The University of Tennessee women’s basketball team narrowly defeated LSU, 64-63 on Sunday afternoon at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The Lady Vols are now 8-1 on the season and 2-0 in the SEC after the win, while LSU falls to 4-6 on the year and 2-2 in the conference.
“Well, I was reminded numerous times that it has been a few years since Tennessee has won at LSU,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “But you also come down here and know that this is a really good basketball team that we are playing against. It is a hard game to play, their style is unique and it can be a grind for the opposing teams. Before the game, our staff talked about coming out here with a one-point win, we would be happy. It is just that tough in the SEC to get those wins.”
Tennessee had a trio of double-digit scorers in the afternoon’s affair. Rae Burrell led the group with 18 points, while also adding on three rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Tamari Key scored a season-high 12 points, and her most since Feb. 27, 2020. Jordan Horston rounded out the pack with 11 points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal.
The Tigers were paced by Khayla Pointer who finished the game with a game-high 25 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals. Tiara Young provided nice production off of the bench. The sophomore guard totaled 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
In the first quarter, the Lady Vols jumped out to an early 4-0, after Key and Horston made two shots inside the paint. Pointer answered quickly with four points of her own. The two teams would trade blows with each other and go into the first media timeout tied at 10. LSU scored first after the break and took a 15-10 lead, thanks to a three by Pointer and a layup by Young. Tennessee’s offensive production in the remaining minutes of the quarter came from the free-throw line. The Lady Vols cut the deficit to just one until Young hit a layup at the buzzer to give the Tigers a 19-16 lead.
In the second quarter, it was LSU who struck first, as Ajae Petty finished underneath the rim. Jordan Walker delivered a shot from deep at the other end of the court to bring Tennessee within two. Neither team would score until the six-minute mark as Pointer and Rakell Spencer combined for four points to put the Tigers ahead, 29-23. The Lady Vols started to eat away at the Tiger’s lead. Key started things off with a layup before the media break. Marta Suárez tacked on another Tennessee layup, which eventually led to a Rennia Davis jumper and a 31-30 Lady Vol lead. Young regained the lead for LSU at the charity stripe, but Davis made sure it was short-lived as she hit a layup to close the half. Tennessee went into the break ahead, 33-32.
The second half was kicked off by Key scoring another layup. The following possession saw Suárez stealing the ball and kicking it out to Burrell for a layup. LSU regrouped and went on a 5-0 run to knot the game at 37-all. Kasiyahna Kushkituah continued her current hot trend and pushed the Lady Vols out in front after nailing both attempts at the free-throw line. Pointer quickly responded with three points to give the Tigers a 40-39 point lead at the five-minute mark. Faustine Aifuwa tacked on a layup coming out of the break, but Burrell would go on to score five straight Tennessee points to give them a 46-44 advantage. The quarter would eventually end with the Lady Vols up 47-46.
“I think that just being a big presence in the paint, and playing towards my strengths like rebounding, offensively and defensively, has been a big part of my success,” Kushkituah said. “Making sure I lock down my play on the defensive end and making sure their post player doesn’t get as many scores or doesn’t out-rebound me. In offense, it's about being a big presence, posting up and getting offensive rebounds, and doing what I can for the team. I feel like it is important, especially in SEC play.”
The final stanza opened up both teams going tit-for-tat with each other. Tennessee would eventually breakthrough with a 6-0 run after Kushkituah and Burrell hit shots to put Tennessee ahead 60-54. LSU crawled back to be down by two until Key hit another shot in the paint to push the Lady Vols’ lead to four. The game ended with a last-second try from LSU falling into the hands of Horston after the attempt was no good. Tennessee would win the game, 64-63.
Up next for Tennessee is a return to Thompson-Boling Arena for a matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET.