#7 Tennessee (17-12/8-8 SEC) vs. #10 Arkansas (12-17/7-9 SEC)
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016 | 6:01pm ET/5:01pm CT
Jacksonville, FL | Veterans Memorial Arena
Knoxville, TN – The No. 7 Lady Vols (17-12, 8-8 SEC) will open up the SEC Tournament with a matchup against No. 10 Arkansas (12-17, 7-9 SEC) at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville on Thursday at 6:00pm ET/5:00pm CT on SEC Network and available via WatchESPN.
The state of Florida and city of Jacksonville are hosting their first-ever SEC women’s tourney. This marks the 31st meeting between these schools, their third bout this season, but the very first time they have played one another in the SEC Tournament.
Tennessee enters Thursday’s game with a 75-19 (.806) all-time record in the previous 36 years of the SEC Tournament.
UT has advanced to the title game the past two seasons, winning in 2014 as a #2 seed, 71-70, over #4 Kentucky and falling as a #2 seed to #1 South Carolina, 62-46, a year ago.
The Big Orange women are 20-3 in SEC Tournament play since 2007-08.
Holly Warlick has forged a 6-2 record in SEC Tournament games as a fourth-year head coach, including 1-1 in title games.
Can UT Win It as a No. 7 Seed?
Tennessee will enter the SEC Tournament as a No. 7 seed, marking the program’s lowest spot. UT has twice been seeded No. 5 in the league tourney, advancing to the semifinal round in 1997 and 2009 before Auburn squads ended its run.
The 1997 squad lost to a No. 9 Auburn unit in the semis, 61-59, before the Tigers went on to edge Florida for the title, 52-47. That No. 9 seed AU squad is the lowest seeded team to ever win the SEC Tournament.
No. 6 Vanderbilt won in 2004, while No. 4 Texas A&M and LSU captured crowns in 2013 and 1991.
Since the league expanded to a 14-team tournament format in 2013, No. 6 Kentucky in 2015 is the only occasion where a team outside the top four seeds made it to the semifinal round.
Shyra Ely-Gash is UT’s 2016 SEC Legend
Shyra Ely-Gash is Tennessee’s 2016 SEC Women’s Basketball Legend, and the Lady Vol All-American will be honored at the SEC Tournament. Ely-Gash will be recognized at halftime of UT’s second-round contest vs. Arkansas and at halftime of the first semifinal game on Saturday.
A 6-foot-2 forward from Indianapolis, Indiana, Ely-Gash averaged 12.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest in 139 career games, leading UT to four NCAA Final Fours, three SEC regular season titles and an SEC Tournament championship.
Big Orange Tailgate Tour
The UT Office of Alumni Affairs will be taking its Big Orange Tailgate Tour to Jacksonville, FL, for the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament. The event will feature trivia, door prizes, and plenty of Lady Vol fans! No reservations required.
Headquarters will be Jacksonville Sports Tavern, which is located next to Jacksonville Veterans Arena at 234 A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. The first event is contingent on a UT win over Arkansas but would take place 3:00pm-5:00pm on Friday.
If UT advances, the next BOTT events would be Saturday (2:00pm-4:00pm) and Sunday (11:30an-1:30pm) in the same location.
About the UT Lady Vols
Tennessee enters Thursday’s contest fresh off arguably its best full-game performance of the season at Sunday’s Senior Day game in Knoxville. The Lady Vols burst out to a 22-4 first-quarter and never looked back en route to an 80-60 victory over Georgia (21-8/9-7).
It was quite a welcome development for a team that had dropped two straight on the road (LSU, Alabama) and had lost three of its last four. The win lifted UT to 8-8 in league play and paved the way for the Big Orange women to avoid a 10th-place finish and climb up to the No. 7 seed.
Diamond DeShields shook off the funk of two scoreless games in her last three outings by firing in 22 points and pulling down seven rebounds. It was her sixth 20+ effort of the season. Freshman Te’a Cooper also was spot on, connecting for 21 points on the afternoon for her second game above 20 points.
