Rennia Davis saves Tennessee Lady Vols with 3-pointer to beat Alabama, 65-63

Phil Kaplan
Knoxville News Sentinel

A Monday night in January was one of the low points for the Tennessee women's basketball team a year ago.

Arkansas hit a pull-up jumper inside of 15 feet with 3.6 seconds left for a 80-79 victory over the Lady Vols.

The loss dropped UT to 1-5 in the SEC and the fifth loss in a row and three days later would grow to six for a modern program record for futility.

A year later, the Lady Vols are 5-1 in the conference following a miraculous 65-63 victory against Alabama (11-7, 1-4) on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Junior forward Rennia Davis hit a 3-pointer from about 30 feet with less than one second left in the game.

"It was somewhat what we drew up," said Davis. "The step back is kind of my shot, so I was looking for that shot and I knew my teammates were looking for me to shoot the ball."

Did Davis know she was 30-feet from the basket?

"Nope," said a smiling Davis. "Not before the shot. No."

Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper admitted she thought the shot clock had expired before Davis made the shot.

"I told Rennia, I said 'You do know I'm going to go in there and tell them that's exactly what we drew it up,' '' said Harper, who won her 300th career game. "We're going to dribble it around. Want you to do a step-back three from the volleyball line - and - oh by the way - shoot it so high that there's no time left on the clock when it goes in." 

Tennessee guard/forward Rennia Davis (0) celebrates after defeating Alabama 65-63 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee on Monday, January 20, 2020.

Losing streak ends against Alabama

The No. 25 Lady Vols (15-3) ended a five-game losing streak to the Tide and have now won four consecutive SEC games and moved into second place in the conference standings in Harper's first season at UT. 

Before the Tide's modest streak started against the Lady Vols in 2017, UT had won 42 consecutive games from March 23, 1984, through Jan. 31, 2016.

A year ago, Alabama tore through UT for an 86-65 victory at Coleman Coliseum.

After the game, former Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said "We didn't have any energy, no emotion. It was hard to watch."

On Monday, Davis made sure the losing streak ended. 

"There a sense of pride that comes with that," said Davis about finally beating Alabama. "So today we were able to get it done. I was really proud of this team."

Tennessee forward Lou Brown (21) and Alabama guard Brittany Davis (23) battle for possession of the ball during a game between Tennessee and Alabama at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee on Monday, January 20, 2020.

Lady Vols nearly let it get away 

Alabama took its first lead of the game at 5-9-58 with 1:24 to play on a 3-pointer by Jordan Lewis. Rae Burrell gave the Lady Vols the lead again, but  Cierra Johnson's bucket with 39 seconds put the Tide up.

Burrell made two free throws with 19 seconds left to knot the game again and Johnson did the same leading to Davis' heroics.

UT was 26-of-55 from the floor for 47 percent. Freshman guard Jordan Horston  led the Lady Vols with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting. Davis had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 38 minutes.

Alabama struggled from the field - and only a strong third quarter masked the final product - going 25-of-69 for 36%.

UT added to its block totals, swiping 13 more shots, giving them 133 for second in the nation. Freshman Tamari Key had six blocks.

However, the Lady Vols committed 20 turnovers. Alabama had just six.

"I told them at halftime," said Harper. "It doesn't matter if it's pretty. Doesn't matter what it looks like. If you get a win, you walk out with a win and nobody cares."

Up next

The Lady Vols renew their storied rivalry against No. 3 UConn (16-1) on Thursday. The game will be played in Hartford, Connecticut.

The last meeting between the two teams was 2007 when Pat Summit was the coach of the Lady Vols.

Game time is 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.