No. 25 Tennessee dropped a playoff-esque match against No. 16/18 Texas A&M on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena. With their 73-71 loss, the Lady Vols drop to 17-8 on the season and 7-5 in the SEC, while the Aggies climbs to 20-5 overall with an 8-4 SEC record.
“After a close game, you can pick up a stat sheet and find many areas where you could have won the game,” said coach Kellie Harper. “The other side is that I am proud of our effort. I think it was one of our best games in terms of 40 minutes of effort. I think we can build on that. We just need to clean up some little stat sheet items and continue giving focus and effort like that to give us a chance.”
Tennessee’s leading scorer was Rae Burrell who led the Lady Vols with 19 points and seven boards. Rennia Davis was second on the team with 18 points. She also recorded six assists and five rebounds.
Burrell, making her third career start, improved her scoring average to 10.2 ppg. This mark puts her as the second-highest scorer for Tennessee.
Texas A&M was led by Chennedy Carter who finished with a career-high 37 points and five rebounds. N’dea Jones was active on the glass and also finished with a game-high, but for rebounds, as she pulled down 16 boards and also scored eight points.
The Lady Vols started the first quarter slow and fell to a 6-2 deficit early. Jazmine Massengill found Lou Brown underneath the basket for a layup, which eventually led to a 10-0 for Tennessee and the eventual lead. The Lady Vols extended their lead by six after Jordan Horston and Davis scored, which put Tennessee ahead 12-6. The Aggies found some momentum, but the Lady Vols ended the first quarter up, 15-12, after three late Texas A&M turnovers.
The second quarter started off in the Aggies’ favor as they went on a 7-0 run. Burrell found some offensive success, scoring 10 of the team’s 15 points throughout the Tennessee offensive explosion. She was able to help cut Texas A&M’s lead to 33-27. Only three more points would be scored for each team during the rest of the quarter with the Aggies taking a 36-30 lead into the half.
“We are just trying to make the decisions that are the best for our team,” said Harper. “We wanted to try that lineup again and get everybody the opportunity. Obviously, Rae plays hard and we are gonna get that from her every night.”
Starting the half, Tamari Key converted a three point playto cut the Lady Vols’ deficit to three. The two teams traded runs with the Aggies taking their turn first to go on a 6-0 run, and Tennessee following that up with a 6-0 run of their own. Davis made a three and Burrel converted her and-one to make it a two possession game. The teams traded buckets at the end with the Lady Vols down 53-47.
Key made the first basket of the stanza to cut the lead to four. Texas A&M scored two more baskets, but those were answered immediately by Davis who connected from behind the arc, which gave Tennessee some momentum as they went on a 4-0 run to bring the score to 63-60, Aggies. Texas A&M started a 5-0 run after the media break to increase their lead to eight points. Massengill, Brown, and Horston combined for five points to cut the lead to just three. Baskets were traded until the very last second when Carter made both of her 13th and 14th free throws to seal the game. The Aggies secured the road victory, 73-71.
With the loss the Lady Vols are on a four-game losing streak and have a 5-5 record in their last 10 games.
“I think this stretch has exposed some of our weaknesses,” said Brown “I think we are still learning as we are going and we just need to back up and reset. A huge thing for us, especially in our last game against LSU, was just playing hard throughout the duration of the 40 minutes. Tonight, we showed that we can do that and I think that is a huge thing for us.”
Tennessee’s next match will be against No. 23 Arkansas (20-5, 8-4) in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Thursday at 7 p.m.