KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– The Lady Volunteers secured their seventh conference win against Florida Thursday night in the annual “We Back Pat” game, with an 18-point lead over the Gators. Like the rest of their SEC wins, it’s one where Tennessee ended the game with a double-digit lead.
It was the second time the teams met, and Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper and senior forward Rickea Jackson agreed that Tennessee performed better than they did during the first matchup in Gainesville.
“I feel like the things we didn’t do with them the first time we did this time,” Jackson said.
Jackson was the unsurprising lead scorer against the Gators with 16 points and 7 rebounds, followed by Jordan Horston with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists— a double-double which is not uncommon for the senior.
That’s who (Horston) is,” Harper said. “Jordan Horston impacts the game. Period.”
“Rickea Jackson and Jordan Horston, they’re pros,” Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley commented following the game.
Jackson still remains the most prominent lead scorer, while still not included in the starting lineup. However, it’s a choice that seems to be working for the best, as Jackson has shown tremendous and steady performance with each game.
“I just take my role and try to make the best out of it, whether that’s starting or coming off the bench,” Jackson said.
Tennessee got off to a rough start in the first quarter, shooting roughly 17% from the field to Florida’s 44%. However, in the second quarter, the Lady Volunteers were able to improve not only their shooting percentage but their work on the boards. By the end of the night, Tennessee ended up out-rebounding Florida 46-40.
The win is symbolic of not only the current Lady Volunteer program, but the legacy which the late Pat Summitt created at the University of Tennessee. A highly competitive and physical matchup between two women SEC teams summarizes just that.
“That’s what we do every night,” Finley said. “We compete hard.”
Tennessee took the court with their “We Back Pat” uniforms, which have a touch of purple and feature the name “Summitt” across the back of their jerseys instead of their own.
You’re out there playing and the jerseys say ‘Summit.’ It can hit you pretty hard,” Harper said. “It’s just one more opportunity to keep her legacy alive.”
Harper and players alike agree that winning during the “We Back Pat” game is important. However, Harper says her mark meant more than just basketball.
“Her touch was nationwide, worldwide. It wasn’t just about sports,” Harper said. “Whether it was in the room, in the media, on the court she just had an incredible presence about her.”
Emotions were also high for Lady Volunteer Jasmine Powell. After an improved performance of 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists, Powell walked off the court and shared a long hug with Harper.
“Jasmine’s honestly been struggling a little bit,” Harper explained. “It was so great to see her play free and play with confidence…I was so happy for her.”
Tennessee is now preparing to take on the Missouri Tigers in Columbia. It’s a task that Harper says will be a challenge the team needs to come prepared for.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Harper said. “They’re gonna have a game plan.”
However, if the Lady Volunteers can come prepared, they’ll be able to move on 8-0 in SEC play before taking on their biggest opponent yet, UConn.
Tennessee plays Missouri this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EST in Mizzou Arena. The game will air on SECN+.