In their first top 10 win under Kellie Harper, the Tennessee Lady Vols stormed back from a 15-point second half deficit to shock the South Carolina Gamecocks 75-67 Thursday night. This was the program’s first win over South Carolina since 2018 and snapped a 31-game SEC winning streak for the Gamecocks, who are ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll and No. 3 in the Coaches Poll.
UT, meanwhile, currently ranked No. 21 in both polls, got back in the win column after losing two straight. Down 44-29 in the third, Rocky Top went on a 22-6 run and made it a game, trailing by one going into the fourth. Trailing 62-59 with just under six minutes to go, they then went on a 9-0 to take a 68-62 lead, one they would never relinquish.
With the win, the Tennessee Lady Vols improve to 13-5 and 7-3 in the SEC. Dawn Staley’s team falls to 17-3 and 12-1 in the SEC and will host the Kentucky Wildcats Sunday. UT will next visit the Georgia Bulldogs, ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll and No. 23 in the Coaches Poll, to close out four straight games against top 25 opponents. Here are three things we learned from this game.
1. Nothing let this team quit.
Let’s be clear about how much the odds were stacked against UT. They hadn’t beaten a top five team since 2017 and trailed South Carolina 37-21 in the second quarter. At the time, Tamari Key got into foul trouble, which she struggled with all game, fouling out and finishing with five points. That should have written this team off. However, they never quit.
Key herself didn’t let the foul trouble stop her from playing defense. She had five blocked shots. Kasiyahna Kushkituah was forced to handle USC’s elite inside game on her own at times, and she held her own. Jordan Horston, meanwhile, came off the bench and provided punch with 12 points, five assists, five rebounds and a steal. Players stepped up when needed.
2. Rennia Davis and Rae Burrell didn’t back down.
These two have been the Tennessee Lady Vols’ top stars all year, and in the biggest moments, they stepped up again. Rennia Davis showed why she’s one of the best players in the nation, as she had 24 points and 12 rebounds, going 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-4 from the three-point line. In the fourth quarter alone, she had 11 points and hit four crucial late free throws.
Rae Burrell, meanwhile, had 19 points, was 9-of-17 from the field and hit one three-pointer. She also stepped up defensively in a major way took, though, securing three steals and also coming away with three assists. Davis and Burrell have been the story of the team all year, and they were the story once again on this night.
3. Davis needs help from others in late free throw shooting.
If there’s one criticism, it’s that Davis was the only player to be reliable from the foul line. In fact, she was insanely reliable and insanely clutch. We mentioned those four made free throws late. Well, she was 10-of-10 on the night. However, without her, UT was 10-of-18 and would have gone 4-of-9 in the fourth quarter.
This could have proven costly. The Tennessee Lady Vols got a break going 3-of-8 from three while USC went 3-of-14. But Horston and Jordan Walker both went 2-of-4 from the line, and Kushkituah went 3-of-6. Burrell never went. Anyway, if Davis can’t carry the team late in the future, other players have to hit those free throws.