For their senior night the Lady Vols (19-9, SEC 9-6) brought the heat against Ole Miss (7-21, SEC 0-15), defeating the Rebels 77-66 Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee celebrated Lou Brown and Kamera Harris and their time at Tennessee during the last home game of the season. Brown has been at Tennessee since 2018 and Kamera joined the Lady Vols in 2016.
“These two seniors have been consistent,” stated head coach Kellie Harper. “They have been coachable and they have handled the transition really well. I appreciate them and what they bring daily and also how the players react to them and look to them. I appreciate their maturity.”
Rae Burrell kicked things off for the Lady Vols, carrying Tennessee for the first seven points before a layup from an under-pressure Lou Brown turned the tide. Tamari Key and Jessie Rennie then combined for 11 points, with an electric three-pointer from Rennie, ending the first quarter 20-9.
Key started off the second quarter for Tennessee with two early layups. The Lady Vols continued to apply pressure, forcing a shot-clock violation on the Rebels. Rennie wasn’t slow to take advantage and delivered another crowd-shaking three-pointer. Tennessee managed to take control and produce a 20-point lead at 33-13.
Shortly after, Rennia Davis scored off a fast break and Jaiden McCoy got on the board. However, a couple of last second threes, some key fouls, and a lack of rebounding from the Lady Vols allowed the Rebels to close the gap before heading into the half 37-28.
“They went on a run and they got some momentum,” explained Harper. “They were making shots. We hit some screens. They outscored us in that second quarter and they went into halftime feeling really good. Teams can make runs so what you’ve got to do is stop up and guard during those runs. You have to defend to get a stop and the stop has got to be more important at that time.”
Ole Miss came out of the half looking for their first conference win with an aggressive defense and a three-pointer right out of the gate. Two free throws from Ole Miss’s Mimi Reid along with a string of threes put the Rebels within five points as they continued to push Tennessee in the third.
Davis managed to bring some life into the quarter, making her layup on a foul and sinking the free throw. A layup from Horston and an Ole Miss foul shifted the game for Tennessee as the Lady Vols reclaimed a ten-point lead. Burrell and McCoy furthered the Tennessee lead, both making their free throws.
“I knew that Ole Miss would come with a different and better game plan than the first game, since we beat them so bad the first time,” explained Davis. “Tonight, I was glad we got the win, but I also thought that there were moments when we were kind of laxed out there. There were also moments where we were able to come together and go on a run and keep that lead to a smooth ten.”
Leg brace and all, Brown took a massive foul from Reid, giving the Lady Vols the perfect opportunity for a buzzer-beater, massive three-pointer from Davis, ending the quarter 65-50.
Davis immediately delivered a jumper at the start of the fourth. Key, McCoy, and Cassie Kushkituah all added to Tennessee’s growing lead, with Key tallying a career-high of 17 points. An improved rebounding game and frequent trips to the free throw line allowed the Lady Vols to hold off the Rebels just long enough for the clock to run down and Tennessee to claim a 77-66 victory in their last home game.
“I’m proud of our team for coming up with a win,” stated Harper. “It’s amazing how fast the season goes and it’s hard to believe this is our last home game. Hopefully we can improve from this and be an even better basketball team in our next outing.”
Tennessee will play next on Sunday, March 1 against the Auburn Tigers in Alabama. The game tips off at 3 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.