For the fourth time this season, Tennessee entered the fourth quarter trailing. For the fourth time this season, the Lady Vols overcame a fourth quarter deficit to win, going on the road and defeating Virginia Tech, 64-58.
The Hokies were second in “receiving votes” in this week’s AP Poll, essentially making them the No. 27 team in the country.
The win is Tennessee’s second on the road this season, as the Lady Vols won at Central Florida in the second game of the season. With the comeback victory, Tennessee improves to 8-0 with five wins over high major opponents.
Tennessee’s offense continue to improve and evolve since the loss of star guard Rae Burrell. Jordan Houston has taken the reigns as the Lady Vols’ lead scorer in Burrell’s absence but struggled Sunday, scoring nine points on three-of-13 shooting from the field.
That’s where Jordan Walker and Sara Puckett stepped up.
Walker scored 17 points including a perfect four-of-four shooting from three-point range while adding eight rebounds and five assists.
“I think it just comes from practice and confidence,” Walker said. “Confidence from my teammates, from my coaches to be able to knock those shots down.”
The freshman Puckett had her best game in her young career, scoring 15 points on seven-of-11 shooting from the field. Eight of Puckett’s points came in the fourth quarter.
“She’s so consistent,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said postgame. “She was scoring and I told somebody I think I ran every play I had to her in the fourth quarter. We were trying to get her the ball in different positions. … Sara just grabber her lunch pale and did her job in the fourth quarter.”
Puckett keeps getting better as she gains comfort at the college game. After scoring 21 points in her first four games, Puckett has 40 points in her last four games.
Like Puckett, Tennessee’s offensive output has improved as the season’s progressed. After averaging 53.3 points in the first three games of the season, Tennessee is averaging 72.4 points since.
The Lady Vols’ defense continued their elite play Sunday afternoon. After a poor start, Tennessee used hard nosed defense to get back in the game by halftime. The Hokies scored just nine second quarter points.
As always, Tamari Key was fantastic on defense. The junior center held Virginia Tech star Elizabeth Kitley to four points on one-of-12 shooting. Key added five blocks and two steals.
Still, the story of this game was Tennessee’s ability to erase another late deficit. The Lady Vols ended the game with a 16-3 run in the final 5:38. Tennessee gets stops when it matters most and its offense is finding different ways to stay productive without Burrell.
Key is a Junior.