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HomeSports#4 Tennessee Lady Vols Basketball travels to Auburn, Thursday

#4 Tennessee Lady Vols Basketball travels to Auburn, Thursday

#4 Tennessee (18-1 | 7-0 SEC) at Auburn (8-10 | 0-7 SEC)
Thursday, January 27th, 2022 | 8:02pm CT / 7:02pm CT
Auburn, AL | Auburn Arena

UT Lady VolsKnoxville, TN – No. 4/5 Tennessee women’s basketball (18-1/7-0 SEC) and Auburn (8-10/0-7 SEC) have an appointment for a Thursday contest at 8:02pm ET (7:00pm CT) at Auburn Arena.

The Lady Vols and Tigers will square off for the 59th time in a series that dates back to 1980, with the Big Orange claiming the last six in the series and 15 of the past 16 meetings. This will mark UT’s highest-ranking entering this series match-up since coming in at No. 2/2 and defeating a No. 22/20 AU squad, 85-52, in Knoxville on January 10th, 2008.

The Lady Vols carry several active streaks into Thursday, having won nine straight games this season and nine consecutive SEC contests in a string that began last season on February 25th at Missouri. It’s the longest league-winning spree since UT won 17 in a row spanning the 2013-14 and 2014-15 campaigns. UT also enters with a seven-game road win streak that originated at Missouri a year ago, marking the longest such spree of the Harper era and the longest by the Lady Vols since an eight-game run from January 2nd to February 24th, 2011.
 
Tennessee is coming off a 63-55 road win at No. 13/13 Georgia on Sunday, with UT bouncing back from nine down in the second quarter to taste victory. In doing so, it overcame the absence of starter Tess Darby due to illness, foul trouble to Tamari Key and a season-ending injury to Keyen Green to remain unbeaten. It marked the 16th time in 19 games that Tennessee held its opponent to 60 points or fewer and the 18th time in 19 contests UT has out-rebounded its foe, including double-digit margins in 15 of those.

Auburn, which will be playing its third game in five days, enters the Tennessee game on a seven-game losing streak, dropping all of its SEC match-ups after entering league play with an 8-3 non-conference record. After falling at home vs. Alabama, 75-68, on Sunday, Auburn played a rescheduled game (COVID protocols) with Kentucky on Tuesday night. The Tigers challenged, but the Wildcats prevailed, 67-55.

AU has shown some bite this season, however, taking down No. 18 Georgia Tech in Atlanta, 59-51, on Nov. 21 and losing in overtime to a solid Missouri squad, 72-63, on January 6th.

Broadcast Information

Lyn Rollins (play-by-play) and Auburn women’s hoops coaching legend Joe Ciampi (analyst) will have the call for the SECN+ live stream.

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 John Wilkerson filling in for Mickey Dearstone behind the microphone. Wilkerson will be 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.

Lots Of Connections In This One

This year’s Tennessee squad features three players who hail from the state of Alabama, two coaches who spent their childhood there, and two more coaches who worked at Auburn.

Graduate Alexus Dye calls Birmingham home, while freshmen Sara Puckett and Karoline Striplin come from Muscle Shoals and Hartford, respectively.

Striplin’s parents were student-athletes at Auburn, with dad Jim Bob playing football and mom Karie playing softball there.

UT assistant Samantha Williams was born in Luverne, AL, before later moving to Louisville, Ky., while Joy McCorvey is from Brewton, AL, and graduated from T.R. Miller High School.

Head coach Kellie Harper spent two years from 1999-2001 on Joe Ciampi’s staff at Auburn (admin. asst., then assistant coach), while Jon Harper graduated from Auburn and spent three seasons as a practice player, manager, and intern for Ciampi from 1996-99.

Samantha Williams played for the Tigers and Ciampi from 1992-96, connecting with Jon Harper during that time and facing off against UT as a senior in  1995-96 when Kellie was a freshman Lady Vol.

UT Lady Vols Projected For No. 1 Seed

In his Bracketology update on January 25th, ESPN’s Charlie Creme still has Tennessee as a No. 1 seed in the Wichita Region. The Lady Vols are shown hosting No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round, with the winner facing No. 8 Kansas or No. 9 UCF.

ESPN has the Big Orange at No. 3 in its January 24th Women’s College Basketball Power Rankings.
 
The NCAA NET Rankings show UT ranked No. 6 through January 24th, while the NCAA Toughest Schedule report had the Lady Vols at No. 13 (cumulative opposition).
 
RealTimeRPI.com has UT at No. 3 in RPI as of January 24th with a calculation of .7056 and No. 5 in the strength of schedule.

