Lady Vols overcome turnovers, shooting woes to down Tennessee State
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest game of basketball played at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday. It wasn’t the ugliest, either.
Luckily for Tennessee, the only statistic that truly mattered was the final score.
Rae Burrell scored 14 points, Rennia Davis notched her second straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Kasiyahna Kushkituah tallied 11 points and seven rebounds as the Lady Vols overcome a sluggish start to beat Tennessee State 73-43.
The win marks the fourth consecutive to start the season for Tennessee, which moved to 4-0 under new coach Kellie Harper.
While the result may have gone in the Lady Vols’ favor, Harper was not satisfied whatsoever with her team’s play at the start, noting their lack of energy and discipline as a major thorn in her side early.
“I didn’t think we played great. I thought we were a little slow out of the gates and our energy and effort was a little lower than it needed to be to start the game,” Harper said. “There were a lot of technical things that I feel we can do better and we will.”
After overcoming 15th-ranked Notre Dame on the road, Tennessee's offensive prowess that it displayed during that game did not come to fruition during the opening 10 minutes on Thursday.
The Lady Vols closed the opening period with more turnovers than made shots and for a moment, it seemed as if Tennessee State may have been on the hunt for a monumental upset.
All of that changed once the second quarter got underway.
For forward Lou Brown, the hangover from Monday's win may have manifested itself during the game's opening minutes, but UT quickly got over those jitters when it realized the task-at-hand.
"Ultimately, at the end of the day, we just want to continue getting better," Brown said. "Tomorrow we're just going to get back at it and keep looking forward."
From the start of the second period, the Lady Vols did plenty of looking forward.
Davis, who recorded a career-high 33 points in South Bend, got Tennessee's offense rolling with her ability to finish in the paint and draw contact. Burrell also sparked UT with her outside shooting.
The shots may have been falling, but the Lady Vols' turnover woes continued.
Davis took notice of that, placing the blame squarely on Tennessee's shoulders following the game.
"I think at times we just play so ahead of ourselves and try to make the home run play a lot of times," Davis said. "A lot of our turnovers are unforced so that's all on us."
Despite getting off to an undefeated start for the second season in a row, the Lady Vols have plenty of room for improvement moving forward.
For Harper, that starts with taking each experience as a lesson no matter the opponent and regardless of whether it comes after a win or loss.
“Hopefully this is a learning experience for our team,” Harper said. “To be sharp and to be the best basketball team you can be, you can’t take nights off regardless of your opponent.”