The Tennessee Lady Vols women's basketball team has struggled so far this season, with more difficulty Sunday: Leading scorer Rickea Jackson did not play in a 59-56 loss to the visiting No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies.
After the game, Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said that Jackson's absence was a coach's decision and, "That'll be indefinite."
Jackson, a 6-foot-2 forward, had started the first eight games of the season for the Lady Vols, averaging a team-best 17.6 points. She and teammate Jordan Horston lead Tennessee in rebounding at 6.6 per game. Horston had 26 points and 11 rebounds Sunday.
Two other Tennessee players, Jasmine Franklin and Jillian Hollingshead, were out Sunday because of concussion protocol. The Lady Vols, who were ranked No. 5 in the preseason Associated Press poll, are now 4-5 and no longer ranked. The Hokies, who were without starting guard Ashley Owusu (hand injury) moved to 8-0.
Jackson previously played for the Mississippi State Bulldogs from 2019-2022. She was leading the SEC in scoring (20.3 PPG) in January 2022 when she entered the transfer portal, later explaining she faced difficulties playing for three different head coaches in her time at Mississippi State.
"I think everybody has to step up," Harper said of playing without Jackson. "We are trying to help that, also with some play-calling and putting our players in positions to be successful and take advantage of matchups in certain situations. We can. And we have players that will be able to do that.
"They had to have a lot of grit to get through practice this week. We told them that's not a one-time thing, that's forevermore. And now, moving forward, in the immediate future, we've got to find how to continue to have that toughness, that grit."