The No. 20 Tennessee Lady Vols (14-6, 8-4 SEC) traveled to Colombia and defeated the Missouri Tigers (8-10, 4-9 SEC) 78-73 on Thursday.
Tennessee jumped out to an early 9-2 lead off of seven points from Rae Burrell. However, Missouri built off of their win over Florida last Sunday where they connected on 18 shots from deep. The Tigers stormed to an 11-0 run including three consecutive three-pointers giving them a 13-9 advantage with three and a half minutes left in the quarter.
Missouri guard Haley Troup led the Tigers in the opening quarter with 10 points. She was responsible for eight of the 11 points in their run and two of the three three-pointers. Troup only averages 7.4 points per game this season but she was able to finish with a season-high 16 points against Tennessee. The Tigers also received help from Aijha Blackwell who scored 16 points and recorded eight rebounds in the game.
The opening quarter ended with a good effort from the Lady Vols, though, as they narrowed the score to just 18-17 off of a Tamari Key layup.
Neither team could create separation in the second quarter until Tennessee surged to an 8-0 run to give them a five-point advantage. This would not last for long, though, as Missouri followed it up with a 10-3 run that was capped off with a Shug Dickson three-pointer at the buzzer. This gave the Tigers a 36-34 lead going into the halftime break.
The second quarter consisted of more exceptional play from Burrell. She scored another nine points and collected four more rebounds in the period. She finished the half with 18 points and seven rebounds.
In the third quarter, Missouri continued to shoot the ball well from three-point range. They made four more in the period and never once surrendered their lead. They would hold onto a 60-55 advantage heading into the final frame.
“Coming into this game, the staff knew, our team knew that this was going to be a tough game,” said Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper. “That their style of play is really going to challenge our team.”
However, the biggest concern for Tennessee in the third quarter came when Burrell went down with an ankle injury. After rolling her right ankle in the paint, Burrell had to be helped off the court as she could not put any weight on the wounded ankle. Remarkably, she was able to check back into the game in the fourth quarter but she was visibly hindered by the injury. She would still finish the night with an outstanding 23 points and eight rebounds off of the efficient shooting of 9-for-13 on field goals and 3-for-5 from deep.
Tennessee star Rennia Davis started the game slowly due to foul trouble and was held scoreless in the first half. She began to turn it around with six points in the third quarter, though. This led to her catching a hot hand in the fourth as she rocketed to 20 of the Lady Vols’ 23 points in the period.
This is not the first time Davis has had a second half performance of this caliber before. Just last Thursday, Davis was held scoreless in the first half against No. 2 South Carolina but exploded for 24 second half points in the upset victory.
“South Carolina just proved to me and my teammates what I’m capable of doing there at the end of games,” said Davis. “And credit to my teammates because they kept feeding me the ball, they kept giving me the ball, they kept encouraging me to shoot it. Even in the first half when I wasn’t hitting shots, they just kept encouraging me.”
The Tigers had no answer for Davis and all they could do was watch their lead slip away. Tennessee took the lead only one and a half minutes into the quarter off of a Davis three-pointer and it was never surrendered. The Lady Vols walked away with a 78-73 win and remain as a projected three seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Helping out in the win along with Burrell and Davis were guards Jordan Walker and Jordan Horston. Walker posted only five points but cleaned up 10 boards to lead the team in rebounding at only 5’8”. Horston came off the bench for Tennessee but she was still able to lead the team in assists with six and notched nine points.
Tennessee is back in action for their last game of the regular season on Feb. 28 when they take on Auburn at home. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. and the game will air on SECN. TNJN will have coverage after the game.
Edited by Christian Knox
Featured image courtesy of Lady Vol Basketball Twitter (@LadyVol_Hoops)