The No. 21 Tennessee Lady Vols (13-6, 7-4 SEC) fell to the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (17-4, 9-4 SEC) 57-55 in a sloppy rematch on Sunday. This is the first series sweep over Tennessee from Georgia since 1985.
The last time the two teams squared off, Georgia beat Tennessee 67-66 in a battle to the buzzer. In that game, Tennessee took an early advantage that ballooned to a 17-point lead in the third quarter. However, they completely fell apart and entered the final quarter down five which eventually led to their loss.
The Lady Vols struggled to put points on the board to start the opening quarter. Until just over a minute remained, Tennessee was only able to score four points. They were able to finish out the last minute of the quarter well, though, sinking four free throws to leave them down just 14-10.
Senior Rennia Davis kept the Lady Vols alive in the first quarter. She scored eight of the team’s 10 points in the period. Davis is coming off of an exceptional game where she scored 24 second-half points while taking down No. 2 South Carolina. She continued her dazzling performance on Sunday and finished the game with 22 points, six rebounds and an assist.
The second quarter was just as ugly as the first for Tennessee. They shot an abysmal 2-for-19 from the field and only put up nine points. Georiga took advantage of this poor play from the Lady Vols and stretched their lead to 10 late in the quarter. Davis would hit a pair of free throws to shrink the lead to 27-19 heading into halftime.
Georgia senior guard Gabby Connally led the charge for the Bulldogs with two three-pointers in the second quarter. She would continue her magnificent performance and finished the game with 24 points on five made three-pointers. Fellow senior guard Que Morrison also helped carry the load with 11 points and four assists all while playing impeccable defense.
The Lady Vols’ leader in points per game, Rae Burrell, was held scoreless in the first half as she once again struggled against the Bulldog defense. In their last matchup, Burrell only was able to score 10 points in the loss.
“Georgia’s defense, their one-on-one defense, is really good so Rae (Burrell) has a little bit harder time getting to the basket,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “Rae also doesn’t get any open shots against Georgia. There’s nothing where she’s just really catching and getting clean looks.”
Tennessee is coming off of an explosive third-quarter performance against the Gamecocks, however, this time the Lady Vols could not gain any ground. The teams went back and forth in the quarter with the lead shrinking to as little as three with five minutes left and expanding to as much as 10 with two and a half minutes left. Tennessee would head into the final frame down 47-39.
Burrell began to find her rhythm in the third quarter. She scored six points in the quarter including the opening bucket and finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds. Jordan Horston also scored six points in the quarter to help keep Tennessee alive.
In the fourth quarter, Tennessee did not go down without a fight as they came out swinging. Back-to-back baskets from Jordan Walker and a three-pointer from Davis reduced the eight-point lead to just one. Connally responded with a three of her own to extend the lead back to four after she and Davis had a heated exchange. The teams swapped scores until Tennessee went on a 5-0 run to find themselves again down just one with 46 seconds left.
Tamari Key was then assessed a controversial foul on the defensive side of the ball leading to free throws for Connally. Connally missed the front end but connected on the second to give Georgia a 57-55 lead. After calling their last timeout, Davis turned the ball over with 12 seconds remaining. This would prove to be irrelevant though as the Lady Vols were able to force a jump ball and they received the ball for their final chance to win with 10 seconds left.
On a potentially game-winning shot, Davis left a three-pointer short and Georgia completed their season sweep of Tennessee. Davis would argue her case of being fouled to the officials but to no avail as the game was finalized.
“We were looking for what I got,” Davis said about the last play. “I thought I got fouled but it wasn’t called and you just have to try to play it out.”
A major flaw in the Lady Vols game against Georgia was their lack of assists. Tennessee averages 15.2 assists per game but was only able to log three on Sunday. None of the Lady Vols’ guards were able to connect on an assist either with the three coming from Davis, Key and Kasi Kushkituah.
Tennessee is back in action on Feb. 25 when they take to the road to play Missouri. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. and airs on SECN+. TNJN will have coverage after the game.
Edited by Gracie-Lee Strange and Maddie Torres
Featured image courtesy of UTsports.com
Ryan Sylvia is the Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org