Bashaara Graves posted her eighth double-double of the season and 29th of her career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Graves is 11 rebounds shy of 1,000 for her career and of becoming only the fifth player in Lady Vol history to record 1,000 points and rebounds.
Bashaara Graves also scores in double figures at 10.4 per game, while Russell is just off 10 at 9.9.
The Lady Vols have played a brutal slate this season, facing what the NCAA ranks as the No. 1 toughest strength of schedule in the nation. Tennessee is 25th in the NCAA’s March 1st RPI.
The winner of the Tennessee-Arkansas game will meet #2 seed Texas A&M (21-8/11-5) in the quarterfinal round at 6:00pm on Friday. SEC Network will have the telecast. NCAA Selection Monday will be held on March 14th at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.
UT vs. Arkansas this Season
These teams split a pair of games this season, with Arkansas winning at home, 64-59, and Tennessee winning on its own court, 75-57. UT had an 11-point lead in the game it lost in Fayetteville.
Holly Warlick reached milestone win No. 100 in the victory over the Razorbacks on February 4th, becoming just the 17th NCAA Division I women’s basketball head coach to reach 100 wins in her first four seasons.
Diamond DeShields is averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds vs. Arkansas this season in two games. Mercedes Russell is posting a double-double vs. the Razorbacks in two contests, averaging 12.5 points and 11.0 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 75% from the field. Bashaara Graves did not play in the win in Knoxville but was 3 of 5 (60%) from the field in Fayetteville during UT’s loss to UA.
UT has a +10 average rebounding margin this season vs. Arkansas. The Lady Vols committed a season-high 24 rebounds in the loss on January 14th and cut that in half in the win on Feb. 4.
About the Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas enters the tourney on the heels of a 60-49 victory over Ole Miss on Sunday, but the Razorbacks have dropped three of their last five games.
Star forward Jessica Jackson connected on 10 of 14 free throws and finished with 17 points, as UA erased a 13-point first quarter lead and beat the Rebels by 11. Jackson is the only Arkansas player to score in double figures for the season, tallying 16.6 points per contest and grabbing 6.3 rebounds.
That scoring average by Jackson ranks third in the SEC this season. In two games vs. Tennessee, Jackson is averaging 21.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, hitting five of 12 three-pointers and nailing 12 of 14 free throws.
Devin Cosper also has played well for the Razorbacks vs. UT, averaging 14 ppg. in a pair of games vs. the Big Orange.
The Razorbacks are 11-24 in the SEC tourney. Jimmy Dykes is 30-31 in his second season of leading the Razorbacks.
The Series vs. Arkansas
Tennessee holds a 27-3 all-time record vs. Arkansas, dating back to February 29th, 1992, when UT prevailed, 105-59, in the initial meeting. The Lady Vols are 13-1 in Knoxville, 13-2 in Fayetteville and 1-0 at neutral sites. Tennessee is 1-0 in overtime and 1-0 in the postseason vs. UA, but these squads have never met before in the SEC Tournament.
That all changed on January 15th, 2016, however, when Arkansas erased an 11-point UT halftime lead and defeated the Lady Vols in Fayetteville, 64-59, to snap the streak.
UT’s only setback to the Razorbacks in Knoxville came at Thompson-Boling Arena on Feb. 23, 2012, when Arkansas walked away with a 72-71 overtime victory and ended an 18-game Lady Vol winning streak in the series.
Tennessee avoided such a slip this season, avenging an earlier loss to the Razorbacks with a 75-57 triumph in Knoxville on February 4th, 2016.
Tennessee, currently unranked, had been ranked in the top 25 in all 30 prior meetings with Arkansas, while the Razorbacks had been ranked in just five meetings.
Television | SEC Network
Play by Play: Paul Sunderland
Analyst: Carolyn Peck
Reporter: Steffi Sorensen
Radio | Lady Vol Network
Play by Play: Mickey Dearstone
Sirius XM: (Sirius 145/XM 190/Online 963)
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