Struggling Lady Vols Lose To Middle Tennessee By 11

  • Thursday, December 7, 2023

Junior Karoline Striplin poured in a career-high 29 points in her home state, but it wasn't enough to overcome a sharp-shooting Middle Tennessee squad that went 12 of 24 from behind the arc Wednesday night in toppling the Lady Vols inside Propst Arena at Von Braun Center, 73-62.
 
Striplin was the high scorer for Tennessee (4-5), and fifth-year senior Jasmine Powell and senior Destinee Wells were also top contributors with nine and eight points, respectively.

Middle Tennessee (7-3) was led by Jalynn Gregory with 22 points and by Savannah Wheeler, who posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Anastasiia Boldyreva was also in double figures with 17 points, while Ta'Mia Scott added 10.
 
Striplin put UT up early, scoring on back-to-back plays to give the Lady Vols a 5-3 edge 90 seconds into play. A three by Scott a minute later gave Middle Tennessee its first lead of the game, but two more buckets by Striplin had Tennessee ahead 9-6 with 5:49 to go in the first. Wheeler hit another three for MTSU to level the score and followed it up with a jumper to put the Lady Raiders back on top. Wells converted on an old-fashioned three-point play to create a 12-11 UT advantage at the 3:45 mark, and there would be four more lead changes and a tie before the quarter ended with the game knotted at 20-all.
 
The contest continued to be a back-and-forth affair, with MTSU reclaiming the lead with the first basket of the second quarter, and Striplin draining a three to score her 12th point of the game and put the Lady Vols up 23-22 just over two minutes into the period. Powell hit a trey on the next possession and Striplin added a short jumper to string together an 8-0 run that moved Tennessee ahead by six with 5:56 to go in the half. Middle Tennessee got three points from the free-throw line, but neither team hit another field goal until Wells drove for a layup at the 2:38 mark. Courtney Whitson responded with a 3-pointer on the next play, but Wells countered with a trey of her own on the other end to put the Lady Vols up 33-29 with 1:16 to play in the second. MTSU closed out the final minute of the half with a layup and a pair of threes, one at the buzzer, to take a 37-33 lead into the break. 
 
Gregory connected for a three-pointer on the Lady Raiders' first possession of the half to extend their lead to seven, but Sara Puckett countered with an eight-foot jumper on the next play, and a three-point play by Striplin had the Lady Vols within two less than 90 seconds into the half. Tess Darby tied the game up at 42 just past the midway point of the quarter, and Tennessee would level the score twice more before the Lady Raiders closed out the period with five straight points to lead 50-45 at the end of three.
 
Striplin scored UT's first points of the final stanza from the free-throw line, whittling the deficit down to three 30 seconds into the quarter. MTSU answered with five quick points to lead by eight before Striplin swished back-to-back threes to kickstart an 11-2 UT run that boosted the Lady Vols back on top by one with 6:25 left in the game.  A set of free throws by Gregory provided MTSU a 59-58 lead 30 seconds later, and a trey on the next possession extended it to four. Powell responded with a jumper on the other side of the court, but another three by Gregory sent the Lady Raiders ahead 65-60 by the final media timeout. Wheeler hit a long two coming out of the break to stretch Middle Tennessee's advantage to seven, and Tennessee couldn't recover, as the Lady Raiders closed out the game for a 73-62 victory.
 
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols head home to prepare for two consecutive games at Food City Center. They are back in action on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, playing host to EKU. The game will be streamed live on SECN+.
 
KARO COOKIN' AT HOME: Back in her home state of Alabama, Karoline Striplin looked right at home, scoring a career-high 29 points on 11-of-20 shooting, including 4-of-8 accuracy beyond the arc. The junior from Hartford scored Tennessee's first nine points vs. Middle Tennessee. She added five more in the second frame to lead the Lady Vols with 14 at the half, scoring in double figures for the fifth time this season. Not to be overlooked on the defensive end, Striplin took a charge in the second quarter for her team-leading fourth of the season and stuffed a shot for a tied-ball situation.
 
300TH BLOCK FOR TK: At the 3:32 mark in the second quarter, Tennessee's all-time leading shot blocker reached another career plateau. Tamari Key recorded block number 300 when she stuffed Sifa Ineza's shot attempt.
 
OTHER MILESTONES: Two other Lady Vols reached milestone plateaus, including Destinee Wells playing in her 100th game and surpassing 600 career field goals, and Jasmine Powell dropping in 300+ free throws during her college days.
 
STREAKS END: Tennessee had won all 17 games vs. in-state opponents under Kellie Harper until Middle Tennessee came out on top in Huntsville. That makes the Lady Vols' record now 261-62-2 all-time vs. schools in the Volunteer State.  MTSU also picked up its first victory in the series in the 23rd meeting between the programs.
 

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