KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - In its fourth straight matchup against a ranked opponent, No. 20/22 Tennessee couldn't overcome No. 16/13 Ohio State, falling in Food City Center on Sunday, 78-58.
Senior Destinee Wells was the high scorer for Tennessee (4-4) with 11 points, and junior Sara Puckett was close behind with 10. Junior Jillian Hollingshead pulled down a team-high seven rebounds on the evening.
Ohio State (6-1) was led by Cotie McMahon and Rebeka Mikulášiková with 19 and 18, respectively. Celeste Taylor posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Jacy Sheldon was also in double-digit scoring with 13.
Ohio State was first on the board, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the opening minute. Puckett was first to score for UT, hitting a layup at the 8:38 mark. Mikulášiková countered with a trey on the other end as the Buckeyes went up 9-2, but Tess Darby and Puckett combined for five quick points to have the Lady Vols within a basket two minutes later. OSU responded with an 11-0 run to lead 20-7 with four minutes to go in the first. Puckett then ended the Lady Vol drought with a layup, setting off an 8-0 Tennessee run to send the game into the second period with UT trailing, 20-15.
The Buckeyes stretched their lead to nine in the opening minute of the second before Karoline Striplin hit a pair of free throws and Darby drained a three to have the Lady Vols within four by the 7:05 mark, but six straight OSU points put the Buckeyes on top by 10 with 4:36 to go in the half. UT cut it to nine on two occasions, but Ohio State reeled off an 11-5 run over the final three minutes to set the halftime score at 43-28.
The Buckeyes started the second half with six straight points before a trey by Wells gave UT a spark. Tennessee outscored OSU 11-4 over the next two and a half minutes to pull within 14 at 53-39. Sheldon fired in a three coming out of the media timeout to start a 7-1 burst that had Ohio State ahead by 20 at the 3:06 mark. The teams traded buckets through the end of the period with the Buckeyes taking a 63-44 lead into the final stanza.
Taylor drained a three to push OSU on top by 22 to start the fourth quarter. Ohio State maintained that advantage until back-to-back buckets by Puckett and Hollingshead pulled UT within 18 with 6:19 to play. The Lady Vols drew within 18 twice more before the final buzzer but couldn't get any closer as Ohio State took a 78-58 victory.
TK TAKING STEPS: Tamari Key posted nine points, four rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 16 minutes vs. the Buckeyes, recording season highs in all categories. The 6-foot-6 redshirt senior played twice as many minutes vs. Ohio State than she has in any game all season. That development provided evidence that the school's all-time leader in blocked shots and triple-doubles is making progress in her return from being sidelined last season due to blood clots being discovered in her lungs.
AVERY HITS FIRST TENNESSEE TREY IN RETURN: Avery Strickland returned to action after missing the last four games while in concussion protocol. The sophomore guard/forward from nearby Farragut High School recorded her first three-pointer as a Lady Vol in the final minute of the second quarter against Ohio State and finished with four points and two rebounds in 12 minutes of duty. The 5-foot-10 Strickland, who joined UT from Pitt during the offseason, knocked down 39 treys with 33.9 percent accuracy as a freshman for the Panthers last year.
LADY VOL FANS SHOWING SUPPORT: Tennessee fans packed Food City Center against Ohio State with a season-high attendance of 8,723. It comes on the heels of a previous best of 8,211 fans supporting the Lady Vols vs. Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the ACC-SEC Challenge. Through five home games, UT is averaging 8,206 to rank No. 7 in the nation.
NEXT UP: Tennessee next heads to Huntsville, Ala., for a neutral site game vs. Middle Tennessee on Wednesday. The Lady Vols and Blue Raiders will face off at Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center at 6:30 p.m. CT (7:30 ET). The contest will be streamed on ESPN+.