#16 Tennessee (21-6 | 10-4 SEC) vs. Mississippi State (15-11 | 6-8 SEC)
Thursday, February, 24th, 2022 | 5:32pm CT
Knoxville, TN | Thompson-Boling Arena
Knoxville, TN – The no. 16/14 Tennessee women’s basketball team (21-6/10-4 SEC) and Mississippi State (15-11/6-8 SEC) will meet on Thursday at 5:32pm CT at Thompson-Boling Arena, marking the first contest between the programs since February 6th, 2020.
The teams were slated to play on February 16th, 2021, in Starkville, but a winter storm that stranded the Lady Vols in Houston following a contest at Texas A&M also hit the Magnolia State and prevented the Bulldogs from hosting and UT from even traveling to the MSU campus. The game was never made up.
Tennessee enters the week tied for third in the SEC standings with Florida at 10-4, with LSU a game better in second place at 11-3. At stake for the Big Orange is a top-four seed and double-bye to Friday at the SEC Tournament in Nashville on March 2nd-6th.
Kellie Harper‘s squad, which has been impacted severely by injury this season, has lost three players who were returning starters from a year ago (Jordan Horston, Keyen Green, Marta Suárez) and played through a 12-game stretch without preseason All-SEC First Team pick Rae Burrell. Horston’s return is to be determined.
The short-handed Lady Vols are coming off a valiant effort at No. 1/1 South Carolina on Sunday, battling the Gamecocks and cutting the deficit to eight in the fourth quarter before falling, 67-53. Despite the reduced roster, UT held USC to 4.4 points below its season scoring average and tallied two points more than Gamecocks opponents were producing.
Mississippi State is dealing with a limited roster of its own, utilizing only seven players in a 76-66 loss at Missouri on Sunday. The Bulldogs knocked off a talented Ole Miss squad at home on February 13th, 70-59, but they have lost the last three contests by 10 or more points in a brutal four-game stretch over seven calendar days.
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. He will be joined by studio host Bobby Rader.
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.
Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Title IX.
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Where Tennessee Stands
After opening the year ranked No. 15/12, the Lady Vols climbed to No. 4 in the January 24th AP Poll and hit a best of No. 5 in the January 25th USA TODAY/WBCA Coaches Poll. This week, they stand at No. 16 in the AP Poll and No. 14 in the Coaches Poll.
In his Bracketology update on February 22nd, ESPN’s Charlie Creme has Tennessee as a No. 4 seed in the Bridgeport Region. The Lady Vols are shown hosting No. 13 Belmont in the first round with No. 5 Iowa or either No. 12 DePaul or Boston College serving as a potential Second Round foe.
The NCAA NET Rankings show UT ranked No. 17 through February 21st, while the NCAA Toughest Schedule report had the Lady Vols at No. 10 (cumulative opposition).
RealTimeRPI.com has UT at No. 4 in RPI as of February 22nd with a calculation of .6678 and No. 5 in strength of schedule.
Home Sweet Home
This is the 35th season that the Tennessee women’s and men’s basketball teams have called Thompson-Boling Arena their home, and the Lady Vols own a remarkable 489-51 record (.906) in the venue.
The UT Lady Vols have built a combined 642-75 (.895) home mark in contests played at Thompson-Boling Arena, Stokely Athletics Center, and Alumni Gym.
Kellie Harper is 37-6 overall, 19-3 vs. non-conference foes, and 18-3 in SEC play in games played on The Summitt through the match-up with Vanderbilt.
Tennessee ranks No. 7 nationally in average home attendance through 14 contests at 7,502.
About UT Lady Vols Basketball
Tennessee has dealt with way more than its fair share of injuries in 2021-22. While the Lady Vols were able to overcome some of their misfortunes, they are in the process of trying to move past yet another setback.
The most recent misfortune occurred with 1:45 remaining in UT’s contest at Alabama on February 17th, when national awards candidate and statistical load-bearer Jordan Horston suffered a fractured dislocation of her left arm while diving for a loose ball.
