Not rolling over: Raiders have no fear in OT thriller with Lady Vols
By David Cobb | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee and MTSU gathered at midcourt for prayer after Wednesday’s women’s basketball game.
It was the only peaceful part of the night, as the Lady Vols survived an overtime scare from their in-state foe with an 88-81 win at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Oh boy,” Lady Vol head coach Holly Warlick said with a deep breath after the game. “It was two teams going at it, and it went back and forth … but I like the way we battled.”
UT’s Andraya Carter, Bashaara Graves, and Arial Massengale all exited the game due to injury at one point.
Carter didn’t return (shoulder). The others did, and according to Massengale, “the fight” was enough for UT to prevail.
Kamiko Williams provided a heavy dosage of that fight.
The senior guard gave UT its first lead of the game at 64-63 with 4:26 remaining when she stole the ball from Shanice Cason and proceeded to drill a transition jumper.
With the crowd on its feet, UT got a defensive stop, Massengale got a score, and the Lady Vols pulled away — almost.
Despite a shot-clock beating 3-pointer from Williams with 55 seconds left that put the Lady Vols ahead 73-68, MTSU found a way to stay alive
The Blue Raiders’ Icelyn Elie, who played all 45 minutes while scoring a game-high 21 points, drilled a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining to force overtime.
In a microcosm of regulation, UT fell behind early in the extra period, before taking a 79-77 lead.
Instead of acquiescing to MTSU again, Williams ensured with her defense that the Lady Vols would improve to 5-1.
She stole the ball from Cason, and passed ahead to Meighan Simmons, who layed in two of her team-high 19 points.
The exact same sequence happened again after the teams’ traded misses, except the roles were reversed and Williams got the bucket.
On MTSU’s ensuing possession, Williams took a charge from Cason and sealed the victory as the 10,678 in attendance roared with approval as the senior pumped her fist in celebration still laying on her back.
“I don’t really know how to take charges,” Williams said almost jokingly. “So that was probably the first time I’ve ever taken a charge as far as I can remember, so I got excited ... that was probably my one charge for the season.”
Warlick compared the nature of the game to UT’s season-opening loss at UT-Chattanooga.
Massengale said the difference was “the fight.”
“Like Coach (Warlick) said in the locker room,” Massengale said, “our run started in the second half and overtime when Kamiko came in and did what we know she can do on a regular basis,”
Willams finished with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in 18 minutes of action.
Laken Leonard put in a career high 17 and tied the best 3-point shooting of the Insell era with five.
The Lady Vols returns to action at 1 p.m. Sunday hosting No. 22 North Carolina.