KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 25/RV Lady Vols took a four-point lead into the final quarter but couldn’t hold on, falling 67-61 to No. 3/5 UConn in Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night in front of a crowd of 3,553, the largest of any NCAA women’s game thus far in 2020-21.
Tennessee (9-3, 3-1 SEC) was led by junior Rae Burrell who had 18 points and eight rebounds. Senior Rennia Davis narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore Tamari Key and freshman Marta Suárez each turned in 10 points.
Christyn Williams led UConn (9-0, 7-0 Big East) with 20 points, and Evina Westbrook and Aubrey Griffin managed 15 and 10, respectively.
Tamari Key got Tennessee on the board first with a put-back just over a minute into play, while UConn came out cold and missed its first four shots before Olivia Nelson-Ododa hit a layup at the 7:27 mark. Burrell answered with a trey on the next possession, but Williams countered with one of her own to tie the score at 5-all with 6:29 left in the quarter. Paige Bueckers gave the Huskies their first lead of the game with a pair of free throws 30 seconds later. Key tied it back up with 4:22 on the clock, and the teams proceeded to trade buckets until Burrell and Kasiyahna Kushkituah scored on back-to-back plays while holding UConn to a free throw to go up 16-13 with 1:22 left in the quarter. Each team hit a free throw in the closing minute, and Williams converted on a jumper at the buzzer to send the game into the second period with UT up 17-16.
Williams opened the second with a quick jumper to put the Huskies up by one, but UT bounced back with a 5-2 run to lead by three points two and a half minutes in. The Huskies answered with an 8-0 run of their own to go ahead 26-23 before Burrell broke the drought with a 12-foot jumper on the next possession, putting the score at 28-25 at the media timeout. Following the timeout Marta Suárez came up with the steal and the score to cut the deficit to one with 3:31 left in the half, and she tied it up with a trey a minute later at 30-all. UConn added a point with a Westbrook free throw, but UT reclaimed the lead off a Key jumper on the next trip down the court and stretched it to four with a Destiny Salary 3-pointer by the 1:12 mark. A Westbrook trey 10 seconds later made the score 35-34, where it would remain until halftime.
UConn struck first in the second half, scoring on a Griffin layup before Jordan Horston countered with a jumper on the other end. UConn went up by two by the 7:39 mark, but Suárez and Burrell combined for four quick points that put the Lady Vols back on top at 41-39 a minute later. The lead would change hands two more times before the media break, but four-straight points by Davis following the break put the Big Orange up 45-42 with 4:16 left in the quarter. Williams cut it to one with a fast-break layup, and then both teams hit a scoring slump before Jordan Walker knocked down a three to push the score to 48-44 with 1:09 on the clock. UT would carry a four-point lead through the end of the quarter, entering the final stanza up 49-45.
The Huskies opened the fourth with a 7-1 run, reclaiming the lead at 52-50 with 7:53 left in the game, but Davis tied it with a jumper on the next possession. Back-to-back threes by Westbrook fueled a 9-0 run that gave UConn a 61-52 advantage by the media break, but Suárez hit a long-range three after the timeout to pull the score to 61-55 with 4:26 to play. The Lady Vols scored six unanswered to creep within two with 55 seconds to go, but Bueckers hit a three as the shot clock wound down to put the Huskies back up by five with 25 seconds left in the game, and with Tennessee forced to foul, UConn converted on free throws to take a 67-61 victory.
Up Next: The Lady Vols will host No. 13 Kentucky at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday in a contest rescheduled from Jan. 3. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and all tickets issued for the original date will be honored.
Cleaning The Glass: Tennessee out-rebounded the Huskies, 42-38. The Lady Vols have now out-rebounded every opponent this season by an average of 45.9 rpg. to 31.8 rpg.
Rae All Day: Junior Rae Burrell led UT in scoring for the seventh time this season. Since entering the starting lineup 21 games ago, she is averaging 14.9 ppg. as a starter.
Key Being Key: Sophomore Tamari Key narrowly missed a double-double against UConn, finishing with 10 points and a season-high nine rebounds. Key has now been in double figures in four-straight games, averaging 12.8 ppg. and 6.8 rbg. over those contests.
Backing Pat: As We Back Pat Week came to a close, head coaches Kellie Harper and Geno Auriemma each made a personal donation of $10,000 at Thursday night’s Hall of Fame Revival Series game between the Lady Vols and Huskies, benefiting non-profits the Pat Summitt Foundation and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. A check for $20,000 was presented by Harper and Auriemma during a pregame announcement.