3 Observations: Lady Vols 77, Ole Miss 66

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    The Lady Vols defeated Ole Miss 77-66 on Thursday night in the final home game of the season.

    On Senior Night, Tennessee (19-9, 9-6 SEC) was led by Rennia Davis, who recorded her 28th career double-double. Davis finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists on 6-for-13 shooting from the field.

    Freshman Tamari Key finished with a career-high 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds, five of which were on the offensive end. Rae Burrell was the only other Lady Vol to reach double figures in scoring, finishing with 14 points on 2-for-4 shooting from three.

    “I’m glad we got the win,” Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper said following the game. “It’s amazing how fast the season goes. It’s hard to believe this is our last home game, and hopefully we can improve from this and be a better basketball team in our next outing.”

    Ole Miss (7-21, 0-15 SEC) was led by Deja Cage and Mimi Reid. Cage scored 22 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the 3-point line. Reid poured in 21 points on 2-for-4 shooting from three.

    Here are our observations from the Lady Vols’ win in their final home game of the season.

    Senior Day Festivities

    Thursday night marked the final time senior forwards Lou Brown and Kamera Harris will play a game as Lady Volunteers in Thompson-Boling Arena.

    Brown and Harris both started in their final game. Harris didn’t score in 14 minutes of action while Brown scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting in 27 minutes. Brown also had three rebounds and two assists.

    “These two seniors have been consistent,” Harper said. “They have been coachable; they have handled the transition really well. I appreciate them and what they bring daily.

    “Also, just how the players react to them and look to them. I appreciate their maturity and what they have been able to do off the court as well. Both of them with degrees, and just being great ambassadors in the community for this program and this university.”

    Sloppy Finish

    Burrell began the game scoring seven straight points on 3-for-4 shooting. Her scoring outburst helped Tennessee go on a 15-0 run to take a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The dominance continued in the second quarter as the Lady Vols went on a 9-0 run to take a 20-point lead midway through, their biggest lead of the game.

    But Ole Miss started to chip into the lead just before halftime. The Rebels knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to go on a 15-4 run to trail the Lady Vols 37-28 at the break.

    “They banked that one three in that first half, and that was during a stretch where they just went on a run, and they got some momentum, and they were making shots,” Harper said. “They outscored us in that second quarter, and they went into halftime feeling really good.

    “Teams can make runs, and what you have to be able to do is step up and guard during those runs. That’s what you have to do, you have to defend to get stops. Stops are really important at that time, and we just kind of got on our heels during that stretch.”

    Ole Miss continued to hang around in the second half as well. The Rebels were only outscored 28-22 in the third quarter, and they won the fourth quarter 16-12. Led by Cage and Reid, Ole Miss shot 9-for-18 from the three-point line.

    “That whole second half was played where we were changing things and trying to find some things that work, trying to guard that three-point line and trying to guard their shooters,” Harper said. “I knew this wasn’t going to be a repeat from our first match-up.

    “Ole Miss had a game plan that they were going to shoot the ball from the outside, and they made enough shots to be in the game. I’m proud of our team for coming up with a win.”

    Tennessee beat Ole Miss by 56 points on Jan. 11 in the first match-up between the two teams.

    “The last time we played Tennessee, we only scored 28 points, and it was a tough moment for us as a program,” Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “The resiliency and the character that our team showed, probably in the last five games, I have been extremely pleased with.

    “This was my first time here at this arena, on the Summitt court. Pat Summitt was somebody that I grew up idolizing, and I felt her spirit the whole time. At shootaround, I said, ‘Hey, you guys are shooting so well, I guess that orange really does give you that good feeling.'”

    Freshman Shines

    It may have been Senior Night for the Lady Vols, but it was the freshman post player who shined the most on Thursday.

    Tamari Key scored a career-high 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field. She also grabbed seven rebounds, five of which were on the offensive glass. Key also had two steals.

    “Our past two practices we have been working on moving without the ball, finding the open spots and making the easy play,” Key said. “And my teammates were finding me (tonight).”

    “We knew we wanted to get the ball inside; we talked about that a lot,” Harper added. “We were really trying to execute plays in the last few practices where she (Key) gets touches or our post players in general get touches. I thought our team did a really good job looking for and finding her and she finished.”

    Up Next

    Tennessee has one regular season game remaining. The Lady Vols will travel down to The Plains on Sunday afternoon to take on Auburn (10-16, 4-11 SEC) at 3:05 p.m. ET.

    The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament will be held next week in Greenville, South Carolina beginning on Wednesday. Following Thursday night’s results, the Lady Vols are tied with Arkansas and LSU for the fifth-seed.

    Ben McKee
    Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.