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3 Observations: No. 8 Mississippi State 72, No. 23 Lady Vols 55

Photo by Caitlyn Jordan/RTI

No. 8 Mississippi State beat No. 23 Tennessee 72-55 on Thursday night in Knoxville.

With Rennia Davis sidelined, the Lady Vols struggled offensively throughout much of the game. Tennessee hung tough in the opening quarter, swapping buckets with the Bulldogs. Behind nine points from Rae Burrell, the Lady Vols trailed just 21-19 at the end of the first quarter.

Tennessee struggled in the second quarter, however. The Lady Vols scored just four points throughout the first 8:23 of the frame which allowed Mississippi State to go on a 17-4 run and take a commanding 13-point lead. Tennessee rebounded just before the end of the half, as Jordan Horston went on a 5-0 run by herself to cut the State lead to 38-30 at the half.

The third quarter was much of the same for the Lady Vols. After being outscored 19-9 in the second quarter, they were outscored by the Bulldogs 18-10 in the third quarter. Tennessee trailed by single-digits for much of the quarter until Mississippi State finished the quarter on an 11-1 run to take a 56-40 lead into the final period.

Tennessee was unable to cut into the Mississippi State lead in the fourth quarter. The Lady Vols were able to get the deficit to 11 points, but the Bulldogs ultimately pulled away to win by 17.

“We knew we had a big challenge ahead of us tonight,” Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper said following the game. “We had a game plan that I think our players believed in. We were able to execute it for part of the game.

“We just weren’t able to maintain that level of focus or execution on both ends of the floor. We had some defensive breakdowns that you can’t have against that team.”

According to Robbie Faulk of 247Sports, Mississippi State became the first team in SEC history to win three consecutive games against the Lady Vols in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Bulldogs have now won seven-straight contests against Tennessee after starting the series 0-38.

Here are our observations from the Lady Vols’ second-consecutive loss.

No Rennia Davis

Tennessee was without its best player on Thursday night. Rennia Davis was diagnosed with the flu, and she hadn’t been a part of any team activities since Sunday’s loss to South Carolina and was unable to get cleared by team physicians to give it a go against the Bulldogs.

“I knew going into this game, scoring was going to be a premium with Rennia,” Harper said. “Without Rennia, it definitely changed how our attack was going to look.”

Without Davis’ 18.1 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, Tennessee needed multiple players to step up. Not enough players did, but one Lady Vol was up to task.

Rae Burrell Steps Up

Sophomore guard Rae Burrell did her best to step up and replace the production lost from Davis’ absence. Burrell finished with a team-high 20 points in the loss, going 8-for-20 from the floor, 1-for-4 from three, and 3-for-5 from the free throw line. She pulled down 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Burrell also had three steals and a block.

“Rae played hard, and Rae gave us Rae,” Harper said. “She had a really good practice leading up to the game, and she played with some confidence. Played downhill.

“She got her a double-double because of her effort. I liked her energy.”

Burrell scored nine of her 20 points in the first quarter on her way to 11 first half points. She had nine points and six rebounds in the second half.

Sloppy Basketball 

The Lady Vols played sloppy basketball throughout the majority of the game in the absence of Davis. UT turned it over 23 times for the game, shot 36 percent from the field, and only hit 33 percent of their three-pointers. Mississippi State scored 20 points off of Tennessee turnovers, whereas the Lady Vols scored just three points off turnovers.

Tennessee won the rebounding battle 40-39, but UT allowed 16 offensive rebounds that led to 16 second chance points for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State’s bench out-scored Tennessee’s bench 23-6.

The Lady Vols have shared the ball well throughout the season, but against Mississippi State, they assisted on just seven of their 21 made baskets.

Up Next 

The Lady Vols now have a week off before their next game. Tennessee will travel to Baton Rouge next Thursday night to take on the LSU Tigers at 7:30 p.m. ET. They’ll then return home on Sunday to face Texas A&M at 3 p.m. ET.

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