Horston became the third front-line Tennessee player to suffer a serious injury and the fourth to miss an extended period of action in a season that stood at 18-1 after the road victory over Georgia on January 23rd.
In the fourth quarter of that contest against UGA, reserve forward/center and team leader Keyen Green (7.0 ppg., 3.2 rpg.) was lost for the year due to a knee injury.
While UT was able to hold on and defeat the Bulldogs in that game, it subsequently dropped three out of their next four games by substantial margins, revealing just how vital Green was to the team. UT was able to finally get back on the winning track vs. Missouri and Vanderbilt before suffering back-to-back defeats at Alabama and No. 1 South Carolina.
Marta Suárez, a 6-2 guard/forward (4.1 ppg., 3.6 rpg.), another glue-type player for this program, already was sitting out the year due to an injury, so Green’s loss even more severely affected Tennessee’s depth.
UT’s top returnee, preseason All-SEC pick Rae Burrell, suffered a knee injury in game one and missed 12 games before gradually working her way back into the lineup. Her 11.0 ppg., 3.1 rpg. stat line is well shy of last season’s 16.8 ppg., 4.6 rpg. productivity, but she is seemingly recapturing her groove.
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.
Prior to her injury, Tennessee was led statistically by Jordan Horston, a dynamic 6-2 junior guard, who paced the team in scoring (16.2 ppg.), rebounding (9.4), assists (4.0 apg.), and steals (1.4) in a breakout season for the five-star player who came out of high school ranked No. 2 overall and the No. 1 guard in the 2019 espnW HoopGurlz 100.
Horston, who made the top 10 list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award and watch lists for the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award, leads the Lady Vols with 12 double-doubles and has topped UT in scoring 15 times. She has seven games of 20 or more points.
Senior All-SEC First Team preseason pick Rae Burrell (11.0 ppg., 3.1 rpg.) has seen action the past 14 games after missing the previous 12 contests due to a leg injury suffered in the opener vs. Southern Illinois. She has hit double figures in nine of the past 11 games, hitting 10+ for the first time since November 10th with 11 at Vanderbilt on Jan. 13 and carding a season-high 21 vs. Arkansas on January 31st. Over her last three games, Burrell is producing 14.0 ppg. and 3.7 rpg.
Tamari Key, a 6-6 junior center, is putting up 10.0 ppg. and 8.1 rpg. to go along with 3.7 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 nine double-doubles thus far and has scored in double figures in 14 games for the Lady Vols. She leads the nation in blocked shots (99) and is second in bpg. (3.67), sitting in UT’s single-season top 10 for the third time at No. 2 (tied with Candace Parker) with 99 swats in 27 contests. The member of the Lisa Leslie Award Top 10 also ranks sixth (86, 2019-20, 31 games) and ninth (72, 2020-21, 25 games) on that list.
Alexus Dye, a 6-0 forward, is fourth among UT players in scoring at 8.7 ppg. She is third in rebounding at 7.1 rpg and has three double-doubles, including a 13/10 effort vs. Arkansas. The graduate transfer from Troy, who is among the Katrina McClain Award Top 10, has scored in double figures 11 times, including an 11-point effort vs. Missouri.
Graduate guard Jordan Walker, who had 11 points vs. South Carolina, is Tennessee’s fifth-highest scorer, putting up 7.9 ppg., while tallying 3.9 rpg. and 2.8 apg. to rank fourth and second for UT in those categories.
Freshman guard/forward Sara Puckett is UT’s sixth-leading active scorer. The No. 43 espnW prospect coming out of high school is putting up 6.8 ppg. and is shooting 45.3 percent from the field, 31.8 percent on threes, and 76.2 percent on free throws and has scored in double figures six times, including a critical 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in the win over Arkansas on January 31st.
Sophomore Tess Darby has emerged this season as Tennessee’s leading long-distance threat, connecting on 37 of 100 attempts (37 pct.). Sara Puckett (31.8) and Jordan Walker (29.0) have hit 21 and 20 treys, respectively.
No Place Like Home
UT is outscoring opponents 75.6 to 56.6 (+18.9) at home this season and outshooting them from the field 42.6 to 32.0.