First NCAA Bracket Reveal Thursday

The NCAA Committee will share its first projected women’s tournament bracket of 2021-22 on Thursday night (1/27), highlighting the current top 16 seeds who can earn the right to host if they remain among those seeds when the official bracket is announced on Sunday, March 13th.

The first reveal will take place at halftime of Thursday’s South Carolina/Ole Miss game, which tips at 5:00pm CT on ESPN.

Additional halftime reveals are scheduled for February 10th (South Carolina vs. Kentucky, 6:00pm CT, ESPN) and February 28th (Baylor vs. Iowa State, 6:00pm CT, ESPN2).

The first and second rounds take place on March 18th-21st, with First Four games slated for March 16th-17th.

Tennessee is vying to host for the first time since the 2017-18 season.

UT Climbs To No. 4/5 In Polls

After opening the year ranked No. 15/12, the Lady Vols have climbed to a season-high perch of No. 4 in the AP Poll released on January 24th and hit a best of No. 5 in the January 25th USA TODAY/WBCA Coaches Poll.

That is the highest combination of rankings since the Lady Vols were No. 4/5 in the November 23rd and 24th polls of the 2015-16 campaign.

UT began that 2015-16 season at No. 4 in each poll and stayed there for two more weeks in the AP Top 25 but was relegated to No. 5 in the coaches poll the following two polling periods.


Tennessee Lady Vols In SEC Play

UT is 421-88 (.827) in SEC regular-season games through Georgia, winning 18 regular-season championships and capturing 17 SEC tourney titles.

Tennessee Head Coach Kellie Harper is 26-10 in SEC games in her third year on Rocky Top, including 7-0 in 2021-22, and has a 2-2 record in SEC Tournament play.

UT tied for third in 2019-20 and finished third outright in 2020-21, marking its best back-to-back outcomes in league play since taking second in 2013-14 and first in 2014-15.

The Lady Vols were picked second in the 2021-22 SEC Preseason Media Poll and No. 3 in the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll, marking their best positions since 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively.

About the Tennessee Lady Vols

The UT Lady Vols continue to be one of the nation’s biggest stories of 2021-22, opening up at 18-1, sitting atop the SEC standings, and climbing to No. 4 in the AP Poll against one of the NCAA’s toughest schedules despite losing returning starter Marta Su├írez for the season to a lower leg injury and playing without top returning scorer Rae Burrell for 12 games (leg injury) and this year’s leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Horston for three (lower leg injury/illness).

Burrell and Horston are back in form, but the Lady Vols lost another player for the season on January 23rd, when key reserve Keyen Green suffered a left knee injury vs. Georgia. Tess Darby, who missed the Georgia game due to COVID protocols, returned to practice on January 25th and will be active on Thursday.

Tennessee picked up its fifth victory over a ranked team this season on January 23rd, as the Lady Vols came from nine down to defeat No. 13/13 Georgia in Athens, 63-55. UT recorded four wins over ranked foes the entire 2020-21 campaign and had only one ranked win in 2019-20.

The Big Orange women also have victories over No. 23/22 South Florida (52-49), No. 12/21 Texas (74-70 OT), No. 25/23 Texas A&M (73-45) and No. 19/20 Kentucky (84-58) to their credit and beat RV/RV Virginia Tech (64-58) and RV/RV Ole Miss (70-58) on the road this season.

Tennessee is led by Jordan Horston, a dynamic 6-2 junior guard, who paces the team in scoring (15.4 ppg.), rebounding (9.8) and assists (4.0 apg.) in a breakout season for the player who came out of high school ranked No. 2 overall and the No. 1 guard in the 2019 espnW HoopGurlz 100. 

Horston leads the Lady Vols with nine double-doubles and has topped UT in scoring 10 times, including double-doubles in four of her last five games.
 
Tamari Key, a 6-6 junior center, is putting up 10.1 ppg. and 8.4 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.
 
Key, rated No. 47 as a prep by espnW, is second on the team with seven double-doubles thus far and has scored in double figures in 11 of 19 games for the Lady Vols. She leads the nation in blocked shots (73) and is second in bpg. (3.84), sitting in UT’s single-season top 10 for the third time at No. 8 with 73 swats in only 19 contests. She also ranks fifth (86, 2019-20, 31 games) and ninth (72, 2020-21, 25 games) on that list.

Alexus Dye, a 6-0 forward, is third among active UT players in scoring at 9.9 ppg. She is third in rebounding at 7.9 rpg and has three double-doubles, including a 13/10 effort vs. Arkansas most recently. The graduate transfer from Troy has scored in double figures nine times.

