GREENVILLE, S.C. — After LSU jumped out to a double-figure lead early in Saturday’s SEC Tournament semi-final, the Lady Vols came back to hand the Tigers their second loss of the season, 69-67, preventing LSU from advancing to Sunday’s championship game at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
LSU had a fast start and led by as many as 17 and by 14 at the half, but Tennessee switched to a zone defense at the half and clawed back with a strong second half. The Lady Vols tied the game at 56 with 6:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then with 5:10 left the Lady Vols took their first lead of the game and wouldn’t trail again.
Down one with the game winding down, LSU had the ball with the shot clock turned off. LSU got the ball to Angel Reese in the high post and as she drove down the right side of the lane was called for an offensive hooking foul. Tennessee made the ensuing free throws and Alexis Morris missed a half court buzzer beater that would have won the game if it had gone in.
With 22 points and 11 rebounds, Reese set the LSU program record with 28 double-doubles in a single season. Sylvia Fowles held the record since the 2006-07 season. Morris scored 20 points and had 5 assists.
After LSU scored 40 points in the first half and seemingly had the game under control, Tennessee switched to a zone that threw LSU’s offense into a funk, only scoring 27 points in the second half.
“We came out the gate smoking,” Coach Kim Mulkey said. “So we go against a zone. It’s not like we haven’t seen a zone this year. It was almost like we were just tired. No one flashed. No one moved. No one screened the zone. We had no dribble penetration to make two take you. We had no ball reversal, nothing. We just relied on the shot clock winding down, set a pick, jack a shot up.
“Was that fatigue? I don’t know. But we attack zones every day in practice and it affected us. Their press did not affect us; their zone affected us. We will continue as we prepare for the playoffs to attack zones.”
The Lady Vols also stabilized themselves offensively. LSU forced 14 turnovers in the first half, but then Tennessee only committed four in the second half and possessed the ability to get the shots it wanted.
Rickea Jackson led all scorers with 26 points and 10 rebounds and was one of two Volunteers to record double doubles, her fourth this season. The other was Jordan Hortson who put up 17 and hauled in 10 boards for her 8th double-double of the season. Jillian Hollingshead and Tess Darby were the other two Vols in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
Morris picked up right where she left off on Friday by leading a 6-0 run with 5 points through two minutes of the opening quarter. At the first media timeout LSU led 12-6 and both Morris and Reese recorded 5 points in the first 5 minutes. The Tigers allowed a Hollingshead jumper and then proceeded to go on a 6-0 run on 5-7 from the field to force a Lady Vol timeout. The LSU defense held Tennessee scoreless for three minutes and took a 22-10 lead into the second quarter.
The Tigers shot 59-percent in the first quarter and outrebounded the Volunteers 12-7. Tennessee went 4-16 from the field and 0-2 from deep in the first ten minutes.
Kateri Poole opened the second quarter with a triple to take a 15-point lead, Johnson followed with a pullup jumper off a Tennessee turnover. After a UT timeout the Vols put together a 8-2 run to cut the deficit to 11 with 6:37 to play before the half. A Darby three put UT within 12, but Last-Tear Poa responded with a three-point play off a tough floater and a made free throw. LSU headed into the break with a 40-26 lead
At the half Morris led LSU with 13 points and Reese ended the half with 11 points and 7 boards. LSU combined for 10 steals and forced 13 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of action. The Tigers finished the first two quarters shooting 52-percent compared to UT’s 30. LSU scored more than half of its points inside the paint (24).
The Lady Vols outscored LSU 9-4 in the opening five minutes of the third quarter to cut the 1ead and put themselves back within double figures. LSU was held scoreless for 3:30 ahead of the media timeout with 4:39 remaining in the quarter. After the timeout Darby was fouled shooting from beyond the arch and made all three of her shots from the arch to put UT six away for the first time since seven minutes into the contest. A couple of free throws from Jackson and a Hollingshead layup made it 42-45 with just over two minutes left in the quarter.
LSU was outscored 21-11 in the third quarter and shot 19-percent (3-16), Tenneesse went 8-8 from the charity stripe and shot 50-percent from the field to head into the final quarter down by four, 51-47.
A Johnson triple two minutes in put the Tigers up by seven but 7 straight points from the Vols made it a tie ball game for the first time since tip-off. Tennessee took its first lead of the night with five minutes remaining in regulation. Reese knotted things back up (60-60) with an inside layup and theTigers called a timeout to regroup.
Morris earned her first points of the second half with a top of the key with 3:04 to play and cut the Lady Vol lead to one. Inside a minute and a half Morris picked up another steal and went coast to coast to put LSU within one-point. UT gathered an offensive board and called a timeout with 40-seconds left in regulation. An offensive foul was called on Reese and Tennessee called a timeout with 12-seconds to go.
(Press release provided by LSU Athletics)