Tennessee is out-rebounding foes 51.6 to 34.4 (+17.2).
The Lady Vols block 6.7 shots per game at home, and Tamari Key swats 4.3 per contest on The Summitt.
UT has a 1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Knoxville, dishing out 243 dimes vs. 217 miscues over 14 contests thus far.
Jordan Walker leads the way with 52 assists while committing only 26 turnovers in home contests and tops UT in steals with 16.
Rae Burrell is 12 of 13 (92.3) on free throws at home.
Alexus Dye is averaging 9.9 ppg. and 7.2 rpg. while shooting 46.3 from the field at T-BA.
It’s Not Easy Being (Without) Green
Tennessee’s loss of Keyen Green has had a ripple effect for the Lady Vols. Her absence is reflected in details even more valuable than the 7.0 ppg., 3.2 rpg. and 55.3-percent field goal shooting she provided off the bench. Her presence made her team stronger and everyone around her better.
UT was 18-1 in games played before it was announced she was lost for the season and is 3-5 since then.
The Lady Vols were +17.1 (71.5-54.5) in scoring margin with Green and are -14.8 (74.2-59.3) without her available.
The Big Orange had given up 70 only twice (70-Texas, 74-Stanford) before she was lost and has surrendered 70 five times in the last eight games (including +80 twice). UT is 20-1 when it holds teams to 70 points or fewer this season, holding No. 1/1 South Carolina to 67 but scoring only 53 of its own.
UT was +16.1 (50.4 to 34.3) in rebound margin before her injury and is -1.7 (41.7 to 40.0) after.
Tennessee was shooting 42.4 percent with her and is hitting 34.9 percent with her sidelined.
Tennessee Notes During SEC Play
Kellie Harper‘s squad is tied for third place in the SEC standings with Florida at 10-4.
With Jordan Horston’s 16.3 ppg., 9.5 rpg. and 4.0 apg. averages in SEC play now sidelined by injury, Tennessee is led by Rae Burrell (10.9 ppg., 3.2 rpg.), Tamari Key (10.1 ppg., 7.6 rpg.) and Jordan Walker (9.2 ppg., 4.1 rpg. and 2.8 apg.).
Tennessee is scoring 68.0 ppg. (5th) and allowing 61.9 ppg. (3rd), while shooting 40.8 percent (7th) from the field and holding opponents to only 34.9 percent (2nd) on field goals in SEC contests.
Tennessee is out-rebounding SEC teams 47.1 (2nd) to 36.7 (6th) for a +10.4 margin (2nd).
The Lady Vols have limited SEC foes to shooting only 25.1 percent (2nd) from the three-point arc.
Key is shooting 58.8 percent from the floor vs. SEC foes (not enough attempts to qualify for rankings) and has blocked 55 shots for a 3.93 blocks per game average to lead the SEC.
Key is second behind Aliyah Boston in offensive rebounds per game at 3.6.
Also worth noting, Tess Darby (5.6 ppg.) is 21 of 46 on threes (45.7) during league play and is 12th at 1.62 makes per game.
UT is 9-1 in SEC games this season in which it holds opponents to 70 points or fewer.
Recapping Tennessee’s Last Game
Junior Tamari Key turned in a double-double with 10 points and 10 blocks and two other Lady Vols scored in double figures against No. 1/1 South Carolina, but despite a gutsy effort No. 12/8 Tennessee fell in Colonial Life Arena on Sunday, 67-53.
South Carolina (25-1, 13-1 SEC) was led by Aliyah Boston with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Destanni Henderson and Brea Beal also added double-digit efforts with 12 and 11, respectively.
Notables From UT Lady Vols’ Last Contest
Key Making Moves
Tamari Key blocked 10 shots against the Gamecocks, moving her career total to 257 and season total to 99. She passes Sheila Frost to rank second all-time in career blocks at Tennessee, trailing Candace Parker by 18.
She also moves into a tie for second place in the single-season records with Candace Parker (99) and creeps within 14 of No. 1 Kellie Cain. Key’s block total marked the seventh time during her career she has had seven or more.
