No. 20 Tennessee Throttles Arkansas-Pine Bluff Behind Dominant Rebounding
If Tennessee coach Kellie Harper was looking for a complete effort out of her team before heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, she would need to search no further than Tuesday’s showing.
It wasn’t pretty for the opposition, either.
Rennia Davis notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, Rae Burrell added 17 points off the bench Kasiyahna Kushkituah tallied 15 points as the Lady Vols routed Arkansas-Pine Bluff 92-51 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The win marks the sixth consecutive for Tennessee (6-0), including the third straight in the midst of this six-game homestand.
Trasity Totten led Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-4) with 19 points and five rebounds.
Harper’s satisfaction came from her team’s effort and energy throughout the first half, a period in which the Lady Vols outscored the Lady Lions by 37 points.
“I thought the first half, especially defensively, we were pretty solid,” Harper said. “I thought our energy was pretty good. We did some things defensively with changing up our (looks) to help that.”
Tennessee opened up the first half by scoring the game’s first nine points, a lead that it did not relinquish for the entirety of the game.
The Lady Vols shot 54 percent from the field in the first half despite going 0-of-6 from beyond the 3-point line. Arkansas-Pine Bluff shot just 13 percent from the floor during that span while getting out-rebounded 31-16.
Davis produced eight of those boards and finished with her fourth double-double of the season.
Standing at 6-foot-2, the Jacksonville, Florida native’s desire to crash the boards has been evident this season and it’s something that she takes great pride in aside from her scoring ability.
“Rebounds are on my mind all the time,” Davis said. “I feel like rebounding is that thing I can bring to the table every night so I try to get at least 10 per night.”
Tennessee currently ranks third nationally in rebounds and is second in rebounding margin at +17.8. Needless to say, it’s been one of UT’s biggest strengths through six games.
Another one of the Lady Vols’ strengths has been the play of their bench.
Perhaps the most electrifying spark plug in the SEC, Burrell now has recorded three straight games in double figures. Despite shooting a combined 8-of-25 in those first two outings, the sophomore guard was able to overcome her recent struggles, going 4-of-8 from the floor and 9-of-11 at the free-throw line.
It was the first time she had topped 50 percent shooting since Nov. 7 against Central Arkansas, a game the Lady Vols won 63-36.
That’s one of the aspects of Burrell’s game that she has been working to improve as of late, and her upgraded decision-making was on full display.
“That is one thing I’ve been working on is my decision-making,” Burrell said. “Just making sure that I’m not forcing stuff and letting the ball come to me but still making sure I’m giving energy.”
The attention ultimately fell on slain Lady Lion Sierra’Li Wade, who was gunned down in a shooting that took place in her hometown recently.
Tennessee exchanged hand-written cards with each of the members of Arkansas-Pine Bluff's coaching staff and roster, each of them featuring a personal message from UT's players and coaches.
That gesture and that act of kindness was on each of their minds following the final buzzer, an act that Davis feels was necessary.
"I can't imagine how they must feel right now," Davis said. "It just made me appreciate my teammates a lot more and take a step back and look at life for what it is."
Tennessee will be in action once again on Dec. 1 as it hosts Air Force at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics