Lady Volunteers Close In On Crucial Matchup With Huskies

Photo Credit: Emma Ramsey/ Tennessee Athletics
By Chloe Levering

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Tennessee continues its iconic rivalry with No. 5 UConn Thursday night in Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena at 8 p.m., and it’s a matchup that’s sure to attract fans and viewers across the nation.

For the University of Tennessee, it is the third time ESPN’s College GameDay has visited campus this school year, after making an appearance on Rocky Top for two football games this year. As if three times weren’t enough, the crew is returning Saturday for the men’s game against Texas.

The Lady Volunteers are undefeated in SEC play, most recently beating Missouri 68-65 on the road in their closest SEC win yet. Although still unranked in the top-25, Tennessee has shown phenomenal growth since the start of its season. However, to get a win, offensive weapon, and lead scorer Rickea Jackson will need to lock in on scoring, and Tennessee’s defense will need to challenge UConn’s talented roster on the other side of the court. Key player Jordan Horston did not travel with the team to Missouri due to illness, and her status for Thursday’s game is unknown. If Horston is still absent come Thursday night, it is essential that other Lady Volunteers step up to fill her void.

With two losses to No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 20 Maryland behind them, it’s very possible UConn could be seeing their third Thursday night if Tennessee comes out playing in any similar fashion to the way they played against now No. 3 Stanford. Although a loss, the Lady Volunteers held the 2021 national champions to only a seven-point lead at the final buzzer.

Aaliyah Edwards is the obvious both offensive and defensive player for the Huskies to watch out for, but the Lady Volunteers need to be sure UConn’s elite roster isn’t able to out-rebound them if they wish to maximize their scoring chances and minimize UConn’s. It’s no coincidence that no SEC team has beaten Tennessee on the boards yet (although Georgia tied with them) and no SEC team has beaten Tennessee in general.

It was only two years ago in 2021 that the Huskies last visited The Summitt, when Tennessee was set to upset UConn before Paige Bueckers stepped up in the last crucial seconds to secure the Connecticut win. Bueckers has been unable to play throughout the 2022-23 season due to an ACL injury, but it’s no doubt UConn and Geno Auriemma have a line of elite and prepared athletes on the sidelines, ready to perform to their best capabilities.

Efforts from all Lady Volunteers will be needed to secure the upset, as well as outstanding fan support in the arena. Thursday’s game is sure to be an exciting opportunity for Tennessee to reclaim its spot in the top-25.

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. EST and the game will air on ESPN.