Senior All-SEC First Team preseason pick Rae Burrell (7.2 ppg.) has seen action the past six games (12/17/12/16/24/33 minutes) after missing the previous 12 contests due to a leg injury suffered in the opener vs. Southern Illinois. She has hit double figures the past three games, hitting 10+ for the first time since November 10th, tallying 11 at Vanderbilt, 14 vs. Kentucky and 13 vs. Georgia. Burrell knocked down all four three-point attempts in the win over UK and was five of eight overall from the field.

Freshman guard/forward Sara Puckett is UT’s fifth-leading scorer. The No. 43 espnW prospect coming out of high school is putting up 7.4 ppg. and is shooting 49.1 percent from the field, 34.8 percent on threes, and 77.8 percent on free throws, and has scored in double figures five times. She got her first career starts vs. UTC and Alabama during Jordan Horston’s absence because of illness.

Graduate guard Jordan Walker, who had 10 points and six boards vs. Kentucky, is Tennessee’s sixth-highest scorer, putting up 7.3 ppg., while tallying 3.8 rpg. and 3.3 apg. to rank fourth and second for UT in those categories.

Tess Darby was three of six from the arc vs. UK in her last outing, adding to Rae Burrell’s four treys and one each from Jordan Horston, Sara Puckett, and Jordan Walker to give Tennessee a season-best 10 for that game.

The UT Lady Vols have limited unranked opponents to 29.8 field goal percentage this season, including 23.2 from the three-point arc, and have given up only 52.6 points per contest.

UT is out-rebounding unranked foes by 19.1 this season, 50.4 to 31.3.

Over its last three games, Tennessee is shooting 70.9 percent from the free throw line, with Jordan Walker hitting seven of nine (77.8), Rae Burrell going 10 of 13 (76.9) and Jordan Horston canning seven of 10 (70.0).


Tennessee Notes During SEC Play

Kellie Harper‘s squad is the only remaining undefeated team in league play, standing at 7-0, and ties with South Carolina for the best overall record of any league team at 18-1.

UT is scoring 69.6 ppg. and allowing 53.4 ppg., while shooting 42.3 percent from the field and holding opponents to only 30.5 percent on field goals.

Tennessee is out-rebounding SEC teams 49.6 to 36.3 for a +13.3 margin.

The UT Lady Vols have limited foes to shooting only 19.2 percent from the three-point arc, including games vs. noted three-ball teams Arkansas and Texas A&M.

UT is dishing out 14.4 assists per contest while allowing only 9.6 apg. for opponents.

Jordan Horston (16.0 ppg., 10.3 rpg. and 4.2 apg.), Tamari Key (9.9 ppg., 6.9 rpg. and 4.3 bpg.), Alexus Dye (9.3 ppg., 7.0 rpg.) and Jordan Walker (8.7 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 3.3 apg.) have led UT in its first seven conference games.

Key is shooting 66.7 percent from the floor and has blocked 30 shots already.

Rae Burrell has elevated her playing time and productivity, averaging 8.5 ppg. and shooting 43 percent from the field, including 42 percent from the arc.

Over her past three games, Burrell is producing 12.7 ppg. and shooting 50 percent from the field, 80 percent on threes, and 77 percent from the free-throw line. She got her first start since November 10th on January 23rd at Georgia, putting up 13 points and leading UT in +/- at 14.

Also worth noting, Tess Darby (6.7 ppg.) is 12 of 28 on threes (42.9) during league play, and Rae Burrell is five of 12 (41.7).

Freshmen Brooklynn Miles (19.7) and Sara Puckett (18.4) are seeing significant minutes per game in SEC play for Tennessee.


Looking Back At The Last Game

The No. 5/6 Lady Vols picked up their fifth AP Top-25 win of the season on Sunday afternoon, defeating No. 13/13 Georgia in Stegeman Coliseum, 63-55.  

Tennessee (18-1/7-0 SEC), the only team undefeated in conference play, is enjoying its best start to a season since the 2007-08 campaign when the squad started 22-1 en route to SEC and NCAA championships. Its league beginning this year is the program’s finest since starting 13-0 in 2014-15.

The Big Orange women have now reeled off nine straight wins in 2021-22 and nine straight conference wins, dating back to last season. They also won their seventh straight SEC road contest, with their last setback coming last season at Georgia.

Junior Jordan Horston turned in her ninth double-double of the season and fourth in five games to lead Tennessee with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Rae Burrell was also in double digits with 13.

Jenna Staiti was the high scorer for UGA (15-4, 4-3 SEC) with 16, while Que Morrison was close behind with 14.

Notables From UT Lady Vols Last Game

Horston Gonna Hoop

Jordan Horston continues to have her best games in the biggest moments, averaging 19.8 ppg. and 11.2 rpg. over Tennessee’s six contests against opponents ranked in the Top 25.

