KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rennia Davis matched a career high with 18 points and Jaime Nared had a double-double Thursday night as No. 10 Tennessee pulled away down the stretch for a 75-66 victory over Mississippi.
Tennessee (17-3, 5-2 SEC) was facing an unranked team for the first time in 2 ½ weeks after playing four straight games against ranked opponents. The Lady Vols had gone 1-3 during that stretch with a victory at No. 9 South Carolina and losses to No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 2 Mississippi State.
The unranked Rebels (11-9, 1-6) still put up a challenge before losing their fourth straight. The game was tied late in the third quarter until Tennessee went on a 14-2 run.
Nared had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee, which also got 16 points from Anastasia Hayes and 13 from Mercedes Russell. Davis had eight rebounds to go along with her 18 points.
Madinah Muhammad scored a career-high 31 points and Alissa Alston added 19 for Ole Miss.
Tennessee built an early 16-point lead and seemed on its way to a lopsided victory before the Lady Vols’ foul trouble and Muhammad’s shooting got Ole Miss back into the game.
Ole Miss ended the first half on a 14-0 spurt and headed into the locker room trailing 40-38. Muhammad shot 6 of 7 from 3-point range in the first half and had 22 points by halftime.
Lady Vols point guards Evina Westbrook and Hayes were on the bench with two fouls each during Ole Miss’ 14-0 run. Tennessee went scoreless for the final 6 minutes, 10 seconds of the first half.
Ole Miss eventually tied the game at 49-all on Alston’s driving layup with: 2:54 left in the third quarter, but Tennessee took control from there.
Tennessee regained the lead when Evina Westbrook made one of two free throws with 2:36 left in the third. Westbrook’s free throw started a 14-2 run, and Tennessee led by as many as 19 points in the final quarter.
The Lady Vols’ big fourth quarter included a pair of 3-pointers from Hayes to end a lengthy Tennessee drought from beyond the arc. Tennessee had gone eight straight quarters without a 3-pointer before Hayes’ two shots.
Ole Miss: Muhammad and Alston delivered huge performances for Ole Miss, but the Rebels didn’t get much from anyone else. Those two players combined for 50 of the Rebels’ 66 points.
Muhammad had an unusual line, as she went 7 of 10 from 3-point range but 3 of 12 from inside the arc. Muhammad also drew a technical foul in the fourth quarter when she stomped her feet in frustration after getting called for a foul.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols wanted to lengthen their rotation to provide some rest for Russell and Nared, who entered the night averaging over 37 minutes in SEC competition.
Sure enough, Tennessee used nine players in the first quarter and opened the second period with only one starter (Davis) on the floor. Kasiyahna Kushkituah, a 6-4 freshman who hadn’t played at all since the Dec. 31 SEC opener against Kentucky, entered the game late in the first quarter.
But the plans to substitute more often were abandoned when Ole Miss stayed close most of the way. Russell ended up playing 37 minutes with Nared playing 36 minutes.
Ole Miss hosts No. 2 Mississippi State on Sunday.
Tennessee is at LSU on Sunday.
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