KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — No. 7/8 Tennessee (13-1/2-0 SEC) returns to Thompson-Boling Arena to take on No. 25/23 Texas A&M (10-3/0-1 SEC) on Thursday at 6:32 p.m. ET.
These teams were picked either second or third in the preseason SEC media and coaches polls, with UT getting the No. 2 nod from the media and A&M getting it from the coaches.
Kellie Harper‘s squad enters on a four-game winning streak since suffering its only loss of the season on Dec. 18 to (then) No. 3 Stanford, 74-63, in Knoxville. The Lady Vols, who are No. 1 nationally in field goal percentage defense, will face a second-straight team that favors the three-ball, with the Aggies ranking No. 1 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (42.1) with 101 makes thus far.
UT comes off a game in which it held a hot-shooting Arkansas squad to an 8-of-40 day beyond the three-point arc (20.0 pct.), and it will be tasked with slowing a similar arsenal on Thursday evening. Tennessee rode its defense, rebounding and offensive surges in the first and fourth quarters to a 70-63 road win against the Razorbacks on Sunday in Fayetteville. A 25-15 edge in the final frame overturned a three-point UA lead entering the last 10 minutes.
The Big Orange, which had played since Nov. 10 without Rae Burrell due to injury, welcomed the senior back into the mix at Arkansas. Also back was Jordan Horston, who was out the previous two contests due to illness. Burrell came off the bench and hit her first shot and finished with two points in 12 minutes, while Horston contributed 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes.
Texas A&M, which has lost three of its past five contests and did not play between Dec. 20 and Jan. 2, returned to action on Sunday and fell on the road at LSU, 75-66. The Tigers limited their visitors to 10-of-31 shooting (32.3) from beyond the arc and 32.9 percent overall, and outrebounded A&M, 49-39.
The Aggies’ first loss of the year came on Dec. 5 at home vs. Texas, a squad the Lady Vols toppled in overtime on Nov. 21, 74-70. The other setback came at TCU on Dec. 12, 87-75.
Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair, in his 19th year in College Station and his 37th overall as a head coach, announced prior to the 2021-22 campaign that he will retire at the end of this season, so this could be his final visit to Thompson-Boling Arena at the helm of a program.
- Courtney Lyle (play-by-play), Carolyn Peck (analyst) and Steffi Sorensen (reporter) 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.
- Knox County School Day: Donate two new school supplies and receive one complimentary ticket. All donations benefit the Knox County Schools Supply, supporting local teachers and education.
- Flex Pack: Get admission to five games vs. SEC opponents, with prices starting at $24 at AllVols.com.
- Free parking and free shuttle service from the Ag Campus (Lot CF near Brehm & Food Science Bldgs.).
- For additional details and information, please call 865-974-1734 or visit the Fans tab on UTSports.com and click on the Fan Experience link.
UT IN TOP EIGHT IN BOTH POLLS
- The Lady Vols are ranked No. 7 and 8 in the Jan. 3 and 4 AP and USA TODAY/WBCA Coaches Polls, respectively.
- UT remained No. 7 for the fourth straight AP polling period and climbed to a season high of eighth in the USA TODAY/WBCA Poll.
- That is the highest combination of rankings since the Lady Vols were No. 6/7 the week of Jan. 18 in 2018.
ABOUT THE LADY VOLS
- The Lady Vols are one of the nation’s biggest stories of 2021-22, opening up at 13-1 against one of the NCAA’s toughest schedules despite losing returning starters Rae Burrell (12 games) and Marta Suárez (season) to injuries and with Jordan Horston missing three games, including those on Dec. 27 vs. Chattanooga and Dec. 30 vs. Alabama due to illness before returning against Arkansas on Sunday.
- Burrell also made her long-awaited return vs. Arkansas (3:03, 1Q), playing 12 minutes and finishing with two points after nailing her very first shot attempt in the first quarter at the 2:10 mark.
- Tennessee is led by Horston, the 6-2 junior guard, who paces the team in scoring (14.8 ppg.), rebounding (9.2) and assists (4.0 apg.) in a breakout season.
