The University of Tennessee women’s basketball team snapped South Carolina’s 31-game SEC win streak after a 75-67 victory on Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The No. 21/21 Lady Vols climb 13-5 overall and 7-3 in the SEC after the win, while the No. 2/3 fall to 17-3 in the season and 12-1 in the conference.
"I'm obviously very proud of our team and very proud of our second-half effort when we got ourselves back in the game,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “I'm very proud about finishing the game. That basketball team is so good. They are disciplined. They have a lot of talent and a lot of depth. They do things well on both ends of the court. I'm really proud of our team for stepping up and making plays when we had to make them. We got a huge win. I'm so happy and so proud."
Rennia Davis paved the way for Tennessee after recording her 36th career double-double, this time tallying 24 points (6-12 from the field) and 12 rebounds. Rae Burrell followed with 19 points, three assists and three steals. Jordan Horston added 12 points, five boards and five assists off of the bench.
The Gamecocks finished the match with three players in the double-figure point total. Aliyah Boston led the group with a double-double of 17 points and 16 rebounds. Zia Cooke totaled 15 points on 6-22 shooting. Destanni Henderson rounded out the trio with the next 15 points and also dished out six assists.
The opening quarter was a back and forth affair. Burrell opened up the game with a fast-break bucket inside of the paint. South Carolina’s Brea Beal answered with a layup of her own. Burrell knocked down the next two shots in the game from midrange, putting Tennessee ahead 6-2.
After the five-minute mark, both teams would trade blows until South Carolina would take a 12-10 lead with 1:51 left after a Henderson jumper. Horston answered to tie the game again before the Gamecocks and Lady Vols drained both of their free-throw attempts. Lele Grissett hit a layup on the next play, but Horston again tied the game at 16-all on a last-second shot.
The second quarter was all South Carolina as the Gamecocks opened up with four quick points. Kasiyahna Kushkituah hit a layup on the other end until Victaria Saxton hit a layup to put South Carolina ahead 22-18. Burrell scored her 10th point of the night for the final Lady Vol bucket for three minutes and thirty seconds.
During that time, the Gamecocks went on a 9-0 run, which was kicked off by a Boston bucket and continued with a three from Henderson. Kushkituah stopped the bleeding for Tennessee after knocking down a free throw to cut the lead to 31-21. The Gamecocks went on another run, this time 6-0, putting the Lady Vols in a 16-point hole. Tennessee closed out the quarter scoring four straight points, yet was still down 37-25 going into the half.
"She [Harper] said we were playing soft, and I took it personally,” Davis said. “My first half—I just wasn't doing enough for the team. I took it personally and my teammates did too. We came out there and I thought we grew up in the second half."
The half opened up with Tennessee extending their run to 8-0 after Burrell scored in the paint and Davis nailed both free throws. South Carolina answered with a 7-0 run after Saxton hit both free throws. The Lady Vols went on another run, this time a 6-0 run to help cut the lead to single digits. Cooke hit a jumper at the other end to put the lead back out to 11, but Tennessee came right back with a 7-0 powered by a Davis three. Boston was put on the line with 2:26 left in the game and hit both attempts to push the lead back out to 48-42.
The Lady Vols and Gamecocks would battle back and forth until Horston gave Tennessee back the lead with 1:05 left in the game. South Carolina finished the quarter outscoring Tennessee 4-2, and would take a narrow 54-53 lead into the final stanza.
South Carolina broke out to take a four-point lead until Burrell nailed a clutch shot from behind the arc to cut it to one. The two programs would go back and forth until the 5:36 mark, when Davis hit a three to tie the game at 62-all.
This kicked off a 9-0 Tennessee run and it would end until 1:58 when Boston nailed both shots at the line to cut the Lady Vols lead 68-64. Cooke hit another Gamecock freebie to cut the lead to three, but Tennessee would ice the game, going on a 6-0 run to eventually take a 75-67 victory against the second-best team in the nation.
"I think this is a good momentum starter into these next few games and the tournament coming up,” Burrell said. “This could be a turning point for us and seeing what we can really be and what our potential is."
Tennessee goes back on the road again for a match against No. 22/23 Georgia in Athens for a noon game on Sunday.