Knoxville, TN – An excellent second half on the offensive end, where the Lady Vols scored 56 points, helped The No. 16/14 Tennessee Lady Vols defeat Mississippi State, 86-64, Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
It was like they could not miss in the second half as Tennessee (22-6, 11-4 SEC) shot 24-of-36 (.667) from the field in the second half and 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. The Big Orange got a career-high 17 from Tess Darby, who was 5-of-6 from beyond the arc and 6-of-7 overall. Tamari Key also had a big night with 23 points, matching a career-best.
Key was a force in all aspects of the game as she tallied her 10th double-double of the season, adding 15 boards. She also blocked six Bulldog shots, passing the century mark for blocks this season as she entered the day with 99.
Graduate Student Alexus Dye notched her 1,000th career point in the game, draining a fast-break layup with 6:16 remaining in the third quarter. The veteran forward tallied 13 total points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Jordan Walker also put together a complete game, tying her season-high with eight rebounds and scoring nine points.
Rae Burrell was the fourth Lady Vol to finish in double-figures with 11. It was her 11th game this season and 54th of her career notching double-digit points.
Mississippi State (15-12, 6-9 SEC) was led by Anastasia Hayes who scored 18. It was interim head coach Doug Novak’s return to Rocky Top. The VFL was a part of Tennessee’s 1990 men’s tennis SEC Championship team in both the regular season and tournament. That 1990 squad advanced to the NCAA National Championship match, before falling to Stanford, 5-2.
Tennessee came out staunch to open the game, only allowing three Mississippi State baskets (3-of-16) in the first frame. Tennessee got an early 3-pointer from Tess Darby less than a minute into the contest and used its size advantage to dominate the paint, nabbing eight points in the first. The Lady Vols held a 15-7 advantage after one quarter of action.
The Bulldogs shooting would not stay quiet as they fired 4-of-10 from beyond the arc in the second quarter. Tennessee kept pace with multiple contributors on offense as only one player, Tamari Key, sank multiple field goals. The Lady Vols dominated on the glass, outrebounding State 15-6, and it came from all ends of the court with the leading rebounder in the quarter being guard Jordan Walker. State was able to cut into the Big Orange lead a bit, as Tennessee went into the halftime break leading 30-27.
It was an offensive explosion for the Lady Vols in the third and it kicked off early as Burrell propelled the Big Orange offense out of the break, spotting up on the break, 38 seconds into the period. Darby doubled down the momentum, connecting on a pair of 3-pointers for a 14-2 Lady Vol run in the first four and a half minutes of the third. That wasn’t as Tennessee took another run, 10-0 this time, courtesy of 3-pointers from Walker and Darby.
Combining the two, Tennessee put together a 24-4 advantage lasting the first seven and a half minutes of the period. All told, UT shot 12-of-17 (.706) in the third period and was an incredible 5-of-6 (.833) from beyond the arc, winning the quarter 30-16. Darby was a perfect on all three of her attempts from deep as the Lady Vols led 60-43 going to the final period of play.
The Lady Vols didn’t let up in the fourth, making 12-of-19 (.632) as Key logged 10 points in the period and accounted for five of the first six UT buckets. Sara Puckett tallied three assists in the quarter, which alone tied for her second-highest assist total this season. 10 different Tennessee players checked into the game and seven scored as the Big Orange outscored the Bulldogs, 26-21, and closed out the victory.
Next Up For UT Lady Vols Basketball
The Tennessee women’s basketball team closes out its regular season on Rocky Top welcoming No. 8 LSU on Senior Day.
Mississippi State 64, Tennessee 86