- Horston is second on the team with five double-doubles and has topped UT in scoring six times.
- Tamari Key, a 6-6 junior center, is putting up 10.9 ppg. and 9.2 rpg. to go along with 3.8 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 and her block average currently ranks No. 1 all-time among Lady Vols in a season and she is No. 1 in the nation with 54 total blocks. Key leads Tennessee with seven double-doubles thus far and has scored in double figures in eight of her last nine games for the best stretch of her career
- Alexus Dye, a 6-0 forward, is third among active UT players in scoring at 10.1 ppg. She is third in rebounding at 8.4 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 8.1 ppg. and is shooting 48.3 percent from the field, 34.2 percent on threes and 77.8 percent on free throws and has scored in double figures in five of her past nine contests. She got her first career starts vs. UTC and Alabama during Horston’s absence.
- Graduate guard Jordan Walker, graduate forward/center Keyen Green and senior guard/forward Rae Burrell follow at 8.1, 7.6, 7.4 and 7.0 ppg.
- Tennessee now has 11 players averaging double figures in minutes per game, with freshmen Sara Puckett (23.7), Brooklynn Miles (21.5), Kaiya Wynn (10.3) and Karoline Striplin (10.1) among them.
- Point guards Jordan Walker and Brooklynn Miles have been UT’s most secure regulars with the ball, accumulating 48/25 and 34/25 assist-to-turnover totals.
- Eleven different players have scored in double figures this season, including eight who have done so in multiple games.
- Tennessee scores 71.7 points per game, with 39.4 of that coming in the paint.
- UT is getting 25.4 points per game from its bench.
- In SEC play, Keyen Green is shooting 88.9 percent from the field, while Tamari Key is hitting at a 52.9 clip. Key is averaging 15.0 ppg., 9.0 rpg. and 4.0 bpg. to lead Tennessee in conference action.
- Jordan Walker is putting up 14.5 ppg. in SEC games, connecting on 47.6 of her field goal attempts, including 40 percent on threes, and 77.8 percent from the charity stripe. She has nine assists vs. only three turnovers thus far.
- In the NCAA Tournament with her previous team vs. Texas A&M last season, Alexus Dye tallied a game-high 26 points and pulled down 11 boards in Troy’s near upset of the Aggies.
EVOLVING OVER THE PAST FIVE GAMES
- Over the past five games, three Lady Vols are averaging double figures in points, including juniors Tamari Key (13.0) and junior Jordan Horston (12.7), and graduate Alexus Dye (11.8).
- Even with Rae Burrell on the shelf for most of that time, Tennessee has seven more players averaging better than four points and three rebounds per contest, including graduates Keyen Green (9.2 ppg./3.4 rpg.) and Jordan Walker (8.4/4.4), and freshmen Sara Puckett 8.2/3.4) and Karoline Striplin (7.3/4.3).
- Freshmen Brooklynn Miles (4.2/3.2) and Kaiya Wynn (4.0/3.8), and sophomore Tess Darby (4.0/3.8) also are part of that seven.
- During that stretch, UT has a scoring margin of +23.6 (79.6-56.0), a rebounding margin of +15.2 (51.2-36.0) and 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio (98-75). UT also is shooting 45.4 percent from the field while allowing only 28.6 percent by its opponents.
- Those numbers are even more impressive when one considers Jordan Horston missed two contests due to illness and Rae Burrell remained sidelined until appearing for 12 minutes vs. Arkansas.
- The Lady Vols had at least one player record a double-double in the first 11 games this season and now in 13 of 14 contests, led by Tamari Key with seven (including a triple-double), Jordan Horston with five, Alexus Dye with three and Kaiya Wynn with one.
- That gives Tennessee 16 total double-doubles this year, surpassing the 2020-21 total of 13 in only 11 contests in 2021-22.
- The 11-game streak, which was both a season-opening UT record and an overall program best, came to an end vs. UTC. Karoline Striplin (12/9) and Alexus Dye (15/8) were oh-so-close to continuing the run.
GOOD AT BEING GRITTY
- UT has shown itself to be a tough, gritty team, coming from behind in 11 games to win.
