COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri made up lost ground at Tennessee's expense Sunday afternoon, leaving the Lady Vols beaten and battered.
Less than a month after being blown out by UT, the Tigers pulled away down the stretch in pulling off a stunning 80-63 SEC women's basketball upset in the rematch.
Morgan Eye's 26 points led Missouri (15-8, 4-5 SEC) to its first victory over a top-10 team since beating then-No. 10 Baylor on Jan. 23, 2010. The Tigers celebrated at center court afterward before a crowd of 4,181 at Mizzou Arena, reveling in the recovery from an 84-39 loss in Knoxville on Jan. 10.
"In all my career," Missouri senior center Liz Smith said, "I've never felt something like that after a game."
Conversely, UT head coach Holly Warlick's postgame press conference recalled the struggles of last season. She credited Missouri's effort but also apologized for her team's performance.
"You just cannot be average," Warlick said. "I don't care who you play, where you go. You cannot be average and actually we were below average. It was the result of what (Missouri) did and how hard they played."
Kamiko Williams' day underscored the plight of No. 9 Tennessee (17-5, 8-1). She scored all of her 14 points in the first half and still finished as UT's leading scorer.
The senior guard went down with 17 minutes left in the game after coming down on someone's foot and injuring her right ankle. She returned to the team bench later on crutches with the ankle wrapped in ice.
Jasmine Jones also was injured with 1:11 remaining. The freshman forward was helped off after the front of her right knee took the brunt of a collision.
Both players were listed as day to day afterward. The Lady Vols already were missing center Isabelle Harrison (knee) and guard Andraya Carter (shoulder).
Along with her points, Williams also grabbed six rebounds and gathered three steals in the first 20 minutes. Her play enabled Tennessee to maintain a 37-34 halftime lead.
"She was one of the few who played hard and kept us in the game," Warlick said.
Although four other Lady Vols — Meighan Simmons, Taber Spani, Bashaara Graves and Ariel Massengale – scored in double figures, nobody managed to swing the game back in Tennessee's favor.
"Kamiko was playing really well, Spani said. "… but we have to be tougher than that."
Spani, who was playing before a contingent of approximately 60 family members and friends, thought UT's youth showed and blamed herself.
"It's my job as a senior leader to make sure that our maturity level is better than that," she said. "So I'll put that on me."
Missouri was methodical in reversing the statistics that weighed heavily against the Tigers in the first meeting. In that game, paint points, points off turnovers, second-chance points and fast-break points were 107-13 in UT's favor. On Sunday, the same stat columns added up 51-46 for Missouri.
The Tigers also had a whopping 34-3 edge in bench scoring.
Led by Eye and Bria Kulas' 20 points, Missouri made 11 3-pointers and shot 52.7 percent from the floor, scoring 46 points in the second half.
"They're a different type of team than, I think, pretty much every other SEC team," Spani said. "Nobody shoots the ball like them that I've played against for four years.''
The Lady Vols didn't help themselves by neglecting the game plan. Spani said that they were supposed to lock onto shooters and chase them through screens.
Eye used movement and her teammates to get a clear view of the basket virtually all afternoon. She shot 6 for 12 from long range and 8 for 14 overall.
"I think it was mental and physical toughness," Spani said. "They wanted it more. Give them credit."
The loss was Tennessee's first to an unranked team since the season opener at Chattanooga. The result recalled an overtime home loss to Arkansas last season, a team UT had beaten by 31 points earlier in the season.
"We're not a disciplined team when we need to be disciplined," Warlick said. "We're kind of all or nothing and today we were nothing."