The No. 20 Tennessee women’s basketball team defeated Missouri 78-73 Thursday night, overcoming a five-point fourth quarter deficit to complete the comeback.
Here are three takeaways from the Lady Vols’ win.
Burrell leads one half, Davis leads the other
Senior Rennia Davis and junior Rae Burrell were Tennessee’s to scorers, but following a recent trend, they were a bit streaky from half to half.
Burrell was the star of the first half, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds, both of which game-highs at the time. She shot 77.8% through two quarters, and was the only Lady Vol to score from deep, making two of three.
Towards the end of the third quarter, Burrell landed hard on her ankle, and had to be helped off the court. She did come back into the game, but was not as effective. Burrell finished the night with 23 points, the second-leading scorer of the night.
With Burrell out Davis took charge of the team. She had played seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, and had just six points through third quarter, but broke out in a major way for Tennessee.
“She has been keeping us in the games in the first halves,” Davis said. “And she passed me the baton in the second half. And that’s just been what we’ve been doing here recently. And it’s been good for us.”
Davis exploded for 20 points in the fourth quarter, and she ended with a game-high 26. She made 7-9, 2-3 three-pointers and 4-5 free-throws.
Two minutes into the fourth, Davis hit her second trey of the night. The score kicked off an eight-minute stretch of 17 points for the forward. She was the only Lady Vol to score in that span, and the rest of the team combined for just three points in the quarter.
Mizzou’s game plan entering the night was to neutralize the Lady Vols’ size advantage by making them play defense on the perimeter. It worked extremely well in the first half, as the Tigers went 7-15 from the three-point line.
In the first half, four Tigers scored from beyond the arc, led by Haley Troup, who was 2-3. On the contrary, Tennessee was just 2-11 from three-point range in the first half.
At halftime, Harper challenged her players to stop Mizzou’s three-point shooting, so they could focus on their own game plan, not play into Mizzou’s.
For the most part, the Lady Vols did just that. They held the Tigers to four three-pointers in the third quarter and just one in the fourth. Haley Franks led Missouri with three second half treys.
“We did a much better job late in that fourth quarter,” head coach Kellie Harper said on limiting three-pointers. “We really took them off the three-point line late, and we needed that.”
Tennessee became more accurate as it stopped Mizzou’s game plan. In the second half, the Lady Vols made four of eight three pointers, with Davis, Burrell and graduate transfer Jordan Walker all hitting from deep. Tennessee finished at 31.6% (6-19) from beyond the arc for the night.
Cleaning up inside
One of Tennessee’s biggest strengths this year has been its dominance inside – getting rebounds and scoring in the paint. In several of the Lady Vols’ recent losses, control of the paint had gotten away from them. Tennessee, however, dominated inside tonight.
“This week, our day on Tuesday, we actually worked on us,” Harper said. “And it was awesome. We had a practice that we worked on the Lady Vols. And we had not done that in a long time. . . We needed to clean up some things that we needed to do.”
The hard work paid off, as the Lady Vols outrebounded the Tigers 46-25, led by a season-high 10 boards from Walker. Senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah, Key and Burrell all had eight, and Davis added seven.
Tennessee grabbed 28 defensive rebounds in the game, more boards than Mizzou had in total. As the game progressed, the Tigers’ shooting was less accurate, and Tennessee’s ability to prevent second chances helped it complete the comeback. The Lady Vols have now outrebounded their opponents in 19 of 20 games this season.
The Lady Vols also scored 38 points in the paint, 10 more than Mizzou. Key and Kushkituah, Tennessee’s two posts, combined for 15 of the 38 points, though Davis scored 10 from the paint as well.
In their final game of the regular season, the Lady Vols will host Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena this Sunday. The Tigers are seeking their first conference victory of the season, while Tennessee can clinch third place in the SEC with a win.
Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.