- The Lady Vols have bounced back from deficits in the fourth quarter five times this season to taste victory (Southern Illinois, South Florida, Texas, Va. Tech, Arkansas).
- UT also came from 20-down in the second quarter vs. No. 3/3 Stanford, cutting the deficit to three in the second half with a 17-0 run spanning the second and third periods before eventually falling to the Cardinal.
- An example of UT’s resolve can be found in its ability to score 20 or more points in fourth quarters, doing so the past four games and in nine total contests this season.
LOOKING BACK AT THE LAST GAME
- No. 7/9 Tennessee picked up a hard-fought win on the road on Sunday, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks, 70-63, at Bud Walton Arena.
- Tennessee (13-1, 2-0 SEC) had five players in double figures, with junior Tamari Key leading the team with 17 and graduate Alexus Dye recording a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Graduate Jordan Walker finished with 13, junior Jordan Horston had 12 and graduate Keyen Green rounded out the scoring with 11.
- Amber Ramirez was the leading scorer for Arkansas (10-4, 0-1 SEC) with 26, while Makayla Daniels had 11.
- The Lady Vols won their fourth straight game and posted their best record through 14 contests since opening 15-0 in 2017-18. The Razorbacks dropped their second straight game.
NOTABLES FROM OUR LAST GAME
- DOUBLE-DOUBLES CONTINUE: Graduate Alexus Dye recorded her third double-double as a Lady Vol with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Tennessee has managed 16 double-doubles on the season with at least one UT player recording a double-double in 13 of 14 contests.
- DEFENSE ON POINT: UT held the Razorbacks to a field goal percentage of just 30.3 percent, almost 11 percent below their season average of 43.2 percent. Tennessee has held all 14 foes in 2021-22 to 36 percent shooting or below and 10 of 14 opponents to 31 percent or lower. Tennessee ranks No. 1 in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense at 30.2 percent.
- RAE RETURNS: Senior Rae Burrell returned to the court for her first game action since suffering a lower leg injury in the season opener vs. Southern Illinois on Nov. 10. She made her debut in the Arkansas game with 3:03 left in the first quarter and hit her first bucket at the 2:10 mark. She played 12 minutes on the day and finished one of two from the field.
- DROPPING 20s: After tallying 20 in the opening stanza vs. Arkansas, Tennessee has scored 20+ first-quarter points in its last four games and in five of its last six contests. The Lady Vols had no 20-point first-frame efforts through their first eight contests this season. UT also has accumulated 12 20-point quarters in its last four games, including four vs. ETSU and UTC, and two vs. Alabama and Arkansas.
- RALLYING THE TROOPS: Tennessee overcame an eight-point Arkansas lead in the third quarter and recorded its 11th come-from-behind win of the season. UT also overcame a three-point fourth-quarter deficit to card its fifth final-frame comeback of the year.
UP NEXT: ON THE ROAD FOR TWO
- The Lady Vols will hit the road for their next two contests, visiting Ole Miss on Sunday at noon CT (1 ET) and Vanderbilt on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT (9 ET).
- Both of those contests are slated to be televised by SEC Network.
UT-TAMU SERIES NOTES
- Tennessee holds an 8-7 all-time record vs. Texas A&M, dating back to Dec. 19, 1997.
- UT is 3-2 in Knoxville, 1-4 in College Station and 4-1 at neutral sites vs. the Aggies.
- The Big Orange women are 6-7 vs. hall-of-fame coach Gary Blair and A&M since the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference.
- The Lady Vols will be looking to halt a three-game series losing streak, in which A&M was the higher ranked team on all three occasions. UT is above the Aggies in the polls this year.
- Kellie Harper is 0-3 vs. Texas A&M and Gary Blair. Her 2015-16 Missouri St. team fell, 74-65, in College Station on March 19, 2016, in the NCAA First Round. UT suffered a two-point home loss (73-71) on Feb. 16, 2020, and lost, 80-70, on the road on Feb. 14, 2021.
- A&M is 2-0 in overtime games vs. UT, with both of those taking place in College Station.
