Meighan Simmons scored 17 points, including two go-ahead free throws
with 1:45 remaining, and No. 6 Tennessee edged 12th-ranked Kentucky
71-70 on Sunday to win another SEC tournament championship.
Simmons, who struggled with her shooting from the field throughout the
tournament, made the two free throws to snap a 63-63 tie. The free
throws gave the Lady Vols (27-5) only their second lead of the second
half, and they didn't trail again as Simmons added a layup and two
more free throws in the final 22 seconds.
Isabelle Harrison had 16 points as Tennessee claimed its record 17th
Southeastern Conference tournament title, including four in the last
Kentucky (24-8) played in its fourth final in the last five years but
still hasn't won the tournament since 1982. DeNesha Stallworth led the
Wildcats with 21 points.
The Wildcats trailed by four before Jennifer O'Neill sank three free
throws with 0.7 seconds remaining to cut Tennessee's lead to one
point. The Lady Vols' only had to pass the ball inbounds before
launching their celebration with hugs at midcourt.
Simmons, the senior guard who ranked sixth in the SEC with her average
of 16.2 points in the regular season, struggled in the Lady Vols'
first two games in the tournament, making only 8 of 36 shots from the
field (22.2 percent). She made only six of 18 shots against Kentucky.
Jordan Reynolds had 11 points for Tennessee.
Tennessee needed yet another comeback to continue its dominance in the
The Lady Vols rallied from a 15-point deficit in Friday's 77-65 win
over LSU in the quarterfinals and then trailed by 10 points early in
Saturday's 86-77 semifinal win over No. 15 Texas A&M.
Tennessee again faced a double-digit deficit after another slow start
against the Wildcats, who led 18-8.
Linnae Harper, who had 12 points, scored nine of the Wildcats' 11
points in a 12-2 run that built the 10-point lead.
Kentucky led 38-32 at halftime. Tennessee cut the lead to one point
four times in the first 10 minutes of the second half before finally
taking a 52-51 lead on two free throws by Harrison, following a hard
foul by Kentucky's Samarie Walker. Tennessee fans howled in protest
after Walker pushed Harrison to the floor.
The Wildcats quickly reclaimed the lead when Stallworth, left alone at
the top of the circle, hit a rare 3-pointer. Stallworth, the 6-foot-3
forward, made only four 3s during the regular season.
Tennessee pulled even at 59-all on Reynolds' three-point play.