No. 6 Mississippi State snapped the Lady Vols’ three-game winning streak on Sunday afternoon with a 91-63 win. The Lady Bulldogs’ (22-1, 10-0 SEC) snagged a 28-point win, and that’s the most they’ve ever beaten Tennessee (15-8, 4-6 SEC) by in the series’ history.
After the Lady Vols got within three in the third quarter, Mississippi State ran away with the game, winning the fourth quarter 30-14.
Here are our observations from the Lady Vols’ loss.
No class, no playing time
Tennessee was without its starting point guard against Mississippi State.
Announced shortly before the game, sophomore Evina Westbrook was suspended for Sunday’s game due to a violation of team rules – specifically being late and missing class this past week. In an announcement, Westbrook issued an apology and stated that it would never happen again.
“I take responsibility for my actions,” Westbrook said. “I apologize to my team.”
Entering the game, Westbrook led the Lady Vols in scoring (16.0), assists (5.1) and steals (40).
Freshman Jazmine Massengill started in place of Westbrook. Massengill scored six points on 2-of-6 shooting in 30 minutes of action. She also had three rebounds and two assists.
With Westbrook out, Tennessee turned it over 18 times.
Rennia Davis and Zaay Green were the only Lady Vols who made the trip to Starkville. At least that’s what the box score would suggest, as the pair were the only two to score double figures.
Davis scored a game-high 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting and 3-of-6 shooting from the 3-point line. In 38 minutes, the sophomore also hauled in six rebounds and assisted on two baskets. Not only were Davis’ 29 points a game-high, but they were also a season-high.
Green chipped in 13 points as she shot nearly 50 percent from the field and connected on one of her three 3-point attempts. She did foul out in 27 minutes, however.
Tennessee had zero answers for Mississippi State’s offense.
Teaira McCowan could be the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft and demonstrated why against the Lady Vols. McCowan recorded a double-double with ease, scoring a team-high 24 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds. She was 7-of-10 from the field and 10-of-13 from the free throw line.
The Lady Vols matched Cheridene Green, Kasiyahna Kushkituah, and Kamera Harris on McCowan, but the potential SEC Player of the Year was just too much. Kushkituah found herself in foul trouble throughout the game, finishing with four fouls.
Tennessee’s defense also didn’t have an answer for State’s Jordan Danberry or Howard. Dansberry scored 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting and added four assists. Howard recorded a double-double, scoring 16 points and hauling in 11 rebounds.
As a team, Tennessee allowed Mississippi State to shoot 52 percent and knock down six 3-pointers. The Lady Vols only forced eight turnovers, allowed 50 points in the paint, and 18 second-chance points. State also out-rebounded Tennessee 38-30 and scored 12 points off turnovers.
Entering Sunday’s game in Starkville, ESPN’s Charlie Creme had the Lady Vols as an 11-seed and one of the last four teams getting in the NCAAW Tournament.
Ramifications come with any loss, but the effects of the loss to Mississippi State are staggering for the Lady Vols. Following the 28-point loss, Creme no longer has Tennessee making the tournament. The Lady Vols have never missed the tournament since its inception.
Tennessee still has plenty of time to get back on track and earn a spot in the tourney, but only if it can learn to play defense and be more disciplined on and off the court. The road won’t be easy, though, as four of the remaining six regular season games are against teams in the top-half of the SEC standings.
The Lady Vols return home to face an Auburn team that is 18-6 on the season and 6-5 in conference play. Thursday night’s contest is scheduled to tip at 7 p.m. ET.
Tennessee beat the Tigers on the road in its SEC-opener, 78-69.