GREENVILLE, S.C. - The No. 14/16 Lady Vols fended off an upset-minded Ole Miss team in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals in Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Friday night, winning 77-72 to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2016.
No. 3 seed Tennessee (16-6) was led by senior Rennia Davis, who turned in a career-high-tying 33 points and added 14 rebounds to record her sixth-straight game with 20+ points and her ninth double-double of the season. Junior Rae Burrell was also in double digits with 18 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore Jordan Horston had a solid outing with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Top scorers for Ole Miss (11-11), the No. 11 seed that had already ousted sixth-seeded #13/13 Arkansas on Thursday, were Donnetta Johnson with 20 points, Shakira Austin with 14, and Jacorriah Bracey with 13.
Both teams got off to a slow start with the game remaining scoreless through the first minute and a half. Ole Miss was first to score with Austin converting on a pair of free throws to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead. But Tennessee quickly found its footing, with back-to-back treys from Horston and Burrell and a bucket by Davis propelling UT to an 8-4 lead five minutes in. Davis would stretch the lead to six by the 4:33, but Ole Miss scrapped back within one two minutes later at 14-13. The Lady Vols closed out the quarter with a 10-3 run that was capped off by a Horston 3-pointer from behind mid-court at the buzzer, giving Tennessee a 24-16 lead heading into the second.
The Rebels rallied back quickly in the second period, launching into a 13-2 run to reclaim the lead at 29-26 with 4:46 to go in the half. Horston ended the skid for UT with a pair of free throws, and Davis converted on a 3-pointer a minute and a half later to tie the score at 31-all. Ole Miss jumped back ahead by seven points, but a buzzer-beater three by Davis pulled UT within four with a halftime score of 41-37.
The Rebels expanded their lead to six off an Austin jumper a minute into the third quarter, and the teams proceeded to swap buckets until the 6:40 mark when Burrell hit a layup and then followed it up with two free throws on the next possession to pull the Lady Vols within two. Davis added a layup on the fast break 20 seconds later to tie the game up at 47, but Ole Miss rallied with a 10-2 run to close out the period with a 57-49 lead.
Kasiyahna Kushkituah and Burrell combined for eight-straight points to open the fourth, tying it up at 57-all with 8:11 left in the game. Bracey ended the run with a jumper for Ole Miss, but four more points by Burrell and Jordan Walker gave UT its first lead of the second half at 61-59 with just under seven minutes to play. Bracey knocked down a trey as the shot clock wound down to reclaim the lead for the Rebels, but back-to-back buckets by Tamari Key and Davis put UT ahead by three at the media break. After the timeout, Walker followed it up with a 3-pointer, giving the Lady Vols a 68-62 advantage with 4:19 to go. Exactly a minute later Kushkituah came up with the rebound and the put-back to move UT ahead by seven, and Burrell hit a layup on the next possession to stretch the lead to nine. UM didn't go quietly, rallying back within three off a 6-0 run fueled by Johnson and Valerie Nesbitt, but Davis was able to convert on free throws in the final seconds to secure the win for UT, and the Lady Vols advanced to the semifinals with a score of 77-72.
Up Next: The Lady Vols will face second-seeded #7 South Carolina on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Rennia On Fire: Senior Rennia Davis tied her career high of 33 points against Ole Miss, extending her streak of 20+ games to six, the longest by a Lady Vol since Candace Parker did so in the 2007 season.
Moving On Up: The 14 rebounds Davis pulled down moved her up two spots on the career rebounding list, passing Nicky Anosike (914) and Bridgette Gordon (915) to rank 11th all-time among Lady Vols with a career total of 923.
1,400 Wins: Tennessee, which leads all NCAA Division I women's basketball programs in victories, recorded win No. 1,400 on Friday night. UT is now 1,400-349 in its 76th year of basketball.