KNOXVILLE — With hope dwindling as Tennessee trailed Alabama by a point with 6.4 seconds remaining, The Lady Volunteers went to their veteran leader Rennia Davis to try and save the day.
Davis nearly faltered, almost turning the ball over well behind the 3-point line. With the clock under two seconds, Davis stepped back and threw up a prayer from 27-feet.
Davis’ shot hit nothing but net as No. 23 Tennessee held on, defeating Alabama 65-63 in Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night.
“It was somewhat what we drew up, but the step-back is kind of my shot,” Davis said. “I was just looking for that shot, and I knew my teammates were looking for me to shoot, so I was just trying to make a play. I kind of did think it was going in. I have practiced that shot enough to be honest.”
Alabama (11-7, 1-4 SEC) had one last chance with 0.8 seconds left, but the shot was not close.
It was Davis’ second game-winning shot of her UT career with her first coming during her freshman year when Davis hit a game-winning shot in the SEC Tournament against Auburn. Davis had 16 points in the game on 7-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds. Her shot was the only 3-pointer she took in the game.
“I told Rennia that I was going to say that it was exactly the way we drew it up,” Harper said. “I wanted her to dribble it around, do a step-back three from the volleyball line and shoot it so high that there’s no time left when it goes in. But no, I am just thankful she made the shot.”
Not only did the win break the Crimson Tide’s five-game win streak over Tennessee (15-3, 4-1) but it was Harper’s 300th win as a head coach.
Harper was 70-64 during her first head coaching job at NC State, and 118-79 in her six years at Missouri State. It was also Tennessee’s 400th SEC win as a program.
“I am glad we were able to find a way to get a win,” Harper said. “It was a tough basketball team we played tonight. I am proud of our team for hanging in there because it was tough. Hopefully, it will be a learning experience for us.”
A defensive battle throughout, the last two minutes of the game saw just one empty possession between either team, Alabama’s final chance with less than a second left.
Tennessee led for the entire game until a 56-56 tie with 2:08 remaining.
The lead changed five times from that moment on.
The Lady Vols retook the lead briefly, but an Alabama three put the Crimson Tide up by one with 1:24 left. Rae Burrell, who finished with eight points, set the Lady Vols back on top with 50 seconds to go.
After the Crimson Tide made two free-throws to take the lead back, it was Burrell, again, getting the job done with two free throws of her own.
Then, with 15 seconds to go, Alabama took command one last time with two free throws.
Davis responded with her answered prayer. The two teams shot a combined 19-of-28 from the field after shooting a combined 7-of-30 in the second quarter.
“I thought our composure late was excellent,” Harper said. “They were coming back to timeouts with the right attitude, saying the right things and playing off each other well. Rae’s short jumper and the two free throws were critical. We had to score because they kept putting points on the board.”
Jordan Horston led the Lady Volunteers with 19 points. She added with eight rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
Tamari Key led the block category with six of her own to go along with 10 rebounds.
Alabama falls to 11-7 on the season with the loss and 1-4 in SEC play.
The Crimson Tide were led by Jordan Lewis, who had 17 points. Jasmine Walker added 14 of her own and had 10 rebounds.
Tennessee is back in action for possibly their biggest game of the season on Thursday, travelling to take on No. 4 Connecticut. It’s the first matchup between the two teams since January 6, 2007. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“We just have to play our game like we have been doing,” Davis said. “At the end of the day, we just have to play Lady Vols basketball.”