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Rick Nixon | | December 7, 2021

Tennessee women's basketball is Team of the Week after long-awaited return to top 10

Women's basketball rankings: Maryland, Louisville rise in latest Power 10

A proud program with eight national championships to its credit, Tennessee women's basketball is the Team of the Week after winning eight straight games to start the season, moving back into the top 10 of the Associated Press Top 25 women's basketball poll for the first time in nearly three years.

RANKINGS: Power 10 | NET rankings | AP Top 25 Poll

No. 9 Tennessee’s latest win was a hard-fought 64-58 road win at Virginia Tech on Sunday, a game in which Tennessee overcame a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 16-3 run over the final 6:01 to end the Hokies' 63-game home win streak against non-conference opponents. It also kept Tennessee perfect on the season, with the program starting with that record for only the seventh time in the past 20 years. The 8-0 opening to a season is the best in Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper's 18-year coaching career.

Against Virginia Tech, graduate guard Jordan Walker led the way with 17 points that included four of four from behind the arc. Freshman guard/forward Sara Puckett added a career-high 15, while junior center Tamari Key turned in her fifth double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds, adding five blocks to boost her average just above four per contest.

On Dec.1 Tennessee rolled to a 76-48 home win over Tennessee Tech. Graduate forward Alexus Dye led all scorers with 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting, notching her best scoring output at Tennessee. She also grabbed nine rebounds. Sophomore guard/forward Tess Darby was red hot from deep, scoring 12 points on 4-on-6 shooting from behind the three-point line. Key finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Tennessee, this season has three wins vs. teams who are in the top 25 or receiving votes. That play has moved Tennessee into the top 10 in the AP poll, a position they haven’t enjoyed since Dec. 31, 2018. Tennessee set the standard in the poll, appearing in the first 10 spots for 212 consecutive weeks from March 10, 1997, to Dec. 18, 2008. Tennessee's long run in the top 10 would go back even further if not for finishing the final poll of the 1997 season at No. 11. Before that, the team had been in the top 10 every week since the final poll of the 1986 season.

Tennessee returns to play Dec. 12, hosting Georgia State. They'll host defending national champion Stanford on Dec. 18.

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