BATON ROUGE, La. — The Lady Vols held off a scrappy LSU squad in a back-and-forth affair on the road on Sunday, winning 64-63 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
It was Tennessee’s first win in Baton Rouge in its last four trips, and Kellie Harper picked up her first career victory in the venue as a head coach and former Lady Vol player.
Junior Rae Burrell led Tennessee (8-1, 2-0 SEC), finishing with 18 points and three rebounds. Sophomore Tamari Key turned in a season-high 12 points and six rebounds, and sophomore Jordan Horston also found her way into double figures with 11 points.
LSU (4-6, 2-2 SEC) was paced by senior Khayla Pointer who logged 25 points and five assists. Tiara Young was the next highest scorer for the Tigers with 11 points and three rebounds.
Tennessee came out of the gate hot, jumping out to a 4-0 lead off a Key put-back and a steal and score by Horston in the opening minute. Pointer responded with four quick points for LSU, and the Tigers matched UT bucket for bucket through the next four minutes as the teams went into the media timeout with the score tied at 10. Following the break, Pointer gave LSU its first lead of the game with a 3-pointer, and Young followed it up with a layup to put the score at 15-10 by the 4:30 mark. UT closed the gap to one point in the closing minutes of the quarter, scoring primarily from the free-throw line, but a layup by Young at the buzzer gave LSU a 19-16 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Tigers stretched their lead back to five with an Ajae Petty layup on their first possession of the second period, but Jordan Walker answered with a trey on the other end for UT to cut it to two. The two-point deficit would hold until Pointer and Rakell Spencer combined for four-straight points to put LSU up 29-23 four minutes in. Key countered with a layup before the media break, and Marta Suárez followed it up with another following the timeout to pull UT within two with 3:23 left in the half. The Lady Vols continued to chip away, reclaiming the lead at 31-30 off a Davis jumper at the 1:33 mark. Young hit a pair of free throws to go back up by one, but Davis closed out the half with a layup to send UT into the locker room with a one-point advantage at 33-32.
LSU shot a hot 61.5 percent in the first quarter, but Tennessee held them to just 33.3 percent in the second. For the half, the Tigers shot 46.4 percent from the floor while UT managed an even 50 percent.
Key once again opened the scoring for UT, hitting a layup 20 seconds into the third period. Burrell followed it up with a layup off a Suárez steal, stretching UT’s lead to 37-32 by the 9:19 mark. The Tigers bounced back with a 5-0 run to tie the score at 37-all with 6:52 to play in the quarter. Kasiyahna Kushkituah hit a pair of free throws to put Tennessee up by two, but Pointer responded with a free throw and a layup to put LSU up 40-39 at the media timeout. Faustine Aifuwa added a layup before Burrell responded with five-straight points to put UT up 46-44 at the 3:14 mark. Pointer answered with back-to-back layups to provide the game’s eighth lead change, but Burrell closed out the period with a trey to send UT in the final stanza ahead 47-46.
Horston opened the fourth quarter with an old-fashioned three-point play, but Pointer and Awa Trasi combined to tie it up at 52-all with 6:36 left in the game. Horston put in a pair of free throws, but Karli Seay hit a jumper to tie it back up before Tennessee launched into a 6-0 run, fueled by Kushkituah and Burrell, to lead 60-54 with 3:19 remaining. The Tigers whittled the deficit to two before Key hit a layup to put UT’s lead back at four, but Pointer also hit a layup on the other end to keep LSU within striking distance. Horston again stretched UT’s lead to four, but Young scored on a 3-point play to put the score at 64-63 with only 28 seconds to play. LSU managed to get up a shot just before the buzzer, but the attempt was no good, and Horston came up with the rebound as time expired to move UT to 2-0 in SEC play.
Next Up: The Lady Vols return home to host Georgia on Thursday in a 6:30 p.m. ET contest that will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
Key Back In Double Digits: Sophomore Tamari Key logged a season-high 12 points, recording her first double-digit point total since scoring 17 against Ole Miss on Feb. 27, 2020.
Big-Time Boards: The Lady Vols out-rebounded LSU, 39-25. They have now won the rebounding battle in every game this season, out-rebounding opponents by an average of 47.7 to 31.3.
Kasi Heating Up: Over the last four games, senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah is averaging 10.3 ppg. and 5.3 rbg., a considerable improvement over the first five games of the season in which she averaged just 3.4 ppg. and 4.4 rbg.