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No. 7 Tennessee women dominate final 3 quarters for 73-45 victory over Texas A&M
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No. 7 Tennessee women dominate final 3 quarters for 73-45 victory over Texas A&M

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With one clutch shot, Rae Burrell had a significant impact on seventh-ranked Tennessee’s 73-45 victory over 25th-ranked Texas A&M in Southeastern Conference women’s basketball action Thursday night.

The Aggies (10-4, 0-2) dominated the first quarter, jumping to a 16-8 lead and still leading 21-17 as time wound down. With a couple seconds left, Burrell, who was in her second game back after missing 12 contests with a knee injury, came up with a loose ball out of a scramble. She turned and connected on a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Lady Volunteers (14-1, 3-0) rode that momentum into the second quarter for a 12-2 run, and they dominated the rest of the game.

“That was the biggest shot of the half,” Aggies coach Gary Blair said. “It was poor coaching on my part that we didn’t go for the last shot.”

A&M got the defensive rebound with 30 seconds left but turned the ball over with six seconds left. Burrell said she knew the game shifted at that moment, adding, “it was a great feeling.”

“Rae has always been a high-energy player,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “She’s always on the go. She came in and gave us a bump. Her knocking down that shot got the crowd into it.”

Jordan Horston scored 10 of her 18 points in that pivotal second quarter, and 6-foot-6 Tamari Key had eight points as Tennessee’s lead grew to 42-28 by halftime. Horston finished with 13 rebounds and Key had 11 blocks, one shy of the Tennessee record.

“I knew I had a lot, but I wasn’t aware the record with 12,” Key said. “We were able to get a lot of points off our defense.”

That Tennessee defense was impressive. The Aggies came into the game hitting 42% of their 3-pointers to lead the nation. They connected on 4 of 5 in the first quarter, part of hitting 8 of 14 field goals (57.1%), but the missed their last nine 3-pointers and in the last three quarters shot only 17.3% (9 of 52). A&M made only 1 of 17 field goals in the last quarter, scoring just three points.

“Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in,” Blair said. “It was a bad night. We’ve had too many of them lately. We have to make some corrections, starting with the head coach.”

A&M was led in scoring by trio of graduate guards. Destiny Pitts had 12 points, Kayla Wells 11 and Qadashah Hoppie 10. Junior point guard Jordan Nixon made only 1 of 10 field goals. She was 1 of 11 in Sunday’s 75-66 loss at LSU.

Pitts said the team lacked energy after Burrell’s shot.

“And that’s just unacceptable,” Pitts added.

Horston was back in the lineup for the second straight game after missing two games with an illness that was not COVID-19. Besides the points and rebounds, she was excited that she had just one turnover — a stat that has plagued her.

“I’m taking baby steps,” Horston said. “You got a chance to see how we can play together.”

“When [Horston is] more aggressive on offense, her turnovers go down,” Harper said. “The more active we get her, the better she will be.”

Blair was blunt about Horston’s skills: “She can fill up the stat sheet. I don’t have a player like that.”

Horston helped The Lady Vols gain a 56-39 rebounding edge and a 32-14 edge scoring in the paint. Tennessee also held A&M to its fewest points of the season.

COSTLY MISTAKE REPEATED

A&M missed a shot with six seconds to go in the first half against LSU, allowing the Tigers’ Khayla Pointer to hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Tigers within 33-29.

BIG PICTURE

A&M: The Aggies lost back-to-back games to open SEC play for the first time.

Tennessee: Burrell’s return earlier this week against Arkansas proved a positive for the Lady Vols, but the challenge will be to integrate her into a rotation that has become pretty solid. She averaged 16.8 points last season.

NEXT UP

A&M: hosts Florida on Sunday before a road showdown with No. 1 South Carolina on Jan. 13.

Tennessee: on the road Sunday at Ole Miss.

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