COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Destiny Pitts had a season-high 18 points and No. 6 Texas A&M used strong free throw shooting late to hold on for an 80-70 win over No. 16 Tennessee on Sunday.
It's the seventh straight victory for Texas A&M (19-1, 10-1 SEC) and improves the Aggies to 8-0 against ranked opponents this season.
Texas A&M had a two-point led late in the fourth quarter when Pitts was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws to make it 73-68. Jordan Nixon added two free throws after an offensive foul by Rennia Davis before a basket by Davis cut the lead to 5 with less than a minute to go.
Nixon made two more free throws after the Lady Volunteers fouled her with 37 seconds remaining. Davis missed a 3-pointer on the other end and Nixon was two more times in the final seconds and made 3 of 4 free throws to secure the win.
"In close games it comes down to free throws," Pitts said. "I think was really huge for us to knock down free throws and not give them that little hope of playing the free throw game with us."
Pitts was suspended from the University of Minnesota team in January 2020 by coach Lindsay Whalen and announced several days later that she would transfer.
At the time, Pitts was the team's leading scorer and released a statement saying, "I was informed that I was suspended indefinitely for my 'body language' during the Northwestern game. As this was my first discipline situation of my career at Minnesota [or as a basketball player at any level], I was blindsided and shocked by the suspension."
Texas A&M made 25 free throws on Sunday, while Tennessee made just 11.
"We played well throughout the game," Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. "Unfortunately there in that (fourth) quarter we just put them on the free throw line too many times and we didn't get there enough and that was the difference in the ball game."
This game was originally scheduled for Dec. 31 but was postponed twice because of coronavirus issues.
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was impressed with the performance of Pitts, who made three 3-pointers.
"She's just a gamer," Blair said. "She doesn't worry about stats but she hunts her shots and she knows how to hit the tough shots."
Davis had 25 points to lead Tennessee (12-5, 6-3) after missing the team's last game because of a medical reason.
Nixon finished with 15 points and Kayla Wells and Aaliyah Wilson added 13 each for Texas A&M.
Texas A&M has played a number of close games in recent weeks and Blair credited the team's preparation in practice for its success in closing out such games.
"We work on it consistently and sometimes I think we haven't worked enough on it," he said. "But we're going to keep going through those scenarios because the league is so good you're not getting those 20-point blowouts any time."
The Aggies had a two-point lead entering the fourth but were down by 1 early in the quarter before a 5-0 run, with a 3-pointer from Pitts, put them back on top 59-55 with about seven minutes to go.
Texas A&M had extended its lead to 6 later in the fourth before a 5-2 spurt by the Lady Volunteers cut the deficit to 65-62 with four minutes remaining.
A jump shot by Wilson extended Texas A&M's lead to 5 points before Tennessee scored the next four points to get within 67-66 with about two minutes remaining.
Pitts. who is averaging eight points per game this season, added a 3-pointer for the Aggies soon after that, but Davis made a jumper for the Lady Vols to cut the lead to 70-68 with 90 seconds to go.
Tennessee led by 2 after a free throw by Jordan Walker late in the third quarter. But the Aggies scored the last four points on the quarter with layups from Pitts and N'dea Jones to take a 51-49 lead into the fourth quarter.
Harper said their travel plans were up on the air after the game because of a winter storms in both Texas and Mississippi. The Lady Volunteers were taking a bus to Houston, which is about 100 miles from College Station, Sunday with plans to fly directly to Mississippi for their scheduled Tuesday night game at Mississippi State. But Harper wasn't sure if they'd be able to get out of Texas.
The Houston area was dealing with a rare snowstorm and there was a winter weather advisory for central Mississippi on Sunday, too.
"It's an absolute mess," Harper said of the weather. "I don't think we can even get in anywhere near Mississippi State right now. I'm really not sure what the outcome of this trip will be."
Tennessee: After their game at Mississippi State on Tuesday they'll host top-ranked South Carolina on Thursday night.
Texas A&M: Hosts Missouri on Thursday night before playing its next two games on the road.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.