No. 4 Lady Vols stunned 67-63 at Chattanooga
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Chattanooga’s McKenzie Arena has become a house of horrors for the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
Freshman guard Keiana Gilbert scored a career-high 27 points and made a critical block in the last minute Wednesday night as Chattanooga shocked No. 4 Tennessee 67-63 despite squandering a 17-point lead. The stunning result came two seasons after Tennessee’s Holly Warlick began her head coaching career with a loss at Chattanooga.
“You cannot just show up and be average against a team like UTC, or you’re going to have the result we had,” Warlick said.
The score was tied 63-all in the final minute when Tennessee’s Andraya Carter made a midcourt steal and drove to the basket, but Gilbert blocked the shot and Chattanooga’s Alicia Payne got the rebound and was fouled. Payne made one of two free throws to put Chattanooga ahead for good with 53 seconds left.
“I think it’s going be an Opus night,” quipped Chattanooga coach Jim Foster, a wine aficionado. “That’s a fine cabernet.”
Jasmine Jones scored a career-high 19 points for the Lady Vols, but she also missed two shots in the final 22 seconds that would have tied the game or put Tennessee ahead. Jones had sat out Tennessee’s last three games with a mild concussion.
Tennessee (4-1) has a recent history of struggles at McKenzie Arena.
Chattanooga (4-2) upset Tennessee 80-71 in a 2012-13 season opener that ushered in the Lady Vols’ post-Pat Summitt era. Tennessee also trailed by eight points with just over eight minutes left before winning 66-63 at Chattanooga on Nov. 21, 2008.
Wednesday’s result may have been the biggest surprise of all. Tennessee had outscored its first four opponents by an average margin of 45.3 points.
“Coach was telling us we could beat this team, they’re an average team,” Chattanooga forward Destiny Bramblett said.
Foster said he didn’t quite put it that way.
“What I said was if you made them play defense for 20-25 seconds, you can make them average because their athleticism and the way they jump people causes a lot of problems,” Foster said. “You have to stand up to that.”
Chattanooga (4-2) built a 37-21 halftime lead that matched the eighth-highest halftime deficit the Lady Vols had ever faced.
“I thought our offense affected our defense,” Warlick said. “We missed layup after layup after layup after layup. We decided not to defend anybody.”
The Lady Vols tied the game 57-all on Jones’ putback with 4:31 remaining. The game was still tied at 63 in the final minute when Gilbert’s block led to Payne’s go-ahead free throw.
Jones took a potential go-ahead shot that hit the backboard and front rim with 22 seconds left. Chattanooga’s Jasmine Joyner made one of two free throws to make it 65-63, then Jones missed a shot from the left elbow with five seconds remaining.
“The plan was for me to drive, but I took a bad shot,” Jones said of her last attempt.
Ka’Vonne Towns made two game-clinching free throws with three seconds left.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols entered the night having forced at least 30 turnovers in three straight games, the first time that’s happened in school history. Chattanooga had 17 turnovers Friday.
Chattanooga: Towns and Payne are the only remaining Mocs who played for Chattanooga in the victory over Tennessee two seasons ago.
Tennessee: At No. 6 Texas on Sunday.
Chattanooga: At Arkansas State on Monday.
Jones’ previous career high for scoring was 14 against Alabama last season. ... Tennessee center Nia Moore, who had been averaging 20.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, had just six points and four rebounds in 11 minutes.
Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison missed a fourth straight game with a sprained knee.