Lady Vols basketball started Thursday’s game aggressive and in control.
Then South Carolina’s defense happened.
Tennessee’s nine-point lead after the first quarter wouldn’t hold, and the No. 1 Gamecocks steadily built a lead over the next two quarters. The Lady Vols were trailing by 18 points going into the last quarter and never recovered.
South Carolina defended its undefeated record and left Thompson-Boling with a 73-60 win over Tennessee (20-10, 12-3 SEC). The Gamecocks clinched the SEC regular season title with the win.
Rickea Jackson led the Lady Vols with 21 points and five rebounds. Jordan Horston logged a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Karoline Striplin added 11 points.
Zia Cooke led South Carolina (27-0, 14-0) with 19 points, while Brea Beal notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
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Tennessee offense starts hot, but gets cold after first
The Lady Vols started the game shooting 53.3% from the field. They led to a 19-10 lead after the first quarter, led by Jackson and Horston’s combined 13 points.
Tennessee did well limiting Aliyah Boston’s paint touches, and she led the Gamecocks with four points in the first. South Carolina shot just 25% from the field.
But then the Lady Vols went cold on offense. They weren’t getting quality looks and South Carolina went on a 17-0 run to take the lead back. It was a 6:27 scoring drought for Tennessee, which was ended by a 3-pointer from Striplin to end the half.
South Carolina’s defense locked Tennessee up in the second and third quarters, only allowing 22 points total.
South Carolina regains control of game with rebounding
After the first quarter, South Carolina was only outrebounding Tennessee 12-10.
But in the second quarter, the Gamecocks started dominating the offensive glass. By halftime, they were outrebounding Tennessee 30-20. They had 12 second-chance points off 16 offensive rebounds and Tennessee had no second-chance points.
The Gamecocks ended up outrebounding Tennessee 48-34, and Horston was the only player with more than five rebounds.
Tennessee makes late-game push
Jackson cut through South Carolina’s defense like butter.
She wasn’t going out without a fight, even though Tennessee trailed by 15 points. Thirty seconds later, she did it again, and drew the foul. Jackson’s free throw bounced out, but Jillian Hollingshead grabbed the rebound and the ball made it to Striplin at the arc.
The sophomore pulled up and drained her third 3-pointer of the night, cutting the Gamecocks lead to 10 points with 7:55 left in the game. But Tennessee couldn’t stop South Carolina and get close enough to come back.
Tennessee is on the road for the last game of the regular season. The Lady Vols will play Kentucky on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, SEC Network) at Memorial Coliseum.