KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- No. 2 South Carolina came to Knoxville riding a 31-game SEC win streak, only suffering losses on the season coming from No. 8/6 NC State and No. 2/5 UConn–until Thursday night.
Tennessee pushed the tempo out of the gate with the team paced by Rae Burrell who controlled the court, scoring an early 8 points in the first quarter.
While Burrell got Tennessee on the board first, it was not long after South Carolina did too, making for a back-and-forth contest leading to a tie game, 16-16, after the first ten minutes.
The Lady Vols were right there with the second-best team in the nation with both teams scoring 12 points in the paint and knocking down shots from the charity stripe, and each turning the ball over four times that lead to six points.
While the first quarter was paced in the paint, South Carolina opened the scoring in the second with Destanni Henderson knocking one down from beyond the perimeter.
Tennessee went cold ,shooting 3-13 from the field while South Carolina kept pushing.
South Carolina went on a 9-0 run to pull away 31-20 with less than five minutes left in the first half and went on to outscore UT 21-9 in the second quarter.
South Carolina out-paced the Lady Vols in the paint 24-18 and out-rebounded them 25-17, sending Tennessee to the locker rooms in a 12-point hole, 37-25.
Kellie Harper said she challenged her team at the half calling their playing in the second quarter “soft,” and the team took it personally.
“I challenged them, got a little fiery at halftime,” said Harper. “They obviously responded.”
After a quiet first half Rennia Davis started to make noise, and so did the limited number of fans at Thompson-Boling Arena.
After going without a single bucket until 4 minutes left in the third quarter, Davis scored seven points to help pull Tennessee within one heading into the final quarter, 54-53.
The Lady Vols continued to play tough in the final quarter. Davis banked a shot from beyond the perimeter to spark a 9-0 run for the Lady Vols to give them the lead 68-62 with 2:40 left in the game.
Tennessee outscored South Carolina 22-13 in the final 20 minutes to post their 16 point comeback marks the biggest during the Kellie Harper era, upsetting the Gamecocks, 75-67.
The X-factor for the Lady Vols, Davis scored 24 points in the second half and ended with 12 boards. Tennessee’s leading scorer Rae Burrell kept the team in the game scoring 19 points, while Jordan Horston added 12 points.
The upset over No. 2 South Carolina marks Harper’s first win over a Top-5 opponent as the Lady Vols’ head coach and the program’s first win over a Top-5 opponent since 2017.
“I’m obviously very proud of our team and very proud of our second-half effort and getting ourselves back in the game, and then I’m really proud about finishing the game,” said Harper. “We got a huge win so I’m so happy and so proud.”
Up Next: The Lady Vols hit the road to take on No. 22/23 Georgia at noon on Sunday.