Lady Tigers Come Up Short in SEC Title Game
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Playing the final 14:18 of the game without its All-Southeastern Conference player LaSondra Barrett due to injury, No. 4 seed LSU turned in a valiant effort against No. 2 seed Tennessee but the Lady Vols pulled away late to win the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship, 70-58, on Sunday night in Bridgestone Arena.
An SEC Tournament record crowd of 12,441 -- mostly Tennessee fans -- watched the Lady Vols win their third consecutive SEC Tournament championship and 16th overall.
LSU (22-10) now awaits an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament when the field of 64 is announced on Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m. The Lady Tigers are playing host to the first and second rounds in the Maravich Center on Sunday, March 18 and Tuesday, March 20. For tickets to the NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds hosted by LSU, visit www.LSUtix.net or call the LSU Athletic Ticket Office at (225) 578-2184.
The Lady Tigers are seeking their 21st NCAA Tournament berth and first since 2010 after missing the event last season. LSU is in good shape to draw a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament with a top 30 RPI and 22 victories.
"I'm very proud of this group," said LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell, who was facing her mentor in Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. "I saw fight in them. I saw a team that stuck together. I feel like this team has shown that they cannot only play with some of the best teams in the country, but we've beaten some of the top-ranked teams in this country.
"This team has a uniqueness about them. We talk about whenever there is a setback, there's a comeback. This group has shown it time and time again. We've got a lot more basketball in us."
Adrienne Webb, who was named to the SEC All-Tournament team, finished with a team-high 16 points. Theresa Plaisance came off the bench for 13 points.
Barrett scored nine points before hitting the floor and suffering a head injury with 14:18 left in the game. She was carted off the floor on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital for evaluation. She was conscious when carted off, able to move all extremities and diagnosed with a concussion.
"We could have easily folded after LaSondra went down but we took it as a challenge," said Webb. "Even though we fell short, we gave it 100 percent and gave our all out there on the floor."
Glory Johnson tallied a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds and was named SEC Tournament MVP. Shekinna Stricklen added 16 points for the Lady Vols.
LSU trailed 35-30 to start the second half, but the Lady Tigers rallied to tie the game at 41 apiece on a Plaisance three. Barrett was injured at the 14:18 mark with Tennessee holding a 45-41 advantage. Despite losing Barrett for the game, LSU continued its inspiring effort as Webb knocked down a three of her own to cut the lead to 45-44 with 13:51 to go.
Tennessee, however, went on a 9-0 run following Webb's shot to take control of the game. Stricklen was fouled on a three-point play and made three shots. Stricklen scored seven straight points in a span of two minutes as the Lady Vols led 54-47 with 8:19 remaining.
Webb refused to let the Lady Tigers go away, burying another three and converting a layup as LSU closed it to five points, 56-51, with 5:13 to go. Tennessee responded with four straight points and put the game away at the free throw line.
LSU out-shot Tennessee, 43 percent to 42 percent, but the Lady Vols owned the boards by a 39-23 margin.