COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The No. 11 seed Lady Vols (19-13) erased a 17-point deficit and led by as many as three in the fourth quarter, but their upset bid came up short in falling to No. 6 seed UCLA (21-12) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the XFINITY Center, 89-77.
Sophomore Rennia Davis had a double-double for Tennessee with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Kasiyahna Kushkituah recorded a career-high 16 points, while freshman Mimi Collins, who hails from nearby Waldorf, Md., tied her career high of 14 points.
No. 20/24 UCLA was led by sophomore Michaela Onyenwere who posted a double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Lindsey Corsaro and Kennedy Burke were close behind with 18 and 19, respectively.
UCLA came out with the hot hand, jumping out to an 18-6 lead off of 7-of-12 shooting in the opening five minutes. Kushkituah cut the lead to 10 with a layup before the media timeout, but the Bruins launched into a 9-0 run to lead 25-8 with 2:13 remaining in the quarter. Collins ended the streak, knocking down two free throws to set off a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 11 with 46 seconds remaining in the quarter. UCLA answered with a three before the buzzer to head into the second half up 28-14.
UT settled in during the second quarter, outscoring UCLA 18-16. Davis hit two free throws to get things started for Tennessee, and Zaay Green followed it up with a jumper to cut the deficit to 10 in the opening minute. The Lady Vols twice cut the lead to single digits, but UCLA closed out the quarter with a 6-3 run to lead 44-32 at the half.
The Bruins opened the second half with four straight points before Meme Jackson answered by knocking down her second three of the game to move the score to 48-35. That set off a 9-0 run spanning just over three minutes that put the Lady Vols within seven by the under-5:00 media timeout. UT forced a defensive stop following the timeout and Kushkituah knocked down a layup on the other end to cut the deficit to five. UCLA bounced back with a Corsaro trey, but Tennessee kept the pressure on, scoring seven unanswered points to pull within one with 1:33 remaining in the period. Collins tied it up at 52-all off a layup at the 1:12 mark, but the Bruins outscored the Lady Vols 6-3 in the final minute to take a three-point lead into the final stanza.
Collins scored the first bucket of the fourth quarter, knocking down a three to put UT within one. Kushkituah followed it up with a layup on the next possession to give the Lady Vols their first lead of the game at 59-58. The teams traded buckets, tying it up twice before Corsaro hit back-to-back threes to put UCLA up 70-67 with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Davis answered with an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game at 70-all, but the Bruins rallied back with a 10-0 run to lead 80-70 with 1:22 to play and went on to run out the clock.
Youngsters Making Noise: UT was led in scoring by three underclassmen. Davis posted her ninth double-double on the season, while Kushkituah recorded a career-high 16 points. Collins was also in double figures, tying her career high of 14 points.