Gamecock women lose to Tennessee, A'ja Wilson out with vertigo
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Rennia Davis had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and No. 15 Tennessee rallied for a 65-46 victory over No. 7 South Carolina -- playing without star center A'ja Wilson -- on Sunday.
Wilson, a national player of the year candidate, didn't make the trip to Knoxville due to vertigo. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan started in the Southeastern Conference scoring leader's place and had a team-high 17 points in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Mercedes Russell added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Tennessee (23-6, 11-5), and MeMe Jackson had 10.
Without Wilson, South Carolina (23-6, 12-4) had its highest turnover total (21) and lowest point total of the season. The only Gamecocks in double figures were Herbert Harrigan and Doniyah Cliney, who had 14 points.
This marked the second time this season Tennessee played South Carolina when the Gamecocks didn't have Wilson, who averages 22.9 points and 12 rebounds. Tennessee won 86-70 at South Carolina on Jan. 14 when Wilson was out with an ankle injury.
Tennessee pulled ahead for good by scoring the first 14 points of the third quarter to turn a 26-21 halftime deficit into a 35-26 advantage. Tennessee ended up outscoring South Carolina 29-9 in the third quarter.
The Lady Vols have beaten the Gamecocks three straight times, including a 76-74 road triumph over the eventual national champions last season. Wilson played just 22 minutes against Tennessee last season due to foul trouble.
Wilson's absence didn't bother South Carolina early. After des Russell sank two free throws to open the scoring, South Carolina reeled off nine straight points by capitalizing on the Lady Vols' carelessness with the ball.
South Carolina led 15-6 at the end of a first quarter in which Tennessee shot 3 of 13 and committed nine turnovers. Tennessee turned it over only six more times the rest of the game but still didn't take control until the third quarter.
For the first half of the game, Tennessee's offense relied almost entirely on Russell and Davis. Those two players were responsible for all of Tennessee's points until Jackson hit two free throws with 2:03 left until halftime.
Once Russell and Davis got more help, the Lady Vols took over the game.
outh Carolina: The Gamecocks needed their Nos. 2 and 3 scorers -- Alexis Jennings and Tyasha Harris -- to step up in Wilson's absence. But those two players shot a combined 2 for 11 from the floor. Jennings scored just three points and shot 1 of 5, though she did have seven rebounds. Harris had seven assists but shot 1 of 6 and scored just two points. Harris had scored a career-high 28 points in South Carolina's loss to Tennessee last month.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols have been starting slowly of late, but they've made up for it with dominant third quarter performances. They have outscored their last two opponents 53-11 in the third quarter. Tennessee outscored Florida 24-2 in the third quarter Thursday and turned a 32-28 halftime edge into a 70-42 blowout.
South Carolina will play Friday against an opponent to be determined in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal at Nashville, Tennessee.
Tennessee will in the SEC Tournament at Nashville, with the opponent and date to be determined.