Nashville- Tennessee’s Rennia Davis hit a late three-pointer to give the Lady Vols a 64-61 win over Auburn in the second round of the SEC Women’s Tournament.
To call this a back and forth game is an understatement. Tennessee and Auburn each had more ups and downs than the biggest rollercoasters out their on Thursday. The game had 15 lead changes and was tied 14 times.
The Lady Vols managed to stay in front for the majority of the night. UT held the lead for 27:26 compared to Auburn’s 5:57 spent in the lead. However, the game was much closer then the time led would indicate.
Tennessee’s largest lead of the game was only seven points and came at the 5:35 mark in the second quarter. The Tigers largest lead of the game was just three points and occurred with 3:17 remaining in the first quarter.
When the last 25 or so minutes are played under a seven point lead calling it a back and forth game just doesn’t seem to cut it.
The fact that this one was a nail biter till the end and came down to a late three-pointer should surprise no one. When these two teams met on Jan. 4th it was close late before the Lady Vols pulled away and won 70-59 when the Tigers visited Thompson-Boling Arena.
After the Lady Vols regular season finale head coach Holly Warlick said this game could wind up being between two teams that struggled to get past half court.
Both UT and Auburn love to use the press and are very good at it. That showed for both teams in Thursday’s second round matchup.
Auburn forced 24 Lady Vol turnovers and scored 23 points off of those turnovers. UT turned the Tigers over 15 times and scored 16 points off of turnovers. The key stat in this one isn’t hard to find in the stat sheet.
The Lady Vols took 24 free throws in the game and made 20 of them. Auburn however, was no where close to getting to the line as much as UT did.
The Tigers only shot five free throws, making four of them. Auburn however, didn’t take their first free throw until 5:51 left in the fourth quarter.
When asked if she had ever had a game where it took that long for her team to make it the the foul line Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said, “I am not allowed to make comments on fouls and officiating.”
You might say that the officiating looked a bit lop-sided, but there where several missed calls on both teams. Both coaches could have complained if they wanted to and would have been in the right, despite the NCAA and SEC more then likely saying otherwise.
Where the officials did get things right was on two important possession calls late in the fourth that had both fan bases worked up.
The first was a close play under the Auburn basket involving Tennessee’s Evina Westbrook and Auburn’s Jessica Jones where they both went for the rebound and the ball as it was heading out of bounds. UT got the call and the play was reviewed and upheld, which looking at the replay was the right call.
Soon after, Westbrook and Jones would have a very similar situation once again under the Auburn basket and UT got the call once again. After review the call was switched to Auburn’s ball with UT up just two and only a few minutes left in the game. Once again looking at the replay it looked like the officials got it right, as Westbrook’s finger tips looked to be on the ball last.
Back to the free throw disparency.
Warlick had her own opinion on how many times UT got to the line.
“We should have attacked more…In the middle of the second quarter I thought we just passed and stood,” said Warlick.
Adding, “Our goal was to attack, attack the gaps, attack the defense and get to the free throw line. So, when we started doing that and moving them around, we did really well.”
The Lady Vols were led in scoring by senior Jaime Nared who had 17 points and also four assists in the game. However, Nared took a hard fall early in the fourth quarter and would head to the Tennessee bench.
After being worked on and heading to the locker room for a few minutes Nared would return and quickly score a bucket for UT. However, she would head back to the bench not even a minute later and would not return for the remainder of the game.
Warlick said after the game that it was a hip injury.
This means there will be questions about if two of the best players in the SEC can go tomorrow when UT plays South Carolina. The Lady Vols and Gamecocks have met twice this season, with USC star A’ja Wilson missing both games. She is currently suffering from vertigo and should be a game time decision.
Expect Nared to give it a go, but don’t guarantee her playing. Warlick also said Nared thought she could go back in, but then decided she couldn’t go.
“She is a tough kid. For her to pull herself, she was in some pain,” said Warlick during her post game interview.
Nared is a big piece of the puzzle for UT, but not the only piece. Mercedes Russell is also a huge part of what the Lady Vols do and put up 12 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and went 10-10 from the line.
Meme Jackson (10) and Rennia Davis (16) also scored in double figures for UT.
Tennessee will play No. 8 South Carolina in the SEC quarter-finals at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.
Written by: Sam Forman
Edited by: Colin Castleberry