With 8 1/2 minutes to play in Friday’s quarterfinal of the SEC Tournament, the double-digit seed must’ve been feeling pretty good, leading the No. 2 seed by four points.
But that’s about where the game turned in the favor of one of the conference’s finest teams.
Tennessee went on a 19-0 run over a five-minute stretch and pulled away from LSU in a 77-65 victory at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The Vols (25-5) trailed for much of the first 32 minutes and had a deficit as large as 15 points, but after going down 55-51 on two free throws by Jeanne Kenney, the Knoxville school embarked on a game-changing spurt.
Isabelle Harrison led Tennessee with 21 points, and her put back with about eight minutes to play got the Vols started on a 19-0 run that made it a 70-55 game and ended any hope of an LSU upset.
LSU (19-12), which had already knocked off No. 7 Alabama in the tournament, took a 27-12 first-half lead and still led 34-28 at halftime. The Tigers hit 7 of 14 from three-point range in the opening half, but attempted only six in the second half, making one, and a second half field goal drought of nearly 7 1/2 minutes didn’t help matters.
“We talked a lot about our defense. We gave up seven threes (in the first half), and you can’t do that,” said Tennessee coach Holly Warlick. “I thought the second half, when we made our run, we didn’t give up any threes and we made them take difficult shots.”
Tennessee pulled even at 43-43 on a lay up by Cierra Burdick at the 12:47 mark of the second. LSU’s Theresa Plaisance, who had 21 points, hit a jumper, then a 3-pointer from the top of the key to aid in a quick, 6-0 run that made it 49-43. Jordan Reynolds made a difficult lay up to get Tennessee to within 53-51 before Kenney’s free throws with 8:32 left.
Bashaara Graves and Meighan Simmons added 14 points each for the Vols, 20 of which came in the second half. Danielle Ballard added 15 points and Kenney, 13 for LSU.