Rae Burrell Returns As Lady Vols Win At Arkansas

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    Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs | Gameday Week 17

    Tennessee improved to 13-1 (2-0 SEC) Sunday afternoon, using a fourth quarter comeback to earn a 70-63 victory over Arkansas (10-4, 0-1 SEC).

    The Lady Vols trailed by three entering the fourth quarter before outscoring the Razorbacks 25-15 in the final frame. Guard Jordan Walker and center Tamari Key stepped up in the fourth quarter, combining for 17 points and nine-of-12 free throw shooting.

    Key has been fantastic all season. An already dominant defensive player has greatly improve offensively this season and it was on display Sunday. The junior scored a team-high 17 points with seven rebounds and five blocks.

    Earning a win in the SEC road opener wasn’t the only victory for the Lady Vols Sunday. Senior guard Rae Burrell returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 10 when she suffered a knee injury in the first half of the season opener.

    Burrell played limited minutes — 12 — while coming off the bench in her return. That is the plan for the timing being as she gets more comfortable.

    “I think that the biggest thing right now is just the comfort level,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “She’s released to go, obviously, but we’re just trying to find the comfort level that Rae has on the court and she and I have been working together on that. She and I wanted it to be situational so we wanted to make sure we put Rae in a position to be successful when she steps out onto the court because she’s not Rae Burrell from Nov. 1. Not right now. We’re working towards that, but she needs game minutes, she needs live minutes. Live minutes can still come in practice, five on five. That’s what she needs more than anything. 

    “I felt like we could find some opportunities there early in the first half. I did tell her “if you make three threes you’re still coming out in two minutes.” Because I wanted to get her in, get her some minutes, let her come out and then reassess kind of where she was at. It was really cool to watch her knock down that first shot. … I know it’s a lot of excitement there that she’s able to generate so it will be good for us, but we still need to work her back in. It’s going to take some time for her to be the player she was before she got hurt but we think she can get there.”

    Burrell scored two points on one-of-three shooting from the field while missing a pair of free throws.

    The Las Vegas native’s return to the lineup is massive as the Lady Vols enter the heart of SED play. Burrell is the most talented offensive player on this team and increases No. 7 Tennessee’s ceiling significantly.

    Tennessee returns home Thursday to face Texas A&M before heading on the road next Sunday to face Ole Miss.

    Tennessee played fantastic in Burrell’s absence, steadying the ship and posting a 12-1 record despite a handful of challenging non-conference opponents. And it’s safe to say Harper likes he third team in Knoxville.

    “This is not just a win,” Harper said. “This is a win with a team that, man, they lay it all out there. They play for each other. They fight. They give you everything they’ve got. This is such an unbelievably special group of young women. I love coaching them every single day. I love the next day. I love whatever is in store for us tomorrow— I love with this team. They’re an absolute joy. They’re not perfect. Nobody is perfect. We’re not, but, man, this is a team I want to go to battle with every single day.”

     

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.