Hailey Van Lith’s season-high 26 points gives No. 13 LSU what it needs when it needs it to beat Tennessee in key SEC road win

LSU's Hailey Van Lith scored a season-high 26 points to lead LSU to a 75-60 win over Tennessee on Sunday. PHOTO by LSU Athletics

Hailey Van Lith did it all for LSU on Sunday, coming through for the Tigers when they needed her the most.

But it was what she didn’t do that pleased LSU coach Kim Mulkey the most.

“Well, Hailey’s taken a lot of criticism, and it needs to stop,” Mulkey said.

“It needs to stop. She’s learned a new position. She’s on the top team in the country, the defending national champion. She’s having to play point guard. And today, she moved to the off guard. She had zero (turnovers). And you write that big.”

Van Lith had a season-high 26 points as she led No. 13 LSU to a 75-60 victory over Tennessee on Sunday inside the Food City Center.

LSU (24-4, 11-3 SEC) all but clinched second-place in the SEC, while Tennessee (16-10, 9-5) remains inside the conference’s top four for the time being. The top four teams in the SEC receive a double-bye in the tournament.

The 15,281 fans in attendance in Knoxville on Sunday was the largest this season, over 4,000 more than the next closest total.

Van Lith led all scorers with a season-high 26 points on 9-18 from the field with 4 three-pointers. Van Lith averaged just 7.7 points in her last three games. The transfer’s 12 fourth quarter points gave the Tigers the boost they needed late.

Van Lith was followed by Mikaylah Williams, who was 7-18 from the field for 15 points. Williams has now scored 15 points or more in 14 games this season.

Angel Reese reached another milestone as she eclipsed 2,000 career points on Sunday in Knoxville. Reese finished the day scoring 11 points and hauling in 16 boards for her 18th double-double of the season.

Aneesah Morrow was 2 points shy of another double-double with 8 points and 13 rebounds. Morrow was unable to score in the second half. Reese and Morrow accounted for 29 of LSU’s 57 rebounds.

Rickea Jackson led the Lady Vols with 16 points on 6-18 from the field and added 9 rebounds. Tamari Key scored 10 and Tess Darby added 9 points for the Volunteers. Tennessee was 3-18 from deep and just 31.1-percent from the field.

LSU takes on Georgia on Thursday. The Tigers will take on the Bulldogs at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2 inside Stegman Coliseum in Athens, Ga. LSU returns home for senior day against Kentucky next Sunday, March 3rd.

Three minutes into the game, LSU scored five straight to give the Tigers their first lead of the game, 7-5. Last-Tear Poa earned LSU’s second three of the game to give the Tigers a 14-9 lead before the first media timeout. Following the break, the Lady Vols went on a 5-0 run to knot things up at 14 with just over three minutes to play. Van Lith ended the opening quarter with a top of the key triple to take the lead, 19-16.

Van Lith picked up right where she left off with her second three of the day to start the second three. LSU reached its three-point average of 4 just under 11 minutes into the game. LSU called its first timeout of the quarter as both squads were scoring drought for over the last two minutes. The Tigers held Jackson, Tennessee’s leading scorer, without a field goal attempt for the first half of the second quarter. Flau’ Jae Johnson forced a Volunteer timeout as she made it a 7-0 run to give LSU its first double digit lead of the day, 33-22. After 5 missed attempts in a row, LSU fought for 5 offensive boards and Morrow finished the half with a put-back to take a 38-26 lead into the locker room.

Van Lith led all scorers with 12 points in the first half as she was 2-2 from deep to make up half her total. Morrow followed with 8 and had 9 rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Tennessee’s Jackson led her squad with 8, despite being held to just 2 points in the second quarter. LSU scored 10 points off of Lady Vol turnovers while also out rebounding its opponent 31-26.

Both teams battled for the first half of the third quarter. Tennessee outscored LSU 10-7 before the media timeout to move within single digits, 45-36. The Tigers were then held without points for three minutes as the Lady Vols moved the deficit to 5. Van Lith snapped the 8-1 Tennessee run to make it 47-40 with over two minutes to play in the third. Darby hit her second triple to make it a one score game, 47-45. The Volunteers ended the quarter on a 13-4 run to outscore LSU 19-10 and trail by 3 heading into the fourth.

LSU called an early timeout after Key made it a 2-point game with nine minutes remaining. Following the 30-second break, the Tigers started to get hot behind the hot hand of Van Lith. Van Lith scored 8 of LSU’s 12 points following the timeout to give the Tigers a 7-point lead at the final media timeout. LSU went on a 11-2 run after the timeout to move its margin to 16 points. The LSU defense held Tennessee without points for over three minutes down the stretch. The Tigers ended the game on an 18-5 run to cruise to a 15-point victory, 75-60.

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