The No. 16 Tennessee Lady Vols (12-4, 6-2 SEC) fell on the road to the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats (14-5, 7-4 SEC) 71-56 in a game without Tennessee star Rennia Davis.
Davis is averaging 14.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in her senior campaign and is widely regarded as a top pick in the upcoming WNBA draft. However, she was unable to make the trip to Lexington due to medical reasons. The first time the two teams met this season, Tennessee stormed to a 70-53 win off of 15 points, 20 rebounds and four assists from Davis.
“I thought they came into this game with a great mindset that we were going to come out and compete to win,” said Harper on how the team handled the game without Davis. “There were no excuses, I think everybody knew they had to step up. I’ll be honest with you, I really liked their fight. I thought their attitude, their talk, their communication were really good the majority of the game.”
A big storyline for Tennessee has been their injuries. Keyen Green and Jaiden McCoy have both missed every game since Dec. 10 against Furman. Marta Suarez also has missed time after suffering an injury and only played six minutes against the Wildcats.
With these injuries and the lack of Davis, Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper was forced to play all ten active players on her roster during the game. Harper did not keep her bench players in for long, though, with the most minutes off the bench going to Jessie Rennie with just 10, while her least played starter was Tamari Key with 29 minutes who was forced to leave the game after fouling out towards the end of the match.
This game was also the first game for the Lady Vols since Jan. 31 after the program was shut down due to COVID-19. Kentucky has also had an extended break, their first since Feb. 4.
“I thought our players handled that pretty well,” said Harper on the break. “We had to play people a lot of minutes tonight. We had to get some different people in there to play some minutes.”
The matchup began with sloppy play from both sides. Tennessee grabbed the lead at 6-5 with 5:11 left in the first quarter but failed to protect it and quickly gave up an 8-2 run to propel Kentucky to a five-point lead. Lady Vol freshman Destiny Salary would convert an and-one with under a minute left resulting in a 13-11 lead for the Wildcats to finish the period.
The second quarter was absolutely dominated by Kentucky, however. The teams traded scores to begin the quarter and Key cut the lead to three with just over seven minutes left, but Kentucky would charge to a 12-0 run throughout the course of three and a half minutes. The Lady Vols responded with a 6-0 run of their own but one more score from Kentucky left the score at 37-26 going into halftime.
Leading the way for Tennessee was Rae Burrell. Burrell finished the first half with 10 points while playing all 20 minutes. Burrell leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points per game this season and she finished with a game-high 22 points along with six rebounds.
Just as Kentucky dominated the second quarter, Tennessee took over in the third. The Lady Vols immediately converted on two straight baskets but Kentucky star Rhyne Howard responded with a layup. From there, Tennessee went on a 15-0 run to go from down 11 entering the half to up six with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. The Wildcats outscored the Lady Vols 7-2 to finish off the quarter but Tennessee had a one-point lead headed into the final frame.
This lead was quickly erased, though, as Kentucky opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run to take a six-point lead. Tennessee would fight back and narrow the deficit to two twice, but they were unable to reclaim a lead. The Wildcats finished off the game with a 16-3 run and sent the Lady Vols back to Knoxville with this season’s series split 1-1.
“The third quarter we were taking care of the ball and we were getting easy scores. In the fourth quarter, they were five-for-five from three so that really hurt us,” said Tennessee guard Jordan Walker on the difference between the third and fourth quarter.
Kentucky was lead by Chasity Patterson who ended the game with 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field and three-of-five shooting from beyond the arc. Former Lady Vol Jazmine Massengill also had a good game scoring 11 points.
Tennessee will be in action next on Feb. 14 at 3 p.m. when they travel to take on the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies. The game will air on ESPN. TNJN will have coverage after the game.
Edited by Christian Knox
Featured image courtesy of Lady Vol Hoops Instagram (@LadyVol_Hoops)