Friday, March 02, 2012

Seniors Key UT's 68-57 Win Over Vandy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - No. 2-seeded Tennessee outlasted a feisty No. 7 seed Vanderbilt team to advance to the SEC Tournament Semifinals with a 68-57 victory at Bridgestone Arena on a stormy Friday evening. In a game that saw an extended halftime due to tornadoes in the Nashville area, the Lady Vols rode the senior combination of Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen to the hard-fought victory. Stricklen (18 points -- all in the second half and seven rebounds) and Johnson (15 points and nine rebounds) combined for 33 points and 16 rebounds. 29 of those points and 10 of the boards came in the decisive second half.

The Lady Vols will take on #6 South Carolina in the SEC Semifinals. The Gamecocks were an upset winner over #3 seed Georgia on Friday night, 59-55. Tennessee's SEC Semifinal game will start at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT.

The pair combined to score the final 23 points for the Lady Vols, who moved to 22-8. No other Lady Vol scored for the final 11:04 of the contest.

Tennessee has won 19 consecutive second-round games in the SEC Tournament.

Vanderbilt (21-9) was led by Christina Foggie, who had 16 points and Stephane Holzer, who had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Stricklen bombed an NBA-distance 3-pointer with 3:06 left in regulation, with the shot clock expiring, to give the Lady Vols a 64-55 lead.

The senior duo of Stricklen and Johnson keyed a decisive 14-7 spurt as the seniors scored all 14 points in the run to give Tennessee a 59-51 lead with 6:30 left in the second half.

Up one, Stricklen knocked down a 3-pointer with 9:30 left in the second half to give the Vols a 48-44 advantage. Vandy kept battling back but Stricklen answered again with a 3-point play with 8:49 left for a 51-46 lead.

Vanderbilt continued its rally in the second half, coming back to within one point at 41-40, 43-42 and 45-44.

The game featured an extended halftime of about 45 minutes due to a weather delayed caused by tornado warnings in the Nashville area.

Tennessee led 35-27 at halftime thanks to tremendous shooting from the floor coupled with strong defense. The Lady Vols made 53.8 percent from the floor while limiting Vanderbilt to 26.9 percent (7-of-26). Simmons led all scorers with 11 points.

After being down by as many as 19, Vanderbilt cut its deficit to nine with a 10-0 run over 1:30 in the final three minutes of the first half. That spurt was keyed by perfect free-throw shooting as Vanderbilt was 7-of-7 from the line during the 90-second stretch.

Tennessee used a 13-2 run late in the first to build a 32-13 lead with 3:30 left in the half. Meighan Simmons scored eight points in a row in the run as he energized the Lady Vols.

Vanderbilt went without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes, missing 11 field goals in a row after making their first two shots of the game. The drought ended on a Holzer jumper with 9:24 left in the half, cutting the Commodores deficit to seven at 17-10.

Tennessee opened the game sharp from the floor and received some outside shooting from Vicki Baugh, Briana Bass and Cierra Burdick as the Lady Vols held a 17-8 lead with 10:44 left in the first half. Burdick nailed back-to-back jumpers for UT.

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