Lady Vols Top UK, 71-70 In SEC Championship

Sunday, March 09, 2014 - by J
Tennessee captured its record 17th SEC Championship on Sunday afternoon with a 71-70 victory over Kentucky. The #6 Lady Vols have now won four of the last six SEC Tournament titles and seven of the last 10.

For the ninth time, Tennessee (27-5) finished the regular-season in second place.
For the ninth time, the Lady Vols went on to win the SEC Tournament Championship. Tennessee is now 17-5 in SEC Championship games, winning seven consecutive title games it has played in, dating to 2005.

Tennessee has beaten #12 Kentucky (24-8) in three title games, also beating the Cats in 2010 and 2011. The Lady Vols are 73-18 all-time in the SEC Tournament over its 35 years of existence, including a 18-2 mark since 2008.

For the third consecutive SEC Tournament game, Tennessee trailed by double-figures in the first half -- and for the third game in a row, the Lady Vols rallied for the win.

Senior Meighan Simmons became the sixth Lady Vols to score 2,000 points in her career, she tallied a team-high 17 and now has 2,004 in her illustrious career.

Isabelle Harriso added 16 points. Freshman Jordan Reynolds was clutch down the stretch in helping Tennessee clinch the title.

DeNasha Stallworth topped the Cats' scoring chart with 21 points, Linnae Harper and Jennifer O'Neill added 12 apiece.

After a first half that had just seven personal fouls called, the second half became very physical with an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line. 28 fouls were called over the final 20 minutes.

With 1:45 left in regulation, Simmons gave Tennessee the lead -- they would not relinquish -- on her 2,000th career point, the second of two free throws, putting UT up 65-63. Kentucky then threw the ball away for a turnover, giving Tennessee the ball with 1:30 left.

Reynolds knocked down a jumper to put the Lady Vols up by two possessions, 67-63 with 44.3 left in the game.

After Kentucky made a pair of free throws, Simmons the game with a driving layup with 20 seconds left in regulation, making it 69-65.

Simmons knocked down two free throws with 10.7 left to make it 71-67 to clinch it.

Reynolds' 3-point play with 4:07 left in the game tied the game at 59 all. After two free throws by Jennifer O'Neill to regain the lead, Reynolds went high off glass to deadlock the game again, at 61 with 2:53 left in regulation. After UK took the lead, Harrison answered to make it 63 all with two minutes left.

Tennessee took its first lead since 4-2, on a pair of free throws by Harrison with 8:35 left in the game, putting UT ahead, 52-51.

Kentucky held a 38-32 halftime lead as Tennessee cut a margin as large as 10 early in the first half. The Lady Vols trailed by 10, at 18-8, seven minutes into the game.


Official Basketball Box Score
Kentucky vs Tennessee
03/09/14 3:30 pm at The Arena at Gwinnett Center-Duluth, GA

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VISITORS: Kentucky 24-8
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
11 Stallworth, DeNesha. f  9-14   1-1    2-2    0  5  5   2  21  1  2  1  1  28
23 Walker, Samarie..... f  3-5    1-1    0-0    0  5  5   3   7  0  1  0  0  33
03 Thompson, Janee..... g  2-7    0-0    1-1    1  2  3   3   5  3  2  0  0  17
13 Goss, Bria.......... g  1-4    0-1    1-2    0  1  1   5   3  1  2  0  0  18
32 Evans, Kastine...... g  1-1    1-1    1-2    0  1  1   0   4  0  2  1  1  20
00 O'Neill, Jennifer...    1-6    1-2    9-9    1  2  3   1  12  5  3  0  0  26
12 Sidney, Jelleah.....    0-1    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   1   0  0  1  0  0   7
15 Harper, Linnae......    5-10   1-2    1-2    0  4  4   1  12  1  2  0  1  25
25 Epps, Makayla.......    1-4    0-0    2-4    0  4  4   0   4  1  1  0  0  14
50 Bishop, Azia........    1-2    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   3   2  0  0  0  1  12
   TEAM................                         4  3  7
   Totals..............   24-54   5-8   17-22   6 28 34  19  70 12 16  2  4 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 17-32 53.1%   2nd Half:  7-22 31.8%   Game: 44.4%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  3-5  60.0%   2nd Half:  2-3  66.7%   Game: 62.5%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  1-2  50.0%   2nd Half: 16-20 80.0%   Game: 77.3%    4


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HOME TEAM: Tennessee 27-5
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
11 Burdick, Cierra..... f  3-10   0-1    0-0    3  7 10   3   6  1  2  1  0  30
12 Graves, Bashaara.... f  2-6    0-0    0-4    2  5  7   1   4  2  0  0  1  31
20 Harrison, Isabelle.. c  7-12   0-0    2-2    1  4  5   2  16  0  2  1  1  32
10 Simmons, Meighan.... g  6-18   1-4    4-4    0  1  1   2  17  0  2  0  2  34
14 Carter, Andraya..... g  4-5    0-1    1-1    0  2  2   3   9  2  3  0  1  30
00 Reynolds, Jordan....    4-6    0-1    3-3    0  3  3   2  11  1  2  0  1  18
02 Jones, Jasmine......    2-9    0-0    2-3    3  1  4   3   6  2  1  0  1  14
21 Russell, Mercedes<...    1-2    0-0    0-0    1  0  1   0   2  0  0  0  0  11
   TEAM................                         4  2  6
   Totals..............   29-68   1-7   12-17  14 25 39  16  71  8 12  2  7 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 16-36 44.4%   2nd Half: 13-32 40.6%   Game: 42.6%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  0-3   0.0%   2nd Half:  1-4  25.0%   Game: 14.3%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  0-2   0.0%   2nd Half: 12-15 80.0%   Game: 70.6%    2

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Officials: Lisa Mattingly, Bryan Enterline, Bob Trammell
Technical fouls: Kentucky-Walker, Samarie; Stallworth, DeNesha.
Tennessee-Jones, Jasmine; Burdick, Cierra.
Attendance: 6544
Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
Kentucky......................   38   32  -   70
Tennessee.....................   32   39  -   71
Alt-Luis Gonzalez

Points in the paint-UK 32,UT 36. Points off turnovers-UK 14,UT 13.
2nd chance points-UK 10,UT 8. Fast break points-UK 4,UT 2.
Bench points-UK 30,UT 19. Score tied-6 times. Lead changed-4 times.
Last FG-UK 2nd-00:15, UT 2nd-00:22.Largest lead-UK by 10 1st-13:57, UT by 4 1st-18:06.

THE SERIES & THE WIN

  1.  Sunday' game marked the 60th all-time meeting between the two programs.
  2.  With the win, Tennessee moves to 50-10 in the all-time series against Kentucky, and 1-1 against the Wildcats this season.?
  3.  In the SEC Tournament, UT is 6-1 against UK, with the only loss coming back on Feb. 28, 1982 (80-74) in the tourney title game in Lexington, Ky.?
  4.  Sunday's game marks the fourth time the teams have met for the SEC postseason title, with UT holding a 3-1 record in those games.

GRIND FOR 9

  5.  Tennessee has finished second in SEC regular season nine times and on all nine occasions has bounced back to win the SEC Tournament championship.?
  6.  Tennessee won its league-leading 17th SEC Championship trophy. The Lady Vols were victorious in 1980, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. ?
  7.  The Big Orange women have won four of the past five, and seven of the last 10 tournament crowns.DEJA VU

  8.  In 2010, No. 1 seed UT won the SEC Tournament at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, defeating No. 2 Kentucky, 70-62.?
  9.  Sunday's game marks the fourth time the teams have met for the SEC postseason title, with UT holding a 3-1 record in those games.TOURNAMENT TIME FOR TENNESSEE

  10. Tennessee now has a 73-18 all-time record in the SEC Tournament.
  11. When playing in the championship game, UT 17-5.
  12. Tennessee is 8-2 all-time in games played at Gwinnett Center.

FOR STARTERS

  13. Today's starters: juniorCierra Burdick, sophomoreBashaara Graves, juniorIsabelle Harrison, redshirt freshman Andraya Carterand seniorMeighan Simmons.
  14. It was the 13th-straight game Tennessee has utilized the lineup, and the Lady Vols are now 12-1 with the quintet.
  15. Tennessee won the tip for the 29th time this season.
  16. Burdick scored the Lady Vols' first basket with a jumper. It's the third time this season that the junior has scored UT's first points.
  17. Mercedes Russel was first off the bench for Tennessee, the ninth time this season the freshman has been called upon first.
  18. Junior point guardAriel Massengalewas on the bench. She suffered a facial injury during that game and missed Texas A&M (Jan. 26), Arkansas (Jan. 30), Alabama (Feb. 2), Ole Miss (Feb. 6) and Vanderbilt (Feb. 10). She was on the bench, but did not play against Kentucky (Feb. 16), Auburn (Feb. 20), South Carolina (March 2), LSU (SEC Tournament - March 7) and Texas A&M (SEC Tournament - March 8). She also missed at the Missouri (Feb. 23) and LSU (Feb. 27) away games.

