KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham irritated Tennessee’s fan base late in the third quarter by elbowing Tennessee’s Rennia Davis on her way to the basket.
She gave them even more reason to gripe by the end of the day.
Cunningham scored 20 points and Haley Troup added a career-high 16 points off the bench as Missouri edged the 10th-ranked Lady Volunteers 66-64 on Sunday for its fifth consecutive victory. Missouri (13-3, 2-0 SEC) beat the Lady Vols at Knoxville for the first time in five attempts and ended a 20-game skid in road games against top-10 teams.
“It was such a good game, it was a hard-fought win,” said Cunningham, who scored 32 points in a victory over Tennessee last season. “Honestly, I prefer those close games. I think blowout games can get old.”
A postgame video showed Cunningham exchanging words with Tennessee’s Rae Burrell and Lou Brown after the game. The same video showed Cunningham going back to shake the hand of Tennessee assistant to the head coach Janet McGee, who initially appeared to walk past her without shaking her hand.
“I just wanted to make sure that she tapped my hand because we’re going to meet again and I kind of wanted to end on good terms,” Cunningham said.
Tennessee’s Rennia Davis missed a potential go-ahead shot in the final five seconds and a game-tying attempt at the buzzer.
In a game that neither team ever led by more than five points, Missouri was ahead 65-60 when Tennessee (12-2, 1-1) staged one last rally.
Zaay Green made a three-point play to cut Missouri’s lead to 65-63 with 1:28 remaining. Evina Westbrook had a chance to tie the game when she went to the foul line with 59.4 seconds left, but Missouri maintained a 65-64 advantage after she missed the second of two free throws.
Cunningham missed a shot on Missouri’s next possession, giving Tennessee another opportunity. Tennessee called a timeout with 19.6 seconds left and got the ball to Davis, whose shot bounced off the rim.
“I think it’s a makeable shot for me,” Davis said. “It just didn’t go in.”
After Cunningham made one of two free throws with 3.1 seconds left, Tennessee called another timeout and got the ball at midcourt. The Lady Vols again threw to Davis, whose hurried shot that fell short of the basket.
Troup, a redshirt freshman who was averaging just 2.9 points per game, put Missouri ahead for good 56-54 by hitting a 3-pointer with 6:08 remaining. Troup went 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
“You can kind of feel it as a player when you’re kind of in the zone,” Troup said. “I just felt that.”
Lauren Aldridge added 12 points for Missouri and made all three of her 3-point attempts.
Davis and Westbrook had 16 points each for Tennessee, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Cheridene Green had 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. Zaay Green added 11 points.
Missouri: After shooting just 34.6 percent (9 of 26) in the first half, Missouri shot 56.5 percent (13 of 23) in the second half. The Tigers were 8 of 11 in the third quarter. Missouri also shot 6 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half. Cunningham, Aldridge and Troup were a combined 10 of 14 on 3-point attempts for the game.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols couldn’t overcome an off day from senior Meme Jackson, who scored just two points and missed all nine of her field-goal attempts. Jackson was averaging 14.8 points was coming off a 27-point performance in a 78-69 victory at Auburn.
Cunningham delivered her elbow to Davis’ face in the final minute of the third quarter while driving to the basket for a shot that extended Missouri’s lead to 48-44.
Although Cunningham’s basket counted, she was called for an unsportsmanlike foul after officials saw the replay. Jackson made the ensuing two free throws for Tennessee.
“I’m really not surprised because of who it was,” Davis said. “At the end of the day, I was just playing defense and she was dribbling and she stuck her elbow all the way up and I flew back. She hit me dead in the eye.”
Cunningham, who has a reputation for physical play, had six rebounds, six assists and six turnovers to go along with her 20 points.
Missouri had a 25-6 edge in bench scoring that made up for the Lady Vols’ 15-3 advantage in second-chance points.
This loss likely will drop Tennessee out of the top 10.
Missouri hosts Arkansas on Thursday.
Tennessee hosts No. 16 Kentucky on Thursday.