It was one week ago that the Tennessee women’s basketball team saw its tournament chances take a major hit after a historic blowout loss at Mississippi State.
The Lady Vols responded with a 15-point win over Auburn at home on Thursday and a 62-60 decision over Missouri at Mizzou Arena on Sunday.
In a game that went down to the wire, Tennessee (17-8, 6-6 SEC) jumped back into the postseason conversation in a big way, hitting important free throws late to top the Tigers (19-8, 8-6 SEC) in their second meeting of the season.
“Great win for us,” Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick said. “I loved our effort, our energy. We needed to get stops, and we did. Our freshmen grew up today, and we needed them to grow up.”
After a back-and-forth first half, Missouri took a narrow advantage into the half, up 31-30.
The second half was not much different, as both team traded leads up until the final seconds. Trailing by one with just over three minutes remaining, freshman forward Mimi Collins knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner to give Tennessee a 58-56 lead.
What proved to be the difference late in the game was free-throw shooting, as the Lady Vols shot better than 72 percent from the charity stripe, including two from sophomore guard Rennia Davis with 52 seconds left to give Tennessee the lead that would win the game.
Sophomore guard Evina Westbrook led the Lady Vols with an 18-point, six assist outing, while Davis notched the 17th double-double of her career with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Collins tied a career-high in points that was set back on Jan. 10 versus Kentucky with 11 off of the bench, while leading Tennessee in the post with six rebounds.
Rebounding was key for Tennessee, as it scored 22 points off of rebounding on the offensive end.
“We talked a lot about rebounding,” Warlick said. “Our m.o. is rebounding and we had some second chance points offensively. We scored off of our offensive rebounds and we only had 10 turnovers.”
After going 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and scoring 20 points versus Tennessee earlier in the season, Missouri guard Sophie Cunningham was held to 13 points, while finishing 1 of 8 from deep.
“(Cunningham) is just tough to guard,” Warlick said. “It’s hard to guard somebody that shoots the three and goes inside. To hold her to 13 points was huge for us. We did a great job holding.”
The Lady Vols will have another opportunity to boost their resume with a road contest at No. 22 Texas A&M (19-6, 11-3 SEC) on Thursday at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.