Last night No. 6 seed Tennessee women’s basketball started off their SEC tournament play with a matchup against No. 11 seed Missouri at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. The Lady Vols were able to defeat the Tigers, overcoming a deficit to grab the 64-15 victory.
“I'm really excited that we're advancing in the tournament.” coach Kellie Harper “We came out, started a little slow. I felt like Missouri was going to be really tough to beat today because of their style of play, how they play. They're well-coached.”
Tennessee had three players reach double digits in what was their fourth straight game. The Lady Vols were led by Rae Burrell and her 16 points. Rennia Davis and Kasiyahna Kushkituah ended with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Aijha Blackwell led Missouri with 13 points, while Hannah Schuchts scored 11.
The Tigers opened the game taking a seven-point lead behind Backwell and Jordan Roundtree’s nine combined points. Rennia Davis ended the run with a jumper just before the first media timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Blackwell answered with a three, but Kushkituah and Jordan Horston countered with buckets of their own. Missouri would go on another run, ending the first quarter up seven.
The two teams went back and forth as both teams went on runs, which resulted in the Tiger holding an eight-point lead at the halftime break. The standout player for Tennessee was Kushkituah who rallied the Lady Vols with five-straight points.
“At halftime we were just trying to get our players motivated.” Harper said “Again, feel some urgency in the game. Sometimes there's some technical talks, sometimes there's some motivational talks. That one was probably a little bit of both.”
Tamari Key opened up the scoring for Tennessee after the halftime break after which Burrell continued the momentum with a three-pointer that pulled the margin within three points after only a minute into the third quarter. Ninety seconds later, Davis tied the game at 34-34 when she earned three points the hard way. Missouri took back the lead behind a string of free throws, but Burrell gave the Lady Vols their first lead of the game with nine straight points. Kushkituah, Horston and Jazmine Massengill also scored, bringing the Tennessee lead to nine, and the Lady Vols’ run to 15-0 as they headed the final quarter.
Davis open scoring in the fourth quarter after the Tigers finally scored again when they got a three-point play from Hayley Frank. The two teams traded baskets, but Tennessee was able to hold a 10-point lead with under three minutes to play.
Despite a push by Missouri, the Lady were able to hold on to advance.
“That was a physical game.” Davis said “We knew coming into this game that Missouri would be a tough team, as Coach Harper mentioned. But I was just proud of the team for just sticking with it, not really considering the calls or whatever the case might have been, just stepping up. When we did get foul calls, we hit free throws.
With the win, Tennessee will play No. 3 seed Kentucky tonight on the SEC Network, SEC Radio Network and Lady Vol Network. Tipoff will be 25 minutes following the 6 p.m. matchup, which will likely mean an 8:15 p.m. start time.