A second half disaster led to the 23rd-ranked Lady Vols falling to No. 3 Connecticut 60-45 on Thursday night.
Junior forward Rennia Davis led Tennessee (15-4) with a game-high 16 points and eight rebounds. Jazmine Massengill was the only other Lady Vol to reach double figures, scoring 11 points. Massengill also had seven rebounds and five assists.
As a team, Tennessee committed 27 turnovers on the night which led to 15 points off turnovers for Connecticut (17-1). The Lady Vols held the Huskies to 32 percent shooting, but shot just 34 percent from the floor themselves. UConn won the rebounding battle 47-45.
Connecticut had three players reach double figures. Crystal Dangerfield scored a team-high 14 points, while Aubrey Griffin scored 13 points. Olivia Nelson-Ododa chipped in 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Tennessee took a 31-28 lead into halftime over UConn thanks to strong defensive play. Though the Lady Vols only led by three at the break, they were the better team, but 15 turnovers allowed the Huskies to keep it close despite shooting only 20 percent from the field.
Davis led the Lady Vols in the first half with 10 points. As a team, they shot 43 percent from the field. Connecticut wasn’t able to take advantage of Tennessee’s turnovers, however, only scoring nine points off of the miscues.
Dangerfield and Megan Walker kept the Huskies in the game despite the poor shooting effort from the team as a whole and nine first half turnovers. The duo combined for 19 of Connecticut’s 28 points in the first two quarters. Dangerfield led her team with 10 points on 5-for-11 shooting. Walker scored nine points on 2-for-3 shooting from the field.
Davis began the game with a three. Lou Brown then hit a three of her own, and after another Davis bucket, the Lady Vols led 8-2 thanks to five early points from the junior forward. Tennessee would be outscored the remainder of the first quarter, 12-8, but it held a 16-14 lead at the end of the first frame.
UConn battled foul trouble in the second quarter as Nelson-Ododa and Anna Makurat both had to take a seat on the bench with two fouls. With the Huskies having to use a smaller lineup, the Lady Vols took advantage and went on a run thanks to a Jazmine Massengill and-one and 3-pointer. The spark from Massengill gave Tennessee a 26-18 lead with 5:57 remaining in the first half — its biggest lead of the game.
Though the Lady Vols led for 18:37 of the first half, Connecticut finished the half on a 7-0 run to erase the deficient. Davis hit a late three in the half to give Tennessee a three-point lead at the break.
The second half was a complete disaster for the Lady Vols, as they were outscored 32-14 over the final 20 minutes of the game.
Connecticut began the second half on a 7-0 run to claim a 35-31 lead. Davis had the opportunity to convert an and-one to end the run, but she missed the free throw. The Huskies wouldn’t look back, going on to win the third quarter 21-7. Tennessee made just three shots in the third quarter and turned the ball over nine times in the frame.
The Lady Vols also made just three shots in the fourth quarter. For the second half, Tennessee committed more turnovers (12) than they made shots (6). UT shot just 23 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 27-22. The Lady Vols allowed UConn to grab 10 offensive rebounds.
In the first match-up between the two bitter rivals since 2007, UConn emerged victorious at home. Tennessee will look to get revenge next year when the two teams face-off in Knoxville.
Tennessee returns home from Connecticut to prepare for a Sunday afternoon match-up with the LSU Tigers. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. The match-up is this season’s designated “We Back Pat” game.