The No. 21 Tennessee women’s basketball team was defeated by No. 22 Georgia 57-55 Sunday afternoon. The Lady Vols looked to continue their momentum from Thursday’s upset over South Carolina, but poor shooting and several late mistakes cost them the game.
Senior Rennia Davis led the Lady Vols (13-6, 7-4 SEC) in scoring for the third straight game, racking up 22 points along with six rebounds.
Junior Rae Burrell, Tennessee’s leading scorer entering the game, had a rare bad game, with 10 points and five rebounds. Burrell is normally Tennessee’s best option from deep, but was 0-4 on three-pointers today.
“I think a lot of it is just, they key in on her,” head coach Kellie Harper said on Georgia containing Burrell. “I think they’re collapsing down, so our spacing wasn’t great in terms of helping her.”
Sophomore Tamari Key nearly had a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds, but shot just 33.3% from the post position. Graduate transfer Jordan Walker, who started the game, scored just four points on 2-7 shooting, and sophomore Jordan Horston had four turnovers and no assists at point guard.
Tennessee had little to say in the first half offensively. The Lady Vols did not get many good looks, despite numerous opportunities.
They shot 12.9% from the field in the first two quarters, making just four field goals. It was only thanks to Tennessee’s play at the free throw line (11-14) that they trailed by eight at the half, 27-19.
“We were forcing a lot of shots,” Davis said. “Not hitting the open people, not hitting the people who needed to be scoring. We were just all out of rhythm.”
Georgia (17-4, 9-4 SEC) was only slightly better than Tennessee in the first half. The Bulldogs shot right around 30%, but they really benefited from the Lady Vols’ turnovers.
Tennessee lost the ball 11 times, and did not get much better as the day went on, totaling 20 for the game. Every Lady Vol that played more than two minutes had at least two turnovers, and senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah being the biggest offender with five.
Both teams came out of halftime and looked much better offensively. Burrell had not scored through two quarters, but put up a quick six points in the third. Key, who had five points in the first half, added four points to her total.
A more balanced offensive attack in the third led to Tennessee’s 20 points, its highest total in any quarter. The Lady Vols had matched their first quarter total of 10 points less than three minutes into the third.
As good as the offense was after the break, Tennessee’s defense took a step back. Georgia had struggled to shoot early in the game, but hit 41.2% of shots. The Bulldogs really pulled away on the three-pointer. Gabby Connally hit two and Que Morrison made one, as Georgia also dropped 20 points in the third.
In the fourth, it finally looked as if Tennessee had figured everything out. The Lady Vols cut down on turnovers for the quarter, outrebounded Georgia and finally made shots from deep. Their defense was also better, holding the Bulldogs to just 10 points, but it all came together too late for the Lady Vols.
Davis had several opportunities to even things up in the final minutes, but came up short. Under five minutes, she was fouled, but missed both shots from the free-throw line. Tennessee went on to lose by two points.
Later, Davis had two possessions under 20 seconds remaining. She turned the ball over in the first one, and then missed the buzzer beater to tie on the second possession. It appeared that Davis was fouled on her final shot, but no call was made, and Georgia hung on to win 57-55.
“Just disappointed in the mistakes, Harper said on her team effort. “I thought we had a lack of focus. And to be honest with you, I think this kind of started on Friday. I think Friday and Saturday were not out best practices.”
Since the COVID-19 pause earlier this month, the Lady have struggled with consistency. They lost consecutive games to Kentucky and Texas A&M, but bounced back with an upset of No. 2 South Carolina last Thursday. Which they followed up with today’s loss.
The Lady Vols have been streaky on offense, and have not played well as a whole, defensively. They have struggled with turnovers, and today they couldn’t shoot at all.
Tennessee still holds a double-bye in the upcoming SEC tournament, but dropped to fourth place with today’s loss. UT will have two more chances to right the ship before the end of the regular season, against Mizzou (3-8 SEC) and Auburn (0-12 SEC).
“We still have to show up and perform, nobody’s going to hand us anything,” Davis said.
Up next for Tennessee is a road trip to Colombia, Missouri this Thursday. Tip-off against Mizzou is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SECN+.