The No. 16 Tennessee women’s basketball team was defeated by No. 6 Texas A&M 80-70 Sunday afternoon. With their second straight loss, the Lady Vols dropped to 12-5 (6-3 SEC) on the year. Meanwhile, the Aggies stayed hot, winning their seventh consecutive game to improve to 19-1 (10-1 SEC).
After missing Thursday’s game at Kentucky for medical reasons, senior Rennia Davis was the game’s leading scorer, totaling 25 points on 52.6% shooting, four rebounds and an assist.
Junior Rae Burrell was second in the team with 18 points, five rebounds and an assist. Sophomore Tamari Key was the third Lady Vol to score in double figures, with 10 points and 10 rebounds, her second double-double of the year.
The game was as back and forth as it gets. Texas A&M opened the game with a 6-0 run, with two baskets from Aaliyah Wilson. Tennessee responded with an 11-0 run of its own, led by four points from Davis. At the first media timeout, the score was 11-6.
Nearly three minutes passed following the break before either team scored. They traded baskets as the quarter wound down, and were tied at 15 at the end of one.
The second quarter was a close one as well, with neither team finding momentum for long. Tennessee had its best shooting quarter of the night, going 50% from the field and perfect from deep (1-1) and at the line (2-2). Despite the shooting, the Lady Vols were still behind, until a Marta Suárez three pointer tied the score at 32 with six seconds remaining.
The battle continued after half time, with neither team relenting. The Aggies scored a quick five points, before Tennessee rallied back. Four minutes in, Suárez hit her second three pointer of the day, which gave Tennessee a five-point lead, its largest of the quarter.
The Lady Vols were outscored 12-5 down the stretch of the third, and the Aggies took a 51-49 lead. Fouls caused Tennessee the most trouble, it had six in the quarter, resulting in six A&M points from the line.
“We played well throughout the game,” head coach Kellie Harper said after the game. “Unfortunately there in that (third) quarter, we just put them on the free throw line too many times, and we didn’t get it there enough. That was really the difference in the ball game.”
Tennessee remained competitive in the final quarter. Within two minutes, a jumper from Davis gave the Lady Vols a 55-54 lead, but that was their last of the day. They were within a score of the Aggies with as little as minute and a half left, but as they fouled to stop the clock, Texas A&M pulled away, 80-70.
“I thought it was a hard-fought basketball game against a really terrific team in A&M,” Harper said. “Obviously, they’re deep, they’ve got a lot of different weapons, and very efficient.”
The Lady Vols now find themselves in a tough situation. With the original schedule, plus two rescheduled games, Tennessee has a stretch of five games that include four road contests and four nationally ranked teams, Kentucky, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Georgia. Mississippi State, the fifth team in this stretch, and the only one not currently ranked, placed as high as No. 6 in a poll earlier this year.
Tennessee has started the stretch 0-2. The Lady Vols have just one day before their game at Mississippi State, and it will likely be a travel day, as weather issues in Texas complicate matters further.
This is certainly a turning point in Tennessee’s season, perhaps the biggest of the year. If the Lady Vols can shake off two disappointing losses and win a few games, they can remain competitive in the conference. Tennessee does have plenty of talent on its roster, led by Davis and Burrell.
The comparison has to be made, however, to this time last season, when the Lady Vols dropped five straight SEC games in February to effectively end their season.
Harper is optimistic about her team’s chances, but time is running out, and the schedule will not relent. Only time will tell how Tennessee will fare.
Next up for the Lady Vols is a trip to Starkville, and a rescheduled game against Mississippi State. Tip off is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPNU.