Lady Vols going back to SEC Tournament title game - WSMV News 4

Lady Vols going back to SEC Tournament title game

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DULUTH, Ga. -- Tennessee dominated play around the basket the way its fans dominated the stands.

The result was another trip to the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.

Isabelle Harrison had 20 points and 13 rebounds and No. 6 Tennessee held off No. 15 Texas A&M 86-77 on Saturday in the SEC tournament semifinals.

Tennessee (26-5) will play No. 12 Kentucky in Sunday's championship game. Kentucky upset No. 5 South Carolina 68-58 in Saturday's first semifinal.

Coach Holly Warlick said her players will be motivated by Kentucky's 75-71 win at Tennessee on Feb. 16.

"That was our goal, to get to the finals," Warlick said. "We're going to get an opportunity to play Kentucky, who beat us on our home court. ... Regardless, South Carolina or Kentucky, we wanted to get in the title game."

It's a familiar setting for the Lady Vols.

Tennessee has 16 SEC tournament titles and has won six of the last nine championships, including three straight from 2010-12. Vanderbilt is second on the list with six tournament titles.

Tennessee orange dominated the crowd of 6,306, as is customary no matter where the tournament is held.  

"We feel like we're at home and it helps us to stay in the game," Harrison said.

Courtney Walker led Texas A&M with 26 points. Courtney Williams added 22, but the high-scoring sophomores were not enough to overcome the Lady Vols' inside dominance.

Texas A&M (24-8), the defending champion, led by 10 points in the first half but couldn't match Tennessee's inside game. The Lady Vols took a 48-26 advantage in rebounds and 26-4 in second-chance points.

"Our first-shot defense was as good as anybody's," said Texas A&M coach Gary Blair. "It's the second shot and third shot when we couldn't keep them off the boards.

"I've seen Tennessee rebound like that since 1980. That's just a trademark."

Tennessee's three starting front-line players combined for 32 rebounds -- more than the Aggies' team. Cierra Burdick had nine points and 10 rebounds. Bashaara Graves had 14 points and nine rebounds.

The Lady Vols scored 50 points in the paint.

"We got big-time rebounds and these young ladies were all over the boards," Warlick said. "When you get 26 second-chance points, you're doing something really, really good."

The dominant inside play allowed Tennessee to overcome a poor shooting performance by Meighan Simmons, who made only three of 17 shots from the field. Simmons made eight free throws and had 15 points.

There were 11 ties, the last coming at 75-75 on a short jumper by Walker. The Lady Vols pulled ahead with seven straight points on baskets by Harrison and Graves and three free throws by Simmons.

"We played a damn good ballgame," Blair said. "They played a better 4 minutes than we did at the end."


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