TK Making Moves

With five blocks against Georgia, Tamari Key moves her career total to 231 and season total to 73. She has now surpassed Kellie Cain to rank third in career blocks and makes her third appearance in UT’s single-season records, checking in at eighth. She already owns fifth with 86 blocks as a freshman and ninth with 72 blocks as a sophomore.

She’s Baaaack

After missing 12 games due to injury, Rae Burrell re-entered the starting lineup against Georgia and finished with 13 points to wind up as UT’s second-leading scorer. She has now logged three straight double-digit games, having turned in 14 points against Kentucky and 11 at Vanderbilt.


Comeback Kids

Tennessee overcame a nine-point deficit against Georgia, tying for its second-largest comeback of the season (South Florida). UT has now trailed before pulling off the win in 17 of 19 games.

Tennessee-Auburn Series Notes

Tennessee holds a 47-11 all-time record vs. Auburn, dating back to February 9th, 1980, and has won 31 of the last 34 games in the series.

The Lady Vols are 23-2 vs. the Tigers in games held in Knoxville, 15-5 in games played at Auburn, and 9-4 at neutral sites.

UT has won in 16 of its last 18 trips to The Plains after getting a “W” there on February 28th, 2021.

During her freshman season and in Tennessee’s last trip to Auburn Arena, Jordan Horston hit a runner in the lane with 0.6 left on the game clock to give the Lady Vols a 56-55 victory.

UT is 2-0 vs. AU in overtime games, winning extra-frame contests in Knoxville vs. the Tigers in 1996 and 2004.

Tennessee has limited Auburn to 66 points or fewer 14 of the last 16 times they’ve met and to 61 or less on 11 of those occasions.

Tennessee and Auburn played for the 1989 NCAA Championship in Tacoma, WA, with the Lady Vols prevailing, 76-60.

Tennessee also beat the Tigers in regional finals in 1987 and 1991 en route to NCAA Final Fours they would end up winning.

UT and AU four times played for SEC Tourney titles from 1985 to 1990, with the Lady Vols winning three of those (1985, 1988, 1989).
 
Chamique Holdsclaw scored a career-high 39 points vs. the Tigers on February 14th, 1998, marking the sixth-highest point total in Lady Vol history.
 
Kellie Harper is 3-2 all-time vs. Auburn, defeating the Tigers the past two seasons as UT’s coach and in 2012 while at NC State. She was 0-2 vs. AU (with Nell Fortner at the helm) while leading Western Carolina.

About The Auburn Tigers

Auburn is led by the trio of Aicha Coulibaly (17.7 ppg., 8.2 rpg.), Honesty Scott-Grayson (12.5 ppg.), and Sania Wells (10.3 ppg.).

Despite its record, AU has a win at #18 Georgia Tech and an overtime loss against a solid Missouri club.

About Auburn Head Coach Johnnie Harris

Johnnie Harris is in her first season at Auburn after spending last year as the associate head coach at the University of Texas following 16 years combined at Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State.

She was instrumental in MSU’s success before following Vic Schaefer to Austin last year.

Last Time The Tigers Played

Auburn rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit to take a lead in the final five minutes, but the Tigers were held off by a late 17-2 Kentucky run in a 67-55 loss Tuesday night at Auburn Arena.

Aicha Coulibaly recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds, both team highs. She also paced Auburn with four steals. Honesty Scott-Grayson scored 10 points, all in the second half.

UK’s Rhyne Howard scored 12 of her 29 points in the final four-plus minutes to seal the win.

When UT And AU Last Met

The No. 20/21 Lady Vols closed out the regular season with a dominant win over Auburn on February 28th, 2021, racing to an 88-54 victory in Thompson-Boling Arena on Senior Day.

With the triumph, Tennessee (15-6, 9-4 SEC) finished third in league play and locked up the No. 3 seed for the SEC Tournament.

Tennessee was led by senior Rennia Davis, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds in her final game on The Summitt. Fellow senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah also had a big day, turning in a career-high 19 points and added eight rebounds.
 
Additionally for UT, sophomore Tamari Key posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore Jordan Horston narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with 12 points and a career-high-tying nine assists. Junior Rae Burrell was also in double digits, ending the day with 14 points and four assists.
 
Alaina Rice was the high scorer for Auburn (5-18, 0-15 SEC) with 11 points, and Unique Thompson and Alycia Reese each finished with 10.

Next Up For UT Lady Vols Basketball

The Tennessee women’s basketball team returns home and welcomes Arkansas to Knoxville for a Monday night (January 31st) primetime tilt on SEC Network at 6:00pm CT.

That contest is the first of a three-game week, with road battles looming at Florida on Thursday (5:00pm CT/SECN+) and UConn (in Hartford) on Sunday (Noon, FOX).

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