Alabama has put its three decades of frustration against Tennessee in the rear-view mirror. These days, the Crimson Tide can do no wrong against the Lady Volunteers.
Not even a trip to Knoxville bothers Alabama anymore.
Jordan Lewis scored 14 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter Thursday as Alabama upset No. 11 Tennessee 72-63. Alabama (16-10, 6-7 Southeastern Conference) has won its last four meetings with Tennessee (21-5, 9-4) after losing to the Lady Vols 42 straight times from 1984-2016.
This marked the first time Alabama has ever beaten the Lady Vols in Knoxville in 23 attempts.
“I’m really happy that’s something that we don’t have to talk about anymore,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick talked about Alabama’s three-game winning streak against the Lady Vols often the last few days. It didn’t matter. Alabama still found a way to beat Tennessee again.
Alabama scored the first 14 points of the fourth quarter to pull ahead for good. The Lady Vols led 49-44 at the end of the third quarter, but Alabama outscored Tennessee 28-14 in the fourth.
“I had it on the board: 0-3,” Warlick said. “Time to add something to the left side of that board where the `O’ is. I talked a lot about it, talked a lot about playing at home. I guess that adds to my frustration.”
Ashley Williams scored 16 points, Shaquera Wade had 12 and Hannah Cook added 10 for Alabama.
Jaime Nared scored 22 for Tennessee. Rennia Davis had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Vols, while Mercedes Russell had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Tennessee was behind 29-24 at halftime — just the second time it has trailed at the half all season — and was down 33-26 early in the third quarter before scoring 15 straight points.
That 15-0 spurt gave Tennessee a 41-33 edge, but Alabama wouldn’t go away.
“We couldn’t let that affect us,” Cook said. “I like how we stepped up and calmed ourselves. We didn’t play to their tempo. We played at our tempo. I think that helped us a lot.”
Alabama tied the game at 49-all when Cook found Quanetria Bolton for a layup with 8:57 left. The Tide pulled ahead for good 51-49 on Wade’s fast-break layup with 6:59 remaining.
Tennessee didn’t score a single fourth-quarter point until Davis made a free throw with 3:38 left.
Alabama is hoping this latest upset of Tennessee sparks a late-season surge that puts the Tide in NCAA Tournament contention. Alabama hasn’t earned an NCAA bid since 1999.
“We needed this tonight for our resume,” Curry said. “This is important. It was not about what Alabama’s done against Tennessee as of late. It’s about (how) Alabama tonight needed a win and needed to play desperate, and I thought that at times we really did.”
Alabama: Give the Tide credit for never wilting in this one. Alabama shot just 4 of 20 in the first quarter but made 53.7 percent of its attempts (22 of 41) the rest of the way. Alabama also did a nice job of containing Russell, who shot just 4 of 12.
Tennessee: A brutal fourth-quarter performance proved fatal for the Lady Vols. Tennessee shot 4 of 18 in the final period and didn’t score at all in the first six minutes of the quarter.
Russell went over the 1,500-point mark for her career and became just the sixth Lady Vol ever to collect at least 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. The others are Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings, Sheila Frost, Glory Johnson and Bashaara Graves.
This loss almost certainly will cause the Lady Vols to drop in next week’s Top 25 even if they bounce back Sunday by winning at No. 13 Missouri.
Alabama hosts Auburn on Sunday.
Tennessee is at No. 13 Missouri on Sunday