GREENVILLE, S.C. (UT Athletics) – No. 14/16 Tennessee, the No. 3 seed, outscored second-seeded No. 7/7 South Carolina 13-8 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t overcome a 29-point first quarter by the No. 2 seed Gamecocks, falling 67-52 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday evening.
Redshirt-junior Jordan Walker and sophomore Jordan Horston were the high scorers for UT (16-7), each finishing with 11 points. Senior Rennia Davis and sophomore Tamari Key were the top rebounders for the Big Orange, grabbing six apiece.
South Carolina (21-4) was paced by Zia Cooke, who had a game-high 17 points and four rebounds. Aliyah Boston was close behind, posting a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Destanni Henderson put up 13 points.
The game started off as a back-and-forth affair with four different players for each team scoring in the first five minutes to tie the game at 8-all by the 5:37 mark. A Davis 3-pointer gave UT an 11-10 lead a minute later, but South Carolina answered with a 10-run that put the Gamecocks up by nine with 2:49 left in the first. Davis ended the skid for UT with a jumper, but USC finished the opening stanza strong with nine-straight points, taking a 29-13 lead into the second period.
The Gamecocks picked up where they left off in the second, with Henderson draining a three before Horston found her way into the paint for a layup to trim the deficit back to 17 with 7:34 left in the half. Walker then added two free throws, and Key converted on an old-fashioned three-point play to pull the Lady Vols within 12 by the 4:40 mark. Henderson answered with another trey, but Walker and Key again combined for buckets to cut USC’s lead to 11 at 35-24. Cooke closed out the half with four-straight points for the Gamecocks while her team held UT to a free throw to give USC a 39-25 lead at the second half.
South Carolina carried its momentum through to the third quarter, opening with a 5-0 run to lead by 19 only a minute and 20 seconds in. Key scored UT’s first points of the half, nailing a layup at the 7:22 mark and setting off a 7-2 run that pulled Tennessee within 13 with 5:11 to go in the third. USC responded, though, closing out the quarter with a 13-6 run to enter the fourth up 59-39.
Davis opened the final period with a quick bucket in transition, but Henderson countered with her third trey of the game on the other end to put USC up by 21. Horston and Rae Burrell launched a 6-0 Tennessee run, while South Carolina stalled offensively, going scoreless for more than seven minutes to make the score 62-47 with 2:46 left in the game. But 15 points was as close as Tennessee would get, as South Carolina held on to claim a 67-52 victory and earn a spot in the SEC Championship game vs. Georgia on Sunday.
Up Next: The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be held at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, March 15, on ESPN. Currently, UT is projected by the two NCAA Selection Committee Top 16 reveals and by ESPN’s Charlie Creme to be a No. 4 seed. This year’s entire NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will be held in the San Antonio, Texas, area and run March 21 through April 4.
Rennia Cracks Top 10: Senior Rennia Davis moved her career point total to 1,779, passing Tanya Haave (1,771 pts) to land at No. 10 on the all-time Lady Vol scoring list.