The last three weeks for the Lady Vols have arguably been the most difficult stretch in program history.
Coming into Sunday afternoon’s contest against LSU and former Lady Vol Nikki Fargas, Tennessee (13-7, 2-5 SEC) had lost its last six games. But against the Tigers, the Lady Vols snapped the losing streak with a 74-65 win over LSU.
“I’m excited for this basketball team,” Holly Warlick said following the game. “It was a great, great effort.”
“You get a win and you’re ready to go. These kids, regardless of the streak, they never quit working. We had two good practices leading up to this game, as well the ones before the Notre Dame game. It took all of us. It took every one of us.”
Tennessee led for nearly 38 minutes on its way to its first win since a 78-69 win over Auburn in their SEC opener on Jan. 3. Rennia Davis scored a game-high 24 points in the win while Kasiyahna Kushkituah added a career-high 14 points.
The Lady Vols got it going early on, making six of their first nine shots to jump out to a 14-8 lead with 4:46 remaining in the frame. Tennessee forced LSU into eight turnovers, and at the end of the first quarter, led 22-17.
It was much of the same in the second quarter, as Tennessee led by as many as 11 and no fewer than six. Davis led the Lady Vols to a 36-29 lead at the break thanks to 10 first half points. Kushkituah and Zaay Green added eight.
In the second half, Tennessee outscored LSU 38-36. The Tigers started the half by making three 3’s to cut the Lady Vols’ lead to four points, but Tennessee immediately responded each time with a 4-0 run of its own. LSU was able to cut the lead down to two at one point, but it was never ever able to take the lead.
These are our observations from the Lady Vols’ first win in nearly a month.
Rennia Davis bounces back
Davis had been in a slump until her performance on Sunday afternoon. In her previous four games, the sophomore forward failed to reach double-figures. She was 2-of-12 against Georgia, 0-of-5 against Alabama, 3-of-12 against Arkansas, and 3-of-14 against No. 1 Notre Dame.
“She (Davis) took makable shots for her,” Warlick said of Davis. “She did that. She moved and she attacked the basket. That kid works everyday on her shot; it was just a matter of when it was going to come back to her.”
Against LSU, she was was 8-of-15 for 24 points despite shooting 0-of-3 from the 3-point line. Davis also grabbed seven rebounds – four of which were on the offensive glass – picked up two steals, and assisted on two buckets. In her last three games, she had nine rebounds total. At the free throw line, Davis was a perfect 8-for-8.
“I tried to come into this game with my mind cleared,” Davis said. “I was putting too much pressure on myself.”
On the season, Davis is now averaging 13.6 points per game and 7.7 rebounds.
Getting after it on the boards
Though Tennessee snapped its losing streak, everything wasn’t pretty on Sunday afternoon.
The Lady Vols were 0-of-13 from the 3-point line, and they turned it over 16 times – compared to LSU’s 25 turnovers and 4-of-7 shooting from the 3-point line. On Tennessee’s 16 turnovers, the Tigers scored 20 points.
What saved Tennessee from losing its seventh-straight was its efforts on the offensive glass. The Lady Vols out-rebounded LSU 36-30, and 19 of those boards were offensive rebounds. Six different Lady Vols recorded an offensive rebound. Cheridene Green pulled down a team-high six, Jazmine Massengill had four, as did Davis. Kushkituah had three offensive rebounds.
Tennessee scored 15 second-chance points off of its effort on the offensive glass.
After hurting her ankle against Arkansas in Monday’s game, Meme Jackson missed her second consecutive game on Sunday. Jackson also missed Thursday night’s game against No. 1 Notre Dame.
As she did before the game with the Fighting Irish, Jackson didn’t warm up with the team. Warlick said following the game that they hope to have her back by their next game on Thursday.
“I think she’s close to getting back,” Warlick said. “It’s going to continue to be day-to-day.
“Our trainer is outstanding and doing everything to get her back. I am hoping she can be back by Thursday.”
The Lady Vols will be back in action on Thursday night when they conclude their four-game homestand with a game against Florida (5-15, 1-6 SEC). Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
Florida has lost nine out of its last 11 games.