Spear shines in UT’s season-opening win vs. Rattlers

Spear shines in UT’s season-opening win vs. Rattlers
Spear shines in UT’s season-opening win vs. Rattlers
45 minutes ago
Tennessee Athletics

Photo: Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jewel Spear’s five three-pointers spearheaded No. 11/12 Tennessee’s offensive attack in a 93-64 season-opening victory over Florida A&M on Tuesday night at Food City Center.

The 5-foot-10 senior guard posted an impressive 20 points, tied for second-most in program history by a transfer in her Lady Vol debut. Spear, who joined UT after three seasons at Wake Forest, made seven of 12 field goal attempts, including five-of-10 shooting beyond the arc.

Junior forward Karoline Striplin had a stat-stuffing night, tallying a career-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Fifth-year forward Rickea Jackson recorded 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, while junior guard Kaiya Wynn collected a career-high 12 points and a steal.

Tennessee (1-0) dominated on the glass, recording 42 points from the paint while out-rebounding the Rattlers 47-25. Junior forward Jillian Hollingshead led the way on the glass with 12 boards, tying her career high.

The Lady Vols dished out an impressive 22 assists, including Destinee Wells’ game-high six dimes in her Tennessee debut.

Florida A&M (0-1), coached by LVFL Bridgette Gordon, was hot from beyond the arc, generating 27 points from three-pointers. Guard Ahriahna Grizzle led the Rattlers with 16 points, followed by Hailee Brennan with 13 and Ivet Subirats with 12.

The game started as a back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading buckets early. Florida A&M jumped out to a five-point lead at the 6:50 mark thanks to three consecutive scoring opportunities. The Lady Vols began to battle back, and Spear’s third trey of the period boosted UT to a 17-15 lead. After trading buckets, Tennessee went on a 6-0 scoring run to end the quarter, highlighted by a Striplin shot from deep and jumper from fifth-year guard Jasmine Powell to give the Big Orange a 26-19 lead.

Tennessee continued its scoring streak to open the second stanza, putting up nine unanswered points to extend its lead to 35-19. UT forced seven turnovers to generate seven points, while bringing down 10 rebounds in that frame to go into the half with a 16-point lead, 46-30.

At the break, Spear had racked up 15 points, and Striplin and Jackson followed with eight points apiece. The Lady Vols notched nine offensive rebounds, which turned into 12 second-chance points in the first half.

The Big Orange started the third quarter with a nine-point run, thanks to junior forward Sara Puckett’s trey within the first minute of play. The Lady Vols excelled on both ends of the court, shooting 71 percent from the field while out-rebounding Florida A&M, 11-5. Striplin led the scoring in that stanza with six points to propel UT to a 75-47 lead.

Tennessee’s defense stepped up to close out the game, holding the Rattlers to just 30-percent shooting in the final period. The Lady Vols produced a 9-0 scoring streak in the final minutes, paced by Striplin’s three field goals, to secure the 93-64 victory.

NEXT UP: After playing a team from Tallahassee on Tuesday night in Florida A&M, the Lady Vols will travel to Tallahassee Wednesday to take on No. 18/22 Florida State on Thursday. That contest is slated for 6 pm ET at the Donald L. Tucker Center and will air on ESPN2.

FAST START, GREAT DEBUT FOR JEWEL: Jewel Spear went three of seven at the three-point line in the first quarter to fire in nine points over the first 10 minutes. Her shooting helped the Lady Vols overcome a slow start and take the lead for good at 17-15. She continued in the second frame, hitting both trey attempts to finish the half with 16 points. Spear wrapped up the contest with 20 points, tying her for second with Cindy Brogdon (20 vs. Miami OH, 11/23/77) among transfers in their debut as a Lady Vol. It was Spear’s 17th game scoring 20 or more in her career, with the Texas native playing three seasons at Wake Forest before making the move to Rocky Top.

DOUBLE DIGITS ALMOST AUTOMATIC FOR KEA: Rickea Jackson makes it seem so easy to find her way into double-figure scoring in a game. Against Florida A&M, the national player of the year candidate finished with 13 to hit double figures for the 33rd time in 36 games at Tennessee and for the 82nd time in 103 career contests.

LADY VOLS IN OPENERS: The Lady Vols now are 45-5 all-time in season openers over the past 50 years, including 29-3 at home, 8-2 on the road and 8-0 at neutral sites. Tennessee possesses a 47-3 all-time record in its first home contest of the year after tonight’s win. The Lady Vols have won 24 straight times in their first appearance at Thompson-Boling Arena and in 41 of their past 42 campaigns.

KELLIE HARPER IN SEASON-OPENING GAMES: Kellie Harper is now 8-1 while coaching a Power 5 school (4-0 at NC State, 4-1 at Tennessee) in season openers. Her teams defeated East Tennessee State (away), Western Kentucky (home) and Southern Illinois (home) in their first three seasons at UT, respectively, fell to No. 14/15 Ohio State in 2022-23 and defeated Florida A&M in 2023-24.

CAREER NIGHTS FOR JUNIOR TRIO: Karoline Striplin notched a career-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and pulled down seven rebounds for the Lady Vols. Kaiya Wynn matched her scoring career high with 12 points on four-of-six marksmanship, and Jillian Hollingshead led all players on the glass with 12 rebounds.

DESTINEE’S DEBUT: Destinee Wells, who transferred to Tennessee in the offseason from Belmont, led the Lady Vols with six assists, including a nifty third-quarter pass to Sara Puckett that drew ooohs from the crowd at Food City Center. The six dimes ranked number three in a transfer debut by a Lady Vol behind Cindy Brogdon (8 vs. Miami OH, 11/23/77) and Diamond DeShields (7 vs. Central Arkansas, 11/15/15). PLAYING EFFICIENTLY: Spreading minutes to all 12 active players on the roster, with no player seeing more than 25 minutes, the Lady Vols committed only 12 turnovers in the opener while dishing out an impressive 21 assists vs. Florida A&M.

LADY VOLS SUPPORT LADY VOLS: FAMU head coach Bridgette Gordon had some of her former teammates and a former coach on hand to support the Lady Vol legend, who helped Tennessee win its first-two NCAA titles and now has her No. 30 jersey hanging from the rafters above The Summitt. Among those on hand were Holly Warlick, an assistant coach during Gordon’s playing days and Gordon’s boss during Warlick’s head coaching tenure with the Lady Vols, as well as teammates Lisa Webb Kimbrough and Cheryl Littlejohn, and Shelia Collins, who wore No. 30 before Gordon arrived on Rocky Top.

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Tags: Spear shines UTs seasonopening win Rattlers


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