Columbia Mo – Kamiko Williams had a big first half and five Lady Vols scored in double figures, but No. 9/10 Tennessee could not overcome Missouri’s sharp shooting in a 80-63 loss to the Tigers on Sunday at Mizzou Arena.
Tennessee (17-5, 8-1 SEC) suffered its first conference loss of the season and committed 18 turnovers. Missouri (15-8, 4-5 SEC) used a second-half surge to cap a strong day of shooting and earn its first-ever win against the Lady Vols.
The Tigers shot 52.7 percent (29-of-55) from the field, 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from 3-point range and 84.6 percent (11-of-13) from the line while dishing out 23 assists to UT’s six. The Lady Vols shot 41.8 percent (23-of-55) and struggled from long distance (5-of-14) and at the charity stripe (12-of-20).Missouri’s Morgan Eye led all players with 26 points, including a 6-of-12 effort from beyond the arc. Brianna Kulas added had 20 points, five boards, five assists and three steals in an impressive all-around effort. Liz Smith found points inside for the Tigers and finished with 10 points.
Williams led UT in scoring 14 first-half points on 7-of-9 shooting before an injury sidelined her in the second half. She also amassed six rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block. Taber Spani had 12 points and four rebounds and Meighan Simmons finished with 13 points. Bashaara Graves and Ariel Massengale had 11 points and 10 points, respectively.
Kulas’ layup with 6:11 remaining opened a 10-1 Tigers run capped off by two free throws by Lianna Doty with just over four minutes left. Missouri’s lead grew to 70-54, its largest of the game until the closing seconds. A two-point jumper by Simmons would bring Tennessee to within nine points at 76-63 with 2:33 remaining, but the Lady Vols would come no closer.
Missouri’s attack was efficient and effective as the Tigers used a 10-minute, 21-10 run to climb out to a 58-47 advantage with 9:34 remaining. Eye hit three treys and scored 11 points over that stretch.
Williams has a right ankle injury and is listed as day to day, as is freshman Jasmine Jones, who suffered a right knee injury late in the game.
Both teams came out of the break with the same tenacity that made for a back-and-forth first half. A 3-pointer by MU’s Kyley Simmons 15 seconds into the second period knotted the game at 37-37.
Tennessee had a 37-34 lead at halftime after a tightly-contested first period that featured eight lead changes. Williams was dominant on both ends of the floor in the first half, shooting 7-of-9 for 14 points with two assists, six boards and three steals. Eye led the Tigers with 11 points, including nine from long distance.
The Lady Vols held the lead for the final five minutes of the first half. But for every bucket down the stretch, the Tigers had an answer to stay within five points. In the final five minutes before the break, Williams made two jumpers and had an assist on another to keep UT (15-of-32 in the first half) ahead of a strong-shooting Mizzou squad (14-of-28).
Both teams began dialing it up from long distance at the 8:22 mark. Eye, Mizzou’s top 3-point shooter, caught fire and scored all eight points of an 8-2 Tigers run, including two shots from beyond the arc to push MU ahead, 24-21. Spani, one of UT’s best sharpshooters, answered with a pair of 3-pointers on UT’s next two possessions to give the Lady Vols a 27-24 lead with 5:37 left in the half.
During a 1:40 stretch midway through the first half, Williams and Smith began trading baskets in a one-point game. Each scored four points with Smith nailing a turnaround jumper at 9:49 to give the Tigers a 16-15 edge. After a timeout, Williams hit a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line in transition to push Tennessee ahead, 17-16.
Down 6-4 three minutes into the game, Missouri seized early momentum with an 8-2 run sparked by a Liene Priede’s 3-pointer at 16:53. Simmons helped Tennessee settled down and climb back with a 3-pointer at the 12:27 mark to draw the Lady Vols to within 12-11. Simmons hit two free throws after a technical foul was called on Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton, giving UT a 13-12 lead.
The Lady Vols will next travel to Baton Rouge, La., to play LSU on Thursday, Feb. 7, at 9 p.m. ET. Tennessee returns to Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday, Feb. 10, to host Ole Miss at 2 p.m. ET and begin a three-game homestand.