Columbia, South Carolina— It was a nail-biter that was not without controversy in the final seconds as the Tennessee Lady Vols topped the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, 76-74.
It was the first time The Lady Vols recorded a win against an AP top-five opponent on the road since January 2007, when they took down the UConn Huskies.
In the final second in the tied contest, Tennessee once again relied on junior Jamie Nared to seal the deal in the closing seconds. Nared has had quite a month, hitting the game-winning shot against Notre Dame on Jan. 16 and hitting four critical free throws in crunch time against Kentucky on New Year’s Day.
Her two key free throws tonight would once again clinch the game for Tennessee with six seconds remaining. But whether or not Nared should have taken those free throws? That will be a hotly debated topic amongst Gamecock and Lady Vols fans in the months to come.
With 15 seconds remaining South Carolina tied the game on a three-pointer from Bianca Cuevas-Moore from the left wing. The possibility of overtime in Columbia loomed large as Tennessee looked like they would get one last chance to go for the win.
As Nared took one hard dribble to the right at the top of the key, her hip collided with South Carolina’s Tyasha Harris. Nared tumbled to the ground, and the referees called a foul.
On the surface, this seems like a pretty straightforward call. On replay, however, the contact looked minimal, and likely should not have warranted a whistle. The controversy grows when it’s clear that had no foul been called, Nared should have been called for travelling as she began to get up from the ground without dribbling.
The referees did not overturn the call, and as a result, Nared headed to the free throw line with six seconds remaining. She sunk both, and proved once again why she is a huge asset to the Lady Vols in close game situations.
With no timeouts remaining, South Carolina was forced to immediately take the ball out. Cuevas-Moore dribbled to the top of the three-point arc, and heaved up a shot with just over 2 seconds left that bounced off the back of the rim.
Tennessee handed South Carolina their first loss in conference play, and their second loss all season. Nared had a game-high 25 points, while her teammate Diamond DeShields added 21. Cuevas-Moore led South Carolina with 18.
With their second win in as many weeks over an AP top-10 opponent, it would seem that Tennessee is knocking on the door of a ranking themselves.