Just seconds into the second quarter in No. 5 Tennessee’s (1-1) 74-65 win over UMass (1-1), Lady Vols’ star guard Jordan Horston suffered a left leg injury.
Just like last season when Rae Burrell hurt her knee, a key component of Tennessee’s team fell with an injury in the first home game of the year. Horston was preparing to improve on her spectacular junior season where she averaged 16.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and four assists per game. To make it even tougher on Horston, she missed the final games of the previous year with an injury, as well.
After the game, Tennessee coach Kellie Harper confirmed it was a lower leg injury. She says she doesn’t know the extent of it yet, but the team will have more information tomorrow.
However, for the remaining three quarters, Tennessee was forced to look elsewhere for production in a close battle with the Minutewomen. The much-needed stellar play came from Mississippi State transfer Rickea Jackson.
After leading the SEC in scoring a year ago, Jackson decided to spend her senior season in Knoxville. In her debut against Ohio State, she scored nine points and reeled in six rebounds. Against UMass, she was also slow out of the gates with just six first-half points. However, in the second half, she stepped up and finished the night with 24 points and 11 rebounds for her first double-double in orange. This is the 20th time she’s scored 20 points and the seventh double-double of her career.
“I feel like that motivated all of us,” said Jackson on stepping up after the injury. “Jordy (Jordan Horston) is the heart of this team. She always gives us that energy that we need, so we know we needed to create that within ourselves while we don’t have her on the court. So I feel like we truly came together after Jordy went down. So, I feel like we had her back.”
The fourth quarter is truly where she took off, though. She made three of her four shots from the field and drained five free throws. She also grabbed four boards, silencing any second-chance opportunities that UMass hoped to capitalize on.
“You really got to see Rickea (Jackson) get going and she had a couple of big boards there late that got her to the free throw line, thought it was good,” said Harper.
Also helping fill Horston’s absence was Tamari Key. Key scored five fourth quarter points en route to a 13-point, nine-rebound, two-assist, three-block and two-steal night. She not only impressed offensively with post moves but also anchored the defense and made it tough for UMass to score in the paint.
“Tamari (Key), I thought had some really good plays where she went after the ball, she attacked the ball, went and got it, she saved a turnover and got a bucket out of it,” said Harper. “I thought her effort was probably even better in the second half, so that was some good, positive things to see.”
Next up for the Lady Vols is yet another tough test. After facing the reigning BIG10 regular season and A-10 Tournament champions, Tennessee will host No. 11 Indiana on Monday. It’ll take another team effort led by Jackson and Key for the Lady Vols to climb to a 2-1 start. The game tips off at 6 p.m. EST and will air on ESPN2.
Ryan Sylvia is the Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org