For almost three whole quarters in Sunday afternoon’s clash between 13th ranked South Carolina and the Tennessee women’s basketball team, the Gamecocks held a double-digit advantage. At times, that advantage seemed insurmountable.
With their back against the ropes, the Lady Vols started to miraculously match their opponent blow-for-blow, methodically cutting into that once daunting lead. Despite their best efforts, though, a poor start proved too much to overcome, and South Carolina walked out with a 82-67 win.
It’s the second loss in a row for Tennessee, at a time it really needs to start stringing together wins.
“We’ve talked about getting the stretch that you need to,” head coach Holly Warlick said. “You need the games. They know it, they understand it.... We got ourselves in this hole, so we’ve got to climb out of it.”
It seemed as if the Lady Vols did not have an answer in the first quarter, and the Gamecocks took advantage of the poor showing. Tennessee turned the ball over seven times in the opening 10 minutes of play, allowing nine points off of those turnovers.
Tennessee’s offensive efforts reflected its ability to take care of the ball. It only managed 11 points, while South Carolina was able to explode to 27. The Lady Vols only hit five buckets throughout the first quarter of play.
That was the only quarter that either team found significant separation in. Tennessee was only outscored again in the fourth quarter, by six points. Both teams scored 16 in the second quarter, and the Lady Vols actually held the advantage in the third quarter, outscoring their opponent 24-17.
40 of Tennessee’s 67 total points were found in the second half. The gap was lessened to as little as seven points before the Gamecocks finally put it away, closing on a 6-2 run in the last two minutes of the game.
“We definitely did get ourselves in a hole, especially defensively,” Evina Westbrook said. “They just came out and took it to us. Unfortunately, we knew that they were going to come out and get the ball in quick, and try to get transition points.
“The first quarter was the difference throughout the entire game.”
South Carolina’s Bianca Cuevas-Moore torched Tennessee’s defense almost all game. The redshirt senior only averages around eight points per game this season. On Sunday, she dropped 28, surpassing her former career high of 25.
It was just her second time this season breaking the 20-point mark. She also tied a career high in made three-point shots, with four total finding the mark.
Cuevas-Moore was one of four players to finish in double-digit points for her team. Doniyah Cliney had 16 points, and went two for two from beyond the arc. The two players were responsible for all six of South Carolina’s three-pointers.
In comparison, Tennessee had just one three the entire game, made by Rennia Davis. It was her only attempt. The offense also attempted a season-low three shots from deep. The one made three-ball was the lowest mark since the LSU game on January 27, where the Lady Vols went 0-13.
Davis led the charge for her team with 15 points, the ninth straight game she has scored in double-digit figures. She tacked on nine rebounds, falling just short of another double-double.
Tennessee will return to the court on Thursday, welcoming the Vanderbilt Commodores to the Summitt for the second showdown between the two teams this season. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
“We definitely understand that we need to win these games,” Davis said. “Right now I think we’re just taking it game-by-game, and each game just trying to get better.”