KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) 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.
• Sunday’s loss snapped Carolina’s five-game winning streak. The Gamecocks finished the regular season with a mark of 23-6.
• Gamecock sophomore Mikiah Herbert Harrigan netted a team-high 17 points against Tennessee. The forward’s scoring output was her largest in SEC play this season.
• Herbert Harrigan tallied two blocks in the loss to Tennessee. She has registered multiple blocks in each of her last three games.
• Carolina guard Doniyah Cliney connected on a pair of 3-pointers and finished the contest with 14 points. Sunday marked her 10th double-digit scoring game of the season.
Tennessee opened the second half on a 14-0 run to turn a five-point deficit into a 35-26 lead with 5:57 to play in the third quarter. The Lady Vols outscored Carolina 29-9 for the quarter and headed to the final break with a 50-35 lead.
The Lady Vols controlled the glass and finished the game with a 46-31 rebound advantage. Tennessee totaled 21 offensive rebounds and netted 18 second-chance points.
Carolina opens play at the 2018 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in the quarterfinal round on Fri., March 2, at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The second-seeded Gamecocks will learn their opponent following the completion of second-round play on Thu., March 1.