Returning stars help No. 7 Lady Vols to SEC road win
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (UT Athletics) – No. 7/9 Tennessee picked up a hard-fought win on the road on Sunday, taking down the 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 added 11.
UT went right to work, winning the tip before Walker found Key breaking to the bucket for an open layup in the opening seconds. That layup would be the first of four straight baskets the Lady Vols scored in the paint, stretching their lead to 8-0 less than two minutes into play. Ramirez scored Arkansas’ first points with a trey on the next possession, but Walker responded with a three of her own on the other end, and a pair of free throws by Horston stretched UT’s lead to 10 by the 6:21 mark. The Razorbacks would trim that lead down to four two and a half minutes later, and the Lady Vols would maintain that margin until Jersey Wolfenbarger hit a free throw to cut the score to 20-17 at the end of the quarter.
Green scored the first points of the second period with a layup, before Daniels hit a 3-pointer to pull UA within two. Green scored again on the next possession, kicking off a 9-0 UT run that put the Lady Vols up by 11 with 7:37 left in the half. Four straight points by Ramirez and Wolfenbarger, however, set off a 14-2 Razorback run that gave Arkansas its first lead of the game at 34-33 with 1:18 on the clock. Walker hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to give UT a 35-34 halftime lead.
UA reclaimed the lead to start the third, scoring on back-to-back possessions before Dye dropped in a layup to cut the deficit to one. A pair of free throws and a trey by Elauna Eaton put the Razorbacks up 43-37 by the media break, but Green answered by knocking down a contested jumper in the lane following the timeout. Five straight points by Ramirez would give UA an eight-point lead with just over two minutes left in the period, but the Lady Vols responded, closing out the third with a 5-0 run to pull within three at 48-45.
Tennessee continued its run with three straight points to start the final stanza, tying it up at 48-all less than a minute into the fourth. Samara Spencer hit her first trey of the game on the next play, but Tennessee rallied back with back-to-back layups by Dye and Walker to reclaim the lead at 52-51. Ramirez countered with another 3-pointer, but Key converted on an old-fashioned three-point play to put UT back up by one with 5:51 left in the game. She went on to stretch the lead to three off a pair of free throws before Ramirez again tied it up with a trey on the other end. The Lady Vols built their lead up to six by the 2:04 mark with an 8-2 run, going four of five from the free-throw line during that span. The Razorbacks crept within three off a three-point play by Spencer with 41 seconds remaining, but Walker came up with a layup on the other end, and the Lady Vols added two free throws in the closing seconds to make the final score 70-63.
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols return home for a Top-25 matchup against #23/17 Texas A&M. The game will tip at 6:30 p.m. ET and be broadcast on SEC Network.
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 an injury in the season opener vs. Southern Illinois on Nov. 10. She played 12 minutes and converted on one of her two shots to add two points to the victory.
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 effort 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, 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.