The Lady Vols defeated Missouri 64-51 on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Tournament.
Tennessee was led by 16 points from sophomore guard Rae Burrell, while Rennia Davis chipped in 15 points. Junior forward Kasiyahna Kushkituah added 13 points. After being led by three players in double figures in the win over Missouri, the Lady Vols advance to face three-seed Kentucky on Friday night.
“I’m really excited that we’re advancing in the tournament,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “We came out, started a little slow. I felt like Missouri was going to be really tough to beat today because of their style of play, how they play. They’re well-coached.
“Really proud of our team for hanging in there. Really in the second half getting stops, that was the difference in the game. Our team made some runs and got some momentum.”
The Tigers were led by 13 points from Aijha Blackwell and 11 points from Hannah Schuchts.
Here are our observations from Tennessee’s win over Missouri to advance to the next round of the SEC Tournament.
The first half of their first SEC Tournament game went about as poorly as it could have for the Lady Vols.
Tennessee missed its first eight shots of the game as Missouri got off to a hot start. At the first media timeout, the Lady Vols trailed 9-4 following a Rennia Davis bucket. Missouri went on to finish the quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 17-10 lead into the second quarter.
Kushkituah scored five straight points early in the second quarter to keep the Lady Vols within reach. But Mizzou responded with a 9-0 run to lead by 13 at the 5:10 mark of the quarter. Tennessee did finish the half on an 11-6 run, however, to trail 34-26 at halftime. But the first half ended with a lackluster possession that saw an air ball shot as time expired.
For the first half, the Lady Vols shot 32.3 percent from the field, turned it over nine times, and allowed Missouri to shoot 41.7 percent from the field.
“At halftime, we were just trying to get our players motivated,” Harper said. “Feel some urgency in the game. Sometimes there’s some technical talks, sometimes there’s some motivational talks. That one was probably a little bit of both.
“We didn’t want to come in there and be satisfied with our first-half performance. We wanted to try to instill a little urgency going out of the locker room.”
Harper’s message worked.
In the second half, Tennessee out-scored Missouri 38-17 to advance to the next round of the tournament. The Lady Vols held Mizzou to six points in the third quarter as they went on a 15-0 run to end the third quarter and take a 49-40 lead heading into the fourth frame.
“We really locked in with our defense,” Burrell said. “We had good communication. We had good offensive rebounds. We started attacking a little bit more, getting to the free-throw line. Things like that really got our momentum going.”
With Davis struggling, Rae Burrell stepped up and led the charge. The sophomore guard poured in a game-high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting at the free throw line. Thursday night’s game was the fourth time in eight career starts she’s led Tennessee in scoring.
Burrell scored just two points in the first half against Missouri, but she went on a 9-0 run all on her own in the third quarter, fueling a 16-0 Lady Vol run.
Missouri had no answer for Lady Vol junior forward Kasiyahna Kushkituah. After averaging 5.3 points per game prior to Thursday, Kushkituah scored 13 points, which was the first time she reached double figures since Dec. 1, 2019. Her previous high in SEC games this season was eight points.
Kushkituah also totaled seven blocks and a rebound as she helped Tennessee out-rebound Missouri 39-37.
Following their win over Missouri, the Lady Vols will face three-seed Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday night. Tip-off will be 25 minutes following the conclusion of the 6 p.m. contest (approximately 8:15 p.m.). It will be televised on the SEC Network.