No. 11 Lady Vols stay perfect with 64-58 win over Virginia Tech
BLACKSBURG, Va. (UT Athletics) – No. 11/10 Tennessee pulled off a gritty win in Cassell Coliseum on Sunday, defeating Virginia Tech 64-58 to remain unbeaten and card the finest opening to a season in Kellie Harper’s 18-year career.
UT overcame a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 14-3 run over the final 5:38 to end the Hokies’ 63-game home win streak against non-conference opponents. It also kept the Lady Vols perfect on the season at 8-0, with the program starting with that record for only the seventh time in the past 20 years.
Tennessee was led by graduate guard Jordan Walker, who went four of four from behind the arc to tally 17 points, and freshman guard/forward Sara Puckett, who logged a career-high 15. Junior center Tamari Key turned in her fifth double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds, adding five blocks to boost her average just above four per contest.
The Hokies fell to 7-2 on the season and were led by guard Aisha Sheppard, who tallied 30 points, and Georgia Amoore, who finished with 12.
Sheppard hit two treys to put VT up 6-2 two minutes into the game, but Walker answered with a three on the other end, and graduate forward Alexus Dye knocked down a jumper on the next possession to give UT its first lead of the game at 7-6 by the 6:21 mark. Walker hit a jumper to add to Tennessee’s tally, but Emily Lytle tied it up with a 3-pointer with 3:26 left in the quarter to set off a 10-0 Hokie run. Walker fired in her second trey of the game with 54 seconds on the clock to end the UT drought and send the game into the second quarter with Tennessee trailing 16-12.
Amoore opened the second period with a long jumper to stretch the VT lead to 18-12, but Puckett answered with a bucket on the other end, the first of seven points she would score over the span of three minutes to fuel a 10-0 Lady Vol run. Elizabeth Kitley ended the run with a jumper to push the score to 22-20 by the media timeout, but following the break Key scored on a put-back to move the Lady Vols ahead 24-20 with 3:00 remaining in the half. Walker hit her third trey of the game before halftime, while VT managed five points to cut the Lady Vols’ lead to two, 27-25.
Dye stretched UT’s margin to four to start the second half, but VT reclaimed the lead less than two minutes later, going up 30-29 off a Sheppard three and launching into a 13-4 run to lead 40-33 by 2:26 mark. Graduate forward/center Keyen Green hit a layup with 1:32 left, and the Lady Vols outscored the Hokies 6-2 in the closing seconds to pull within three, starting the final stanza behind, 42-39.
Tennessee forced a turnover to start the fourth quarter, and Puckett turned it into two points on the fast break to pull the Lady Vols within one. Key hit a reverse layup on the next possession to move UT ahead 43-42, but Cayla King responded with a trey to put the Hokies back ahead by two with 8:23 left on the clock. Key tied the game up with another layup before King was fouled on a made 3-pointer and converted on the four-point play to put VT up by four with 7:36 to go.
Walker nailed her fourth trey of the game 40 seconds later to get UT within one, but Sheppard scored six straight points to give the Hokies a 55-48 advantage with just over six minutes to play. The Lady Vols continued to scrap, holding VT scoreless while getting the ball inside to Key and Puckett who combined for eight straight points to put UT up by one with four minutes to go. Jordan Horston followed it up with back-to-back jumpers before Amoore knocked down a three to trim the UT lead to 60-58 at the 1:29 mark. That, however, would be the last bucket Tech would hit, as Tennessee closed out the game with a 6-0 run to claim a 64-58 victory.
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols return to Knoxville for a five-game homestand, beginning with Georgia State on Dec. 12. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. ET and be streamed on SECN+.
HAVE A DAY, JOJO: Jordan Walker dropped a team-high 17 points on six of 10 shooting, including four of four from behind the arc, while also dishing out five assists on the day. It was the highest point total she has posted as a Lady Vol.
SHOT BLOCKING: Junior Tamari Key swatted five shots against the Hokies, moving her career total to 191. She sits at No. 7 all-time, trailing Michelle Snow by three and Mercedes Russell by four.
DOUBLING UP: With Key recording her fifth double-double of the season, Tennessee has nine double-doubles on the season and at least one Lady Vol posting one in every contest.
HARPER COMES FULL CIRCLE: Tennessee leads the all-time series against the Hokies 8-2 but had suffered two straight losses coming into today’s game. Kellie (Jolly) Harper was the point guard of the last Tennessee team to defeat VT, when No. 2/2 UT took a 68-52 win over No. 13/15 Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16 on March 20, 1999.