Lady Vols fall to Virginia Tech in NCAA Sweet 16, 73-64

Published 6:36 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

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By: Kimberly Hood, UT Sports

The fourth-seeded Lady Vols pulled within one late in the second half after trailing by as many as 18 in the third quarter, but their comeback came up short as No. 1 seed Virginia Tech pulled off a 73-64 victory on Saturday in the Seattle 3 Regional Semifinal game at Climate Pledge Arena.

The Lady Vols finished the season with 25 wins, reaching that milestone for the 38th time in program history. They advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2015 and 2016.

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Three players were in double figures for Tennessee (25-12), with senior Jordan Horston leading the way with 17 points. Senior Rickea Jackson was close behind with 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds, while graduate Jordan Walker added 12 points.

For Virginia Tech (30-4), Georgia Amoore turned in a game-high 29 points. Kayana Traylor and Elizabeth Kitley also had strong outings with 14 and 12, respectively.

The Hokies jumped out to a 9-0 lead early as UT struggled to connect from the floor until Jordan Walker got UT on the board with a jumper just under three minutes into play. Jillian Hollingshead followed it up a minute and a half later to pull the Lady Vols within five, but VT went on a 7-2 run to lead 16-6 by the 3:35 mark. Hollingshead answered with a layup, and Jackson sank a three to pull Tennessee back within five two minutes later. Kitley hit a layup, but Jackson converted on a three-point play in the closing seconds to send the game into the second period with Virginia Tech on top 18-13.   

The teams traded buckets through the first two minutes of the second frame, with UT creeping within four off a three by Horston, but Amoore responded with a trey on the fast break to send the Hokies ahead 25-18 with 7:13 to go in the half. The Lady Vols cut the deficit down to five twice before a three by Traylor set off an 8-0 run spanning the final three minutes of the half to give VT a 35-22 advantage at the break.

The Hokies came out hot in the second half, scoring on their first two possessions to lead 40-22 by the 8:56 mark. Tess Darby answered with a jumper, and Walker added three points to pull UT back within 13 three minutes later. Kitley hit a short jumper before both teams remained scoreless for two minutes. Horston ended the drought with a mid-range bucket, and the Lady Vols remained within 13 until a 3-pointer by D’Asia Gregg put the Hokies out front 47-31 with 1:44 left in the third. Both teams hit a pair of free throws before UT closed out the period with seven unanswered points to pull within single digits at 49-40.

Horston hit the second of a pair of free throws to start the fourth, trimming the deficit down to eight before Traylor buried a jumper on the other end at the 8:48 mark. Tennessee responded with back-to-back buckets by Horston and Jackson, followed by a steal and score from Walker to nudge the Big Orange within four at 51-47 with 7:42 to play. Walker struck again following a VT timeout, narrowing the gap to two. Kitley hit a jumper on the other end, but a 3-pointer by Jasmine Powell moved UT within one with 6:10 to go. A three-point play by Traylor kicked off an 8-0 Hokie run that propelled VT ahead, 61-52, two and a half minutes later, and despite a suffocating full-court press in the closing minutes, the Lady Vols never recovered, falling 73-64.

Dime-Dropping Century Trio: Three Tennessee players finished the season with 100+ assists in 2022-23, marking the first time since 2005-06 that the Lady Vols featured that productivity. It was only the sixth group in program history to accomplish that feat. Jordan Walker finished with 119, Jordan Horston tallied 117 and Jasmine Powell ended with 116.

Walker Wraps Up Three-Year UT Career In Double Figures: Graduate guard Jordan Walker concluded her playing career at Tennessee, contributing 12 points, six rebounds, three steals and an assist vs. Virginia Tech. She tallied 604 points, 398 rebounds, 393 assists and 109 steals while starting 77 of 96 contests for the Big Orange. For her entire career, including two seasons at Western Michigan, Walker finished with 1,359 points, 714 rebounds, 433 assists and 227 steals while starting 131 of 160 games.