No. 21 Lady Vols come from behind, upset No. 2 South Carolina

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    Kellie Harper’s 21st-ranked Lady Vols pulled off a monumental upset on Thursday night in Thompson-Boling, defeating No. 2 South Carolina 75-67 behind 24 points from Rennia Davis. The win snapped the Gamecocks’ 31-game conference winning streak and was the Lady Vols’ first win over a top-five team since 2017.

    “I’m obviously very proud of our team and very proud of our second half effort when we got ourselves back in the game,” Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper said following the win. “That basketball team is so good. Their disciplined. They have a lot of talent and a lot of depth. They do things well on both ends of the court. I’m really proud of our team for stepping up and making plays when we had to make them. We got a huge win. I’m so happy and so proud.”

    All 24 of Davis’ points came in the second half as she was one of three Lady Vols to score double-figures. Junior guard Rae Burrell was 9-of-17 from the field for 19 points, while sophomore guard Jordan Horston chipped in 12 points, respectively.

    Sophomore forward Aliyah Boston led South Carolina with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Cooke and Henderson scored 15 points apiece as Tennessee held the Gamecocks to 38.2% shooting for the game.

    “The biggest problem was we couldn’t make a basketball play, whether it was a simple high-post pass or making reads,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “We got the ball to the high post but couldn’t figure out how to get it to the low post.”

    Davis leads the comeback

    The second quarter nearly cost the Lady Vols the game. Tennessee and South Carolina were tied at 16-all at the end of the first quarter, but the Gamecocks went on to out-score the Lady Vols 21-9 in the second quarter. South Carolina took a 37-21 lead into the half as a result of holding UT to 31% shooting from the field.

    Tennessee began the third quarter on fire. After being out-scored by 12 in the second frame and being down by as many as 16, the Lady Vols out-scored South Carolina 28-17 in the third to erase the deficit and only trail by one heading into the fourth quarter.

    “We didn’t do anything different schematically in the second half,” Harper said. “It was all about the insides. I challenged them and it got a little fiery at halftime, got a lot of emotion. They obviously responded. I called them soft and told them they needed to get their big girl pants on. They stepped out there and did it.”

    Davis led the charge for Tennessee. After being held scoreless in the first half, the senior forward scored all 24 of her game-high points in the second half. She scored 11 of her points in the fourth as the Lady Vols out-scored Carolina 22-13 in the quarter to pull off the comeback upset.

    With her 24 points, Davis passed Glory Johnson on the all-time scoring list, ranking 14th with 1,666 points. Her 12 rebounds also moved her past Dana Johnson for 15th on the all-time rebounding list with 885. Additionally, she recorded the 36th double-double of her career, tying Johnson for fourth all-time on UT’s career double-doubles list.

    “She (Harper) said we were playing soft, and I took it personal,” Davis said. “My first half — I just wasn’t doing enough for the team. I took it personal and my teammates did too. We came out there and I thought we grew up in the second half.

    “It’s huge for us, winning against a team as good as South Carolina. I told the team before the game that this was our turning point in the season. We could’ve lost three in a row. Every year since I’ve been here, we’ve lost to South Carolina, and today we stepped up and did what we needed to do. We didn’t get everything 100 percent right, but we just kept fighting. I think that will take us further than anything this season.”

    Fun with stats

    Tennessee’s 16-point comeback is the largest comeback of the Harper era. The Lady Vols came from 13 down in the second quarter to defeat Ole Miss on Jan. 28 and did the same against Missouri last season at the SEC Tournament. It was they program’s largest comeback since the Lady Vols erased a 20-point third-quarter deficit with Stetson on Dec. 5, 2018.

    With the win over No. 2 South Carolina, the Lady Vols have now beaten four ranked teams, its highest number of wins over ranked opponents since the 2017-18 season. It’s also the highest-ranked win for Harper as a head coach. At NC State, she bet No. 5 Duke on March 2, 2012, 75-73.

    Up Next

    The Lady Vols return to action on Sunday with a trip to Athens to face No. 22 Georgia (16-4, 8-4 SEC) for a 12 p.m. ET tip on the SEC Network. Georgia beat the Lady Vols 67-66 earlier this season in Knoxville on Jan. 14.