- In the initial meeting between these teams in Knoxville, on Feb. 28, 2013, Tennessee defeated A&M, 82-72, on Senior Day to give UT an SEC regular-season championship on the Lady Vols’ home court. Tennessee had been picked to finish as low as fifth in the league and returned no starters.
- Tennessee made its first-ever women’s basketball appearance in College Station on Jan. 26, 2014, and the (then) #11/12 Lady Vols picked up a key victory over the (then) #17/15 Aggies, 76-55. A&M was the SEC leader at the time of that defeat.
- UT’s first two contests vs. Texas A&M came in tournaments, including one regular-season event in 1997-98 and one postseason event during the 2007-08 campaign.
- In the first meeting, the #1/1 Lady Vols rolled to a 105-81 victory over the Aggies at the Northern Lights Invitational in Alaska in game two of a three-game stay.
- The famed “Three Meeks” dazzled #8/9 A&M on Dec. 19, 1997, as Chamique Holdsclaw tallied 29, Semeka Randall tossed in 23 and Tamika Catchings added a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds for #1/1 UT in the high-scoring affair.
- Kellie (Jolly) Harper was UT’s point guard in that game, and she was the Lady Vols’ fourth player in double figures with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a pair of three-pointers.
- In 2008, Candace Parker scored 26 points and Alexis Hornbuckle chipped in 14, as the Lady Vols defeated Texas A&M, 53-45, in the Oklahoma City Regional Final to advance to the Final Four in Tampa.
- After both of those tourney wins over the Aggies, the Lady Vols would advance to, and win, the NCAA Final Four in 1998 and 2008. Incidentally, UT also beat Arkansas in the 1998 NCAA Final Four semifinal when Gary Blair was then coach of the Razorbacks.
ABOUT TEXAS A&M
- Texas A&M is led in points per game by the dynamic guard trio of Kayla Wells (17.1), Jordan Nixon (13.9) and Destiny Pitts (11.4).
- The Aggies have hit 17, 30 and 30 three-pointers this year to pace the nation’s No. 1 team in three-point field goal percentage (42.1). Qadashah Hoppie has fired in 18 treys of her own to add to A&M’s season total of 101. UT has 57 by comparison.
ABOUT THE HEAD COACH
- Gary Blair is in his 19th year at Texas A&M and 37th season overall as a head coach, owning records of 440-173 in College Station and 848-336 combining stops at Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and A&M.
- Blair has led his teams to 27 NCAA appearances, two NCAA Final Fours and one NCAA title (2011). His 1998 Arkansas team met UT in the Final Four.
LAST TIME TEXAS A&M PLAYED
- Alexis Morris scored a career-high 30 points and No. 19 LSU defeated No. 23 Texas A&M 75-66 on Sunday in Baton Rouge.
- Morris was 9-of-16 shooting with four 3-pointers. Khayla Pointer hit four threes and scored 17 points, while Jailin Cherry added 10.
- Destiny Pitts tossed in 18 points with four 3-pointers and had 11 rebounds for the Aggies (10-3), the defending SEC regular-season champs. Qadashah Hoppie added 16 points and Kayla Wells 13.
- The Aggies came in leading the nation at 43.5% from the 3-point line but made only 10-of-31 against LSU and shot 33% overall.
WHEN UT AND A&M LAST MET
- No. 16/19 Tennessee pulled within one late in the fourth but couldn’t overcome a No. 6/5 Texas A&M team that shot 63 percent from the floor in the final quarter and also hit 17 of 22 free throws in that period, falling 80-70 in Reed Arena on Feb. 14, 2021.
- Senior Rennia Davis led UT (12-5, 6-3 SEC) with 25 points. Sophomore Tamari Key turned in her second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Rae Burrell added 18 points, while Kasiyahna Kushkituah had 10 boards and eight points.
- Destiny Pitts was the high scorer for Texas A&M (19-1, 10-1 SEC) with 18 points, and Jordan Nixon was close behind with 15. Aaliyah Wilson and Kayla Wells turned in 13 points apiece, and Ciera Johnson added 10.