Tennessee picked up a big win on Sunday afternoon, defeating Missouri 62-60 on the road.
The Lady Vols (17-8, 6-6 SEC) entered the game in desperate need of a road win. On the backs of Evina Westbrook and Rennia Davis, they did just that. In what was a back-and-forth game for the entire 40 minutes, there were 17 lead changes and nine ties. Neither team led by more than seven.
“I loved our effort, our energy,” Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick said following the game. “Great win for us.”
Missouri (19-8, 8-5 SEC) led 49-48 at the end of three quarters, but the Lady Vols outscored the Tigers 14-11 in the fourth quarter to pick up the two-point win.
Cierra Porter made a layup with 1:09 remaining to tie the game at 60-all. Davis then sank a pair of free throws to give UT a 62-60 lead. On the next Tennessee possession, Westbrook missed a layup that would have made it a two-possession game. Instead, Missouri got the ball back down two with nine seconds remaining.
On Missouri’s final possession, Akira Levy missed a three at the top of the key with two seconds remaining that would have won the game for the Tigers. Instead, the Lady Vols took over with 0.9 seconds remaining. Though UT turned it over with 0.3 seconds remaining on a charge, Mizzou was not able to take another shot.
“Really proud of our basketball team for getting stops when we needed to,” Warlick said. “I was happy we only gave up six threes.
“Our defense was so much better.”
In the first half, Davis led all scorers with nine points. Behind two late free throws in the final moments of the half, Missouri led 31-30 at the break. But the Lady Vols would hold the lead when it mattered most.
These are the biggest takeaways from the Lady Vols big win.
Going dancing…for now
Entering Sunday, ESPN’s Charlie Creme had the Lady Vols as the first team out of the NCAA Tournament. Following the win, Tennessee is back in the big dance.
“Obviously, a huge win,” Creme tweeted out following the game. “One they (Tennessee) really needed and given the state of the bubble, it may end up being exactly the only one they need.”
Following back-to-back wins against Auburn and Missouri, the Lady Vols have climbed to seventh in the SEC standings with a 6-6 conference record. At 17-8 on the season with impressive road wins over Missouri and No. 15 Texas and more opportunities to come, unless UT just collapses, it should find itself in the tourney.
Westbrook and Davis combined for 34 points against Sophie Cunningham’s Tigers. On 12-of-32 shooting, the duo accounted for 55 percent of Tennessee’s points. Only one other Lady Vol – Mimi Collins – scored double-figures.
Davis – Tennessee’s lone preseason All-SEC selection – scored 16 points on the night. She was 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-5 from the 3-point line. Davis also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds to record a double-double for the second game in a row. The sophomore also had two assists.
After logging her 17th career double-double, Davis is now averaging 14.8 points per game and 8.1 rebounds – tied for fifth-most in the SEC – on the season.
“Her (Davis) rebounding is huge for me,” Warlick said. “I’m excited for her. She’s just a kid that puts in the time.”
Westbrook – Tennessee’s starting point guard – scored a game-high 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting. The potential All-SEC member also had eight rebounds and six assists on the night. More importantly, Westbrook had just one turnover in 37 minutes.
The sophomore guard is now averaging 5.3 assists per game, which is tied for second-most in the conference. Westbrook has recorded at least five assists in 16 games this season.
Collins chipped in a career-high 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and drained a clutch three in the final minutes. The freshman also had six rebounds.
Taking care of the basketball
Turnovers have plagued the Lady Vols this season. But that wasn’t the case on Sunday.
Against Missouri, Tennessee turned it over just 10 times. Midway through the third quarter, UT had just four turnovers. The 10 turnovers on the night tied the second-fewest the Lady Vols have had all season. Only on one occasion this season have they turned it over fewer than 10 times.
The Lady Vols are now averaging 15.8 turnovers per game – fourth most in the SEC.
Tennessee also did a great job on the glass, out-rebounding Missouri 41-30. The Lady Vols are now averaging 45.0 boards and holding opponents to 34.3 rebounds. UT has out-rebounded 21 of its 25 opponents and 11 out of its 12 SEC opponents.
Tennessee now turns its attention to No. 22 Texas A&M (19-6, 8-4 SEC). The Lady Vols will travel to College State to take on the Aggies this Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.