KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — With one clutch shot, Rae Burrell had a significant impact on No. 7 Tennessee’s 73-45 conference win over No. 25 Texas A&M on Thursday night.
The Aggies (10-4, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) dominated the first quarter and led 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, gathered up a loose ball and connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Lady Volunteers (14-1, 3-0) used that momentum to start the second quarter on a 12-2 run to get all the breathing room they needed.
“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.”
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 Tamari Key had 8 points as the 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 (of blocks), 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 pretty impressive. The Aggies came into the game hitting 40% of their 3-pointers. They connected on 4 of 5 in the first quarter, then were 0 of 9 the rest of the way. Overall, they shot 26% (17 of 66) from the field.
“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.”
Destiny Pitts scored 12 points to lead Texas A&M, Kayla Wells had 11 and Qadashah Hoppie had 10.
Horston was back in the lineup for the second straight game after missing two games with an illness that was not COVID. 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 sheets. I don’t have a player like that.”
Texas A&M: The Aggies came into Knoxville as the top 3-point shooting team in the country (42%) … Texas A&M had two games in December scuttled by COVID-19, and its only January game leading up to the visit to Tennessee was a loss to LSU.
Tennessee: Burrell’s return earlier this week proved a positive for the Volunteers, but the challenge will be to integrate her into a rotation that has become pretty solid. She averaged 16.8 points last season.