The No. 21 Tennessee women’s basketball team looks to even the season series against No. 22 Georgia when they travel to Athens this Sunday.
The Lady Vols (13-5, 7-3 SEC) are coming off their biggest win of the season, a 75-67 upset over No. 2 South Carolina last Thursday.
Senior forward Rennia Davis was the team’s top scorer against the Gamecocks, totaling 24 points and 12 rebounds, good for her seventh double-double of the season and the 36th of her career, which ties her with Gloria Johnson for fourth in school history.
Though the Lady Vols would pull off the upset, they did not make it easy for themselves, as they trailed the Gamecocks 37-25 at halftime.
Tennessee played to a 16-16 tie in the first quarter, but scored only nine points in the second. The Lady Vols shot just 23.1% in the quarter and committed eight turnovers. South Carolina also outrebounded UT 24-18 in the first half, taking away a major strength from the Lady Vols.
Davis did not score a point in the first half, and they lone bright spot for Tennessee was junior Rae Burrell, who scored 12 first half points.
“I challenged them, got a little fiery in the half time,” head coach Kellie Harper said about her halftime message. “Got a lot of emotion. And they obviously responded. They obviously really responded. They took it to heart. I called them soft, told them they need to get their big girl pants on, and they did. They stepped out there and did it.”
Davis carried the Lady Vols with her 24 second half points. Burrell added seven more, and sophomore Jordon Horston totaled 12 points with five assists and no turnovers. Tennessee outscored South Carolina 50-30 in the second half, overcoming a 16-point deficit to complete the largest comeback in the Harper era.
“In basketball you see it all the time. Runs happen.” Harper said. “You never feel secure with any lead that you have. Our team got ourselves right back in it. The thing that looked a little different tonight was that we got back in it and then really never faltered.”
Georgia (16-4, 8-4 SEC) enters the game coming off a big win of its own, an 82-64 victory over Mizzou. Senior Gabby Connally paced the Bulldogs, matching her season high with 29 points. She also hit a career-best six three pointers in the win.
Additionally, two other Bulldogs totaled a double-double, seniors Jenna Staiti and Que Morrison. Staiti had 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Morrison had 11 points and 10 boards.
When these two teams last met, Georgia pulled off a huge comeback against the Lady Vols, who led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. The Bulldogs put up 29 points in the third, while holding Tennessee to just nine, taking a lead they would never relinquish.
Connally and Morrison were the top scorers for Georgia, both totaling 17 points. Slowing those two down will be an important task for a Tennessee defense that has not been anything special of late.
Despite the loss, Tennessee brings plenty of confidence into the game. Harper has said all year that her team can compete against anyone in the nation, and that was before taking down the No. 2 team in the nation.
And against Georgia, the Lady Vols will be playing with some added energy.
“We already lost to them, so it's a little bit personal for us now,” Burrell said.
Tennessee’s biggest mistake in the first Georgia game was its 24 turnovers, which the Bulldogs turned into 25 points. Horston was the biggest offender with five, but she has improved her ball control of late, committing just three turnovers in her last four games.
Not just Horston, but all the Lady Vols will need to step up against a very good Georgia team.
“I think it's really important that we are locked in,” Harper said. “We've needed to get a little bit of practice in and hopefully, that will help us be prepared to go play a really good basketball team. They're playing great. Georgia's playing really well right now.”
Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.