What started as a tight game remained that way throughout most of the evening when the fourth-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers (16-3, 5-0) hosted the fourteenth-ranked Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs (14-4, 3-2 SEC) on Sunday, January 25 to an anxious crowd at Thomas Bowling Arena in a key Southeastern conference matchup.
With the first minutes ticking by and both teams swapping buckets, Coach Pat Summit took a time out with fifteen minutes in the first half and the score at 13-6 with the Lady Vols in front.
Summit was visibly upset as she scolded the players as a mother would to her children. The scolding evidentially worked as Kara Lawson immediately came out with a jumper at the fourteen-minute mark. Lawson came back again shooting another two points on the next trip down the court.
Tennessee is 19-0 all-time vs. Mississippi State with the last victory coming in Starkville on February 14, 2002, in which the Lady Vols defeated the Lady Bulldogs, 80-78, by way of a game-winning buzzer-beater by Lawson. UT’s last home victory over MSU came on Jan. 15, 2001, when the Big Orange held off Sharon Fanning’s club, 66-59.
As the balls flew, so did tempers, as Mississippi State, a determined and fundamentally-sound team, continued to foul the Lady Vols and not get any fouls called on them by the refs, upsetting not only the fans but the players as well.
Tennessee continued to keep the lead, though only slightly, throughout most of the ballgame. Shanna Zolman plunked out two points with 1:46 left in the first half giving the Lady Vols a 36-28 lead. She returned with another field goal a few seconds after the opening bell of the second half.
Mississippi State came back with a few good looks and tied the game with 18 minutes left in the second half. Gwen Jackson played an incredible game and came back with basket after basket to bring her second half scoring total to 18 with a game high total of 25 to go along with 12 rebounds.
With eleven minutes in the second half the Lady Vols barely led in rebounds with 32 to MSU’s 30. Tempers still seemed high when Shyra Ely gave a hand to the Lady Bulldogs’ Tan White who had just fallen. Afterwards the overall feeling on the court seemed less tense.
The Lady Vols then took over their biggest lead of the day at 72-60 with four minutes left in the game. Jackson hit two at the free throw line followed by another two by Davis. The Bulldogs never made it back as Zolman added up the points ending the game with the Lady Vols 82 and the Mississippi Bulldogs 68.
The Lady Vols match up against Arkansas in Little Rock Jan 30th then they are off to play Vanderbilt in Nashville Feb. 2 before returning home to play Mississippi in Knoxville on Feb. 6.
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