Glory Johnson had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Shekinna Stricklen added 16 points as No. 13 Tennessee beat LSU 70-58 on Sunday to win a third-straight Southeastern Conference tournament title.
The Lady Volunteers (24-8) had a frustrating SEC season by their lofty standards, but Johnson and Stricklen and their fellow seniors pulled together to lead the team to its 16th overall conference tournament title.
Tennessee fans cheered “We back Pat” after the win in honor of coach Pat Summitt, who announced before the season she’d been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. Summitt helped her team cut down the basketball net after the game and twirled it above her head to further cheering.
LSU (22-10), which upset regular-season champion Kentucky to reach its ninth championship game, missed a shot to win its third tournament title in coach Nikki Caldwell’s first season. Caldwell won six titles as a Tennessee player and assistant coach, but no former Lady Vols player has ever beaten Summitt.
The Lady Tigers outshot Tennessee 43.8 percent to 42.3 percent, but the Lady Vols held a 39-23 rebounding advantage and went 21 for 24 at the free-throw line.
The score was tied at 41 with 15:32 to play, when Tennessee used a 13-2 run to take the lead, with Stricklen scoring nine points during the stretch.
Adrienne Webb, who led LSU with 16 points, responded with a 3-pointer that launched a 7-2 run to cut the Lady Vols’ lead to 56-51 with 5:13 to play. A 5-0 run by the Lady Tigers got the margin down to four points with 2:04 to play, but it was as close as they would get.
Stricklen sank a jumper and then found herself open at the perimeter on the next possession. She squared up, and hit nothing but net on the 3-pointer that iced the Lady Tigers with 58 seconds left.