Columbia, MO – No. 11/11 Tennessee dropped a hard-fought thriller at No. 13/13 Missouri Sunday, falling to the Tigers by a score of 77-73 in front of a record crowd of 11,092 at Mizzou Arena.
Senior Jaime Nared led the Lady Vols (21-6, 9-5 SEC) with 25 points, while Mercedes Russell added 10 points and nine rebounds.
UT overcame a 13-point second-quarter deficit and worked the game into a 62-62 tie with 5:18 remaining. However, the Tigers (22-5, 10-4 SEC) used clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch to pull ahead late, including two from Sophie Cunningham with one second remaining that put them ahead by four. Cunningham netted 32 points on 9-of-14 shooting to lead Missouri.
Mizzou hit eight of its first 10 shots in first quarter and used a 19-5 run over the last 6:35 of the frame to give itself a 25-13 lead. UT was led offensively by a freshman trio during the quarter, as Evina Westbrook and Rennia Davis scored five points apiece, and Anastasia Hayes added three more.
Nared got it going in the second period, netting 14 points, including two 3-pointers to help bring Tennessee back to within single digits. Cheridene Green added four points and three rebounds and hit two free throws with 1:09 left in the half to cut it down to four. With 10 seconds remaining, Cunningham stole a pass and converted a reverse layup on the other end to give the Tigers a 42-36 lead at the intermission. Cunningham finished the half with 18 points.
The Lady Vols shot out of the gate in the second half, going on an early 10-0 run highlighted by a Russell layup that put them ahead for the first time in more than 20 minutes. Missouri was able to reclaim the lead with just more than a minute remaining thanks to a Lauren Aldridge 3-pointer and took a 58-56 edge into the final 10 minutes.
The teams traded points throughout the fourth quarter, but Tennessee was never able to pull in front during the period. Although UT held Mizzou to just three field goals, the Tigers went 12-for-14 from the free-throw line, including five in the last minute. With 10 seconds remaining, Tennessee had one final chance to draw up a play down by three. Mizzou fouled Davis with a second left on the clock, and her free throw that cut it to 75-73 proved to be too little, too late.
Next Up for UT Women’s Basketball
Tennessee, which has won four of its last six games, returns to the road this week, visiting Florida for a 6:00pm CT tipoff in Gainesville on Thursday, February 22nd. The game can be heard on the Lady Vol Network and viewed on SEC Network+ (WatchESPN).