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Lady Vols basketball vs Virginia Tech: Here's our Sweet 16 score prediction

Lady Vols basketball earned back-to-back trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015 and 2016.

No. 4 seed Tennessee (25-11) has a rematch with No. 1 seed Virginia Tech (29-4) on Saturday (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

The Lady Vols blew past their first two opponents, becoming the fourth team in history to win its first two games of the NCAA Tournament by 45 points each, according to ESPN Stats & Info. UConn is the only other team to accomplish the feat in 2001, 2010 and 2016, winning a title the last two times.

Virginia Tech defeated Chattanooga and South Dakota State to reach the Sweet 16. Here's what you need to know about the matchup:

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The first Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech matchup

Tennessee came up three points short against the Hokies in December, playing without Rickea Jackson, Jillian Hollingshead and Jasmine Franklin.

It was the Lady Vols' last game with senior center Tamari Key, who shut down ACC Player of the Year Elizabeth Kitley for the second season in a row. Tennessee held Virginia Tech to 59 points, but UT struggled offensively without the players sidelined, and only scored 56 points – its lowest output of the season.

That won't be an issue this time around. Tennessee has averaged 79.5 points in the last 10 games – the only teams to hold it to fewer than 80 points were South Carolina and LSU. Facing Kitley without Key will be a wrinkle, but Karoline Striplin and Hollingshead have come along in Key's absence.

The Lady Vols' defense has improved drastically since the last matchup, and if the game turns into a footrace, the Hokies should be worried.

Tennessee guard Jasmine Powell (15) passes the ball away after driving past Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley (33) during the NCAA college basketball game between the Tennessee Lady Vols and Virginia Tech Hokies in Knoxville, Tenn. on Sunday, December 4, 2022.
Tennessee guard Jasmine Powell (15) passes the ball away after driving past Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley (33) during the NCAA college basketball game between the Tennessee Lady Vols and Virginia Tech Hokies in Knoxville, Tenn. on Sunday, December 4, 2022.

Tennessee needs to contain 3-point shooting

Virginia Tech takes a lot of 3-pointers. It makes a lot, too.

Against SDSU in the second round, the Hokies hit 12 of their 30 attempts from behind the arc. Georgia Amoore led the team, going 7-for-19, which accounted for all her made field goals. Three-pointers have accounted for 32.4% of Virginia Tech's scoring this season and 38.6% of its shot attempts.

Tennessee's perimeter defense has continued to improve all season, holding opponents to 26.3% from behind the arc in the last 10 games. The Lady Vols have to be disciplined, because Virginia Tech can be a dangerous offensive team if they allow it to be.

A test for Tennessee's offense

Tennessee's Jordan Horston (25) with a shot attempt over Toledo's Quinesha Lockett (5) in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. on Monday, March 20, 2023.
Tennessee's Jordan Horston (25) with a shot attempt over Toledo's Quinesha Lockett (5) in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. on Monday, March 20, 2023.

Virginia Tech has the No. 25 scoring defense in the country, holding opponents to 56.4 points per game.

The Hokies will test Tennessee's offensive discipline. The shots have been falling the first two rounds, but the Lady Vols have to remain committed to the offensive game plan and not get stagnant if shots don't fall. A good sign for Tennessee going into the matchup is the balance in scoring it has gotten the last two games.

Five players scored in double figures against Toledo, and Hollingshead and Sara Puckett led the team with 13 points each. The more offensive threats the Lady Vols have on the floor, the more space that will create for Jordan Horston and Jackson.

Lady Vols vs. Virginia Tech in Sweet 16: Our score predictions

Tennessee 78, Virginia Tech 65: This is a nightmare of a rematch for Virginia Tech, considering the personnel Tennessee lacked the first time around. The Lady Vols will notch a confidence-boosting win led by Horston and Jackson and will return to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2016.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Lady Vols basketball vs Virginia Tech: scouting report, score prediction