CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Tennessee took a 25-point point lead to the locker room Sunday afternoon against Miami.
The Lady Vols looked like they were building toward an impressive women’s basketball victory. And they were — even if the finish wasn’t anything like the start.
Tennessee’s advantage — which grew to 27 in the first minute of the second half — turned out to be insurance against a rainy South Florida day. The Hurricanes poured it on thereafter, scoring 46 points and whittling Tennessee’s lead to six points on two occasions inside the final 2:30.
Despite foul trouble, shooting woes and a surging opponent, the Lady Vols took a 79-67 victory with them out of the BankUnited Center, ending the Hurricanes’ 41-game home winning streak before a crowd of 2,524.
“It was huge,” UT first-year coach Holly Warlick said. “Even if we would’ve ended up winning by one, it’s still a huge game.”
Freshmen Bashaara Graves and Andraya Carter set career scoring highs with 20 and 16 points, respectively, for No. 24 Tennessee (3-1). Sophomore Cierra Burdick also set a career high with 10 rebounds.
Ariel Massengale added 14 points, shooting 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. She made six of them in the final minute.
Michelle Woods led No. 23 Miami (2-1) with 17 points. The Hurricanes did almost everything but recover from a 7-for-35 shooting start.
“I didn’t have my team ready; that’s on me,” said Miami coach Katie Meier, who described the halftime disparity as “well earned.”
“I will give Tennessee some credit,” she said, “but that was all on Miami.”
The Lady Vols shot 29 percent from the floor (9 for 31) in the final 20 minutes and were whistled for 14 fouls. In the end, some of their youngest players delivered when it mattered the most.
Graves, for instance, scored consecutive clutch baskets down the stretch, driving between two defenders for one and converting after a difficult catch for the other. She also stole an inbounds pass with 44 seconds left, essentially ending Miami’s rally.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole and finally Bashaara put some in,” Burdick said. “It gave us some momentum and some encouragement to keep fighting.”
Sophomore center Isabelle Harrison did likewise with a pass, composing herself and connecting with a cutting Taber Spani for a layup and a 75-67 lead with 1:31 left.
Carter ended the game on the bench after leaping to deflect a lead pass and landing hard on her right shoulder with two minutes left. An ice bag was taped to her shoulder afterward.
“I just landed wrong but it’s fine,’’ she said.
Carter was instrumental in the Lady Vols’ start, hitting all three of her 3-point attempts in the first half as UT bolted to a 46-21 lead at the break.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, weren’t necessarily taking bad shots but they started 1 for 11 and didn’t make enough to sustain their effort.
“I was trying to step up,” said forward Morgan Stroman, who started 0-for-6 before finishing with 13 points. “I was trying to keep the team up. It’s tougher than it looks.”
So was the victory for Tennessee.
On Twitter, Lady Vols head coach emeritus Pat Summitt wrote “Great road win!!!’’ Summitt was in Atlanta, watching her son, Tyler, as an assistant coach for Marquette in game at Georgia Tech.