KNOXVILLE — When Rennia Davis's final desperation shot dropped from the heavens and into the Thompson-Boling Arena net Monday night — proving to be the difference in a 65-63 win over Alabama — the Tennessee bench went wild.
There were Jazmine Massengill and Jessie Rennie jumping onto the court. But there still was 0.9 second left on the clock, so there were Tennessee assistant coach Jon Harper and sophomore guard Zaay Green, who is redshirting this season while recovering from a November knee injury, attempting to pull them back.
There were Rae Burrell, Lou Brown, Jordan Horston and Tamari Key — players on the court with Davis at the time — chasing down the 6-foot-2 junior guard to mob her in celebration.
Then there was head coach Kellie Harper, who stood near the Tennessee bench, head down and hands on her knees.
There had been nothing pretty whatsoever about the final possession. Davis received an inbounds pass. She crossed over Alabama's Cierra Johnson, who tapped the ball and briefly caused Davis to bobble it. Davis then picked it up, took a step back and heaved up the desperation 28-footer.
Nothing but net.
"I was thinking, 'It took that shot to get the win,'" Harper said afterward. "I thought the horn had gone off and I thought time was up, because it was really loud.
"I told Rennia after the game, 'You do know I'm going to go in there and tell them that's exactly what we drew up. We're going to dribble around, take a step-back 3 from the volleyball line and — oh, yeah, by the way — shoot it so high that there's no time left on the clock when it goes in.'"
But it worked, and the 23rd-ranked Lady Volunteers (15-3, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) were able to land the final blow in what turned into a back-and-forth battle over a final quarter that featured three ties and six lead changes. The win ended a five-game losing streak to Alabama and was the Lady Vols' fourth straight as they now head to Connecticut to face the third-ranked Huskies (16-1).
Davis finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Tennessee was led by freshman Horston's 19 points, and she added eight rebounds, four assists (six turnovers) and four blocked shots. Key added 10 rebounds and six blocks.
Despite a heightened amount of attention paid to the Lady Vols' best player, Davis still was able to do what a team's best player should do on the game's final possession — create an opportunity. She made seven of 11 shots and, in the most crucial moment, the game's biggest play.
Tennessee blocked a season-high 13 shots Monday. It was the third time this season the team had blocked at least 12 shots in a game, joining the Notre Dame and Kentucky games when the Lady Vols blocked 12 each. Oddly, those were also the two games they had 20 or more turnovers, and they had 20 against Alabama.
With so many twists and turns Monday, no shot was highlighted more than the final one by Davis, a shot that she says she "practices often."
WHAT IT MEANS
The Lady Vols won a game that they had every opportunity to lose but would have had no business losing. They were able to end a losing streak and maintain one at the same time. This team is one that will continue to figure things out and while it won't always be pretty, they've shown that they'll compete and give themselves a chance.
Reaction to Davis's shot:
Davis: "It was somewhat what we drew up, but the step-back is kind of my shot, so I was looking for it. I knew my teammates were looking for me to shoot the ball and were getting ready to rebound, so I was trying to make a play."
More Davis: "I've practiced this shot. Even though it was 30 feet away, I do practice that shot."
Lou Brown: "I went to rebound, but I looked up and felt, 'This is going in.' It was good because we really want the ball in her hands."
Horston: "I didn't go rebound. I was watching."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.