Dey Picking Up The Slack
In the absence of UT’s leading rebounder, Jordan Horston, Alexus Dye pulled down a team-high 11 boards against USC, leading UT in rebounding for the fifth time this season and setting a new personal SEC high.
UT-MSU Series Notes
This marks the 45th meeting between the Lady Vols and Mississippi State, with UT possessing a 37-7 record in the series.
UT is 16-3 vs. MSU in Knoxville, 17-2 vs. the Bulldogs in Starkville, and 4-2 at neutral sites.
State has a 1-0 record in overtime games between these programs, winning a 65-63 affair in Starkville on January 29th, 2016.
UT and MSU have met six times in the SEC Tournament, with the Lady Vols owning a 4-2 record.
Until this season, MSU has been the higher-ranked team in the past eight games, with a 7-1 edge over UT in those contests.
This will mark Kellie Harper‘s second meeting with Mississippi State as a head coach, and she stands 0-1.
Harper was 5-0 as a Lady Vol player vs. MSU from 1995-96 to 1998-99
Tennessee’s last victory over the Bulldogs came when unranked UT triumphed on #3/2 MSU’s 2017 senior day, 82-64, with Jaime Nared registering a career-high 30 points to lead the Big Orange siege.
Tennessee suffered its first-ever loss to the Bulldogs on January 28th, 2016, when #13/13 MSU came from 12-down in the fourth quarter to force OT and defeat the #19/23 Lady Vols in Starkville, 65-63.
About the Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State is led in scoring by former UT and Middle Tennessee standout Anastasia Hayes (18.8 ppg.) and Jerkaila Jordan (13.6 ppg.).
Hayes scored 26 points for Middle Tennessee in the 2021 NCAA First Round vs. Tennessee in Austin, Texas, but the Lady Vols defeated MT, 87-62.
Only seven MSU players competed vs. Missouri.
About Mississippi State Head Coard Doug Novak
MSU is led by interim head coach Doug Novak, who was elevated to the top role after former head coach Nikki McCray-Penson stepped down.
He spent eight seasons as head coach of the men’s hoops program at Bethel University (Minn.).
A 1990 graduate of UT and a four-year member of the tennis team, Novak helped the Vols to a No. 1 ranking and runner-up NCAA finish in 1990.
Last Time Mississippi State Played
Mississippi State, playing its fourth game of the week, fell on the road to Missouri, 76-66, on Sunday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.
The Bulldogs made it close late, tying the game at 55 with 6:10 to play before Missouri went on an 8-0 run to take control of the contest.
The Bulldogs were led offensively by Caterrion Thompson, who scored a team-high 21 on 9-of-14 shooting. She was 3-of-6 from behind-the-arc. Anastasia Hayes was the only other Bulldog in double figures, adding 14.
All seven Bulldogs who played scored on Sunday after Ashley Jones found the bottom of the net in the final frame.
When UT And MSU Last Met
The No. 23/25 UT Lady Vols took a lead into the second quarter but couldn’t hang on, falling to No. 8/8 Mississippi State on February 6th, 2020, in Thompson-Boling Arena, 72-55.
Sophomore Rae Burrell led Tennessee (17-6, 7-3 SEC), scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 boards to record a double-double in her first career start. Freshman Jordan Horston and sophomore Jazmine Massengill were also in double digits with 12 and 11, respectively, as the Lady Vols played without leading scorer Rennia Davis (18.1 ppg.), who was recovering from a bout with the flu.
Rickea Jackson was Mississippi State’s (21-3, 9-1 SEC) high scorer, tallying 14 points and nine rebounds. Chloe Bibby added 13.
Next Up For UT Lady Vols Basketball
UT will play its final contest of the regular season at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday.
Tennessee welcomes LSU to town for a Senior Day matinee at 2:00pm CT on ESPN2
Big Orange Nation also will have a chance to salute Voice of the Lady Vols Mickey Dearstone, who announced on February 22nd he will retire at the end of the season after 23 seasons as the program’s featured radio announcer.