnovers. But in the end, it wasn't quite enough.
The Lady Vols will face 2-seed LSU in the semifinals of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday, 25 minutes after the conclusion of the Ole Miss-South Carolina matchup.
Kentucky (12-18, 2-14 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament.