Led by a fourth quarter comeback, Tennessee women’s basketball escaped Fayetteville with a 70-63 win over Arkansas to stay undefeated in the SEC.
“This is not just a win, this is a win with a team that, man, they lay it all out there,” head coach Kellie Harper said. “They play for each other. They fight. They give you everything they’ve got.”
The Lady Vols came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter, winning the opening tip and going on an 8-0 run to start the first period. All 8 of the first points scored by Tennessee came in the paint.
UT would lead as much as 10 in the frame before the Razorbacks trimmed it down to 3 by the end of the quarter, trailing 20-17 to UT.
The Lady Vols would go on another run in the second quarter – 9-0 – that would give the Lady Vols their largest lead of the game at 11 points.
Arkansas stormed back, however, to go on a run of its own in the second frame. The Razorbacks went on a 14-2 streak to give them their first lead of the game at 34-33. Tennessee hit a pair of free throws to lead 35-34 at the half.
The major storyline came in the first half when Tennessee’s all-conference forward Rae Burrell checked into the ballgame for the first time since she suffered a knee injury in the season opener against Southern Illinois.
“I think that the biggest thing right now is just the comfort level,” Harper said. “She’s released to go obviously, but we’re just trying to find the comfort level that Rae has on the court and she and I have been working together on that.”
“I know it’s a lot of excitement there that she’s able to generate so it will be good for us, but we still need to work her back in. It’s going to take some time for her to be the player she was before she got hurt but we think she can get there.”
To start the third quarter, Arkansas took control of the lead, leading 43-37 at the media timeout.
The Razorbacks would jump to an eight point lead – their largest of the game – just before the end of the period, but the Lady Vols did not give in. To end the quarter, Tennessee went on a 5-0 run to pull within three points, 48-45, heading into the final quarter.
This season has been fueled by fourth quarter comebacks for the Lady Vols, and that was the case once again on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams were neck-and-neck to kick off the quarter, before the Lady Vols went on a run and never looked back.
UT led by 6 points with just over two minutes left in the ball game, thanks to an 8-2 run.
Down the stretch, the Lady Vols came up clutch from the free-throw line, finishing the quarter 11-for-16 from the charity strike.
Arkansas would cut the lead to 3 with 41 seconds to play, but Tennessee iced the Razorbacks with a layup and two more free throws to close out the game, winning 70-63.
The win on Sunday was the eleventh come-from-behind win of the season and the fifth win trailing in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Vols were led by their anchor in the middle Tamari Key. She led the charge in the fourth quarter, scoring 7 of her team-high 17 points in the frame. Key also finished with 7 blocks and 5 boards.
Alexus Dye picked up her third double-double of the season, racking up 13 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds.
Jordan Horston, Jordan Walker and Keyen Green also finished the contest scoring in double-figures, respectively, giving the Lady Vols five players dropping double-digits. Horston tallied 12, Walker had 13 and Green finished with 11.
“This is such an unbelievably special group of young women,” Harper said. “I love coaching them every single day. I love the next day. I love whatever is in store for us tomorrow.”
“They’re an absolute joy. They’re not perfect, nobody is perfect. We’re not, but, man, this is a team I want to go to battle with every single day.”
Next up for the Lady Vols is a top-25 matchup versus the Aggies of Texas A&M Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is slated for 6:30 p.m. EST.