NASHVILLE, Tenn. - No. 18/15 Tennessee advanced to the semifinals at the SEC Tournament, defeating 13th-seeded Alabama in Bridgestone Arena on Friday night, 74-59.
Senior Rae Burrell led third-seeded Tennessee (23-7) in scoring with 21 points and a career-high-tying seven assists. Graduate Alexus Dye turned in a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and sophomore Tess Darby managed 12 points on 50 percent shooting.
Alabama (20-9) was led in scoring by Megan Abrams with 17 and Allie Craig Cruce with 12.
Tennessee won the tip and Dye wasted no time getting UT on the board, scoring the first of her 10 first-quarter points on a short jumper. Tamari Key and Dye combined to put the Lady Vols ahead 6-2 by the 7:17 mark, and a jumper by Sara Puckett made it 8-3 at the media timeout. UT switched into a full court press following the break, outscoring Alabama 7-2 to close out the period with a score of 15-5.
Darby extended Tennessee's lead to 13 with a trey to start the second quarter, and a long two by Jordan Walker made the score 20-5 with 8:18 left in the half. Hannah Barber hit a three for the Crimson Tide three minutes into the period to give Alabama some momentum, but Darby answered with another trey on UT's next possession. Abrams hit the first of eight straight UA points to cut the deficit to 14 with 6:16 to go in the half, and that deficit would hold through halftime as the Lady Vols took a 34-20 lead into the locker room.
Alabama was the first to score in the second half, pulling within 12 off a pair of free throws by Abrams. Darby responded with a 10-foot jumper for Tennessee, setting off an 8-2 run capped off by six straight points by Burrell to put UT up by 18 less than two minutes into the third. The Crimson Tide bounced back with five quick points by JaMya Mingo-Young and Cruce, but Brooklynn Miles found Darby on the fast break, and Dye followed it up with another layup, putting UT ahead 46-29 by the 6:22 mark. UA reeled off five straight points to whittle Tennessee's lead down to 12 two minutes later, but back-to-back buckets by Burrell fueled a 9-0 run that saw the Lady Vols up by 21 with 1:53 left in the quarter. Both teams' last points of the period came at the free-throw line, sending the game into the fourth with the Big Orange up 56-37.
Mingo-Young and Abrams pulled UA within 13 at the beginning of the fourth, but the Lady Vols bounced back by knocking down free throws to go back up by 17 with seven minutes to play. Tennessee cleared the bench during the closing minutes, leading by as many as 20 in the final five minutes before Alabama scored the last five points of the game for a final score of 74-59.
UP NEXT: The Lady Vols will face seventh-seeded Kentucky in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament Saturday at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET (6:30 p.m. CT). The game will be televised on ESPNU.
TK TIES IT UP: Junior Tamari Key blocked five shots against UA to tie Kelley Cain for the single-season school record of 113. She made it to 113 faster than Cain, reaching that total in 30 games as opposed to Cain's 33.
SNOOP HOOPIN': Alexus Dye turned in her fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds against Alabama. It marks her third straight game with double-digit scoring.
DISHIN' AND SWISHIN': Rae Burrell scored a game-high and season-high-tying 21 points against Alabama, leading UT in scoring for the third time this season and logging her second game of 20+ points. She also dished out a career-high-tying seven assists.
FRESHMEN CONTRIBUTING: All four of Tennessee's freshmen saw considerable playing time against Alabama, combining for 71 minutes and 14 points with each rookie contributing at least two points to the win.
BIG-TIME BOARDS: Alexus Dye pulled down 14 boards for a new season high. Since Tennessee lost its leading rebounder, Jordan Horston, to injury, Dye has stepped up on the glass, averaging 10.0 rpg. over the last four contests.