ALL-TOURNAMENT / MVP

  19. Isabelle Harrison averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds in three games at the Tournament. Entering the championship game, she averaged 20.5 points (fourth among tournament players) and 12.5 rebounds (first among tournament players) per game.?
  20. Tennessee has had 15 SEC Tournament MVPs through the years, with a Lady Vol winning four of the last five awards.

SIMMONS JOINS ELITE CLUB

  21. With senior Meighan Simmons' 17 points, she becomes just the fifth Lady Vol in program history to score 2,000 or more points during her UT career.
  22. The 2,000-point club includes Chamique Holdsclaw (3,025), Bridgette Gordon (2,462), Candace Parker (2,137) and Tamika Catchings (2,113).

FIVE MINUTES LEFT

  23. At the five minute mark, UT trailed, marking just the fifth time this season Tennessee has been behind with five minutes left to play.
  24. When the Lady Vols are trailing with five minutes left, UT is 1-4.

COMEBACK KIDS

  25. Tennessee trailed in all three games of the SEC Tournament, coming back for victories in all three contests. ?
  26. Tennessee trailed by as many as 10 points, 18-8, with 13:57 left in the first half.
  27. UT took back the lead, 52-51, with 8:35 left in the game thanks to two free throws from Harrison.
  28. It is the sixth come-from-behind win for Tennessee this year. UT trailed by: 15 at Alabama; 15 vs. LSU (SEC Tournament); 14 at MTSU; 10 to Virginia; 10 to Texas A&M; 8 to Arkansas.?BURDICK BIG ON THE BOARDS

  29. Cierra Burdick led the team with 10 boards, marking her fourth straight game with double digit boards and fifth in the last six contests. ?

REYNOLDS SHINES IN WIN

  30. Tennessee freshman Jordan Reynolds played an instrumental role in the win over Kentucky.
  31. Reynolds had a career-high 11 points, 4-of-6 from the field and 3-for-3 in free throws.

PAINTING THE TOWN ORANGE

  32. Tennessee has outscored its opponents in the paint, 138-84, in the last three games, including 50-34 vs. Texas A&M and 52-18 vs. LSU. ?
  33. UT outscored UK, 36-32, in points in the paint.

DOUBLE-DIGIT HARRISON

  34. With Isabelle Harrison's 16 points, she recorded her 29th game (of 32) this season, and 48th of her career scoring in double digits.

TENNESSEE DEFENSE

  35. Entering the championship game, Tennessee had a +20 rebound margin, outworking their opponents 48.0 to 28.0 on the glass.
  36. UT outrebounded UK, 39-34, with Cierra Burdick leading the way with 10 boards.

HITTING DOUBLE FIGURES

  37. The Lady Vols had three players in double figures: Isabelle Harrison (16), Meighan Simmons (17), Jordan Reynolds (11).
  38. Tennessee has had three or more players score in double digits in 31 of its 32 games.

AT THE HALF

  39. Kentucky led Tennessee, 38-32.?
  40. Simmons led the Lady Vols with eight points.
  41. The Big Orange outrebounded UK, 19-17, with Burdick leading all players in the game with five boards.
  42. The Wildcats were outscoring UT in points in the paint, 22-14.
  43. Kentucky shot 53.1 percent (17-32) compared to Tennessee's 44.4 percent (16-36) in the opening half.

UP NEXT

  44. Tennessee will await its seed in the NCAA Tournament when Selection Show Monday takes place on March 17.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take an opening comment from Coach Warlick.

COACH WARLICK: Just say a great game with two I think very athletic teams. My hat is off to Kentucky. Both teams battled. It was a great competition.

I'm proud of these young ladies. We fought back all year and throughout this tournament. We talk a lot about grinding. I think that's what we did today.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Jordan, can you talk about your performance about four and a half minutes left, big three point play.

Jordan Reynolds: Well, I was just thinking in the moment. We worked too hard not to back down now. We got all the way here. It was a hard fought battle.

I was just trying to help my team out the best that I could.

Q. Emotions were running high. Talk about where it got chippy in there, tangles. What were you trying to do? I'm sure nobody was trying to hurt somebody else.

COACH WARLICK: Did she hurt somebody?

Cierra Burdick: No, I don't remember making contact with anybody.

It's a physical game. It's physical basketball. It's SEC basketball. One of the most physical conferences in the country. We compete. That's what we're going to do day in and day out.

Chippiness happens. It happens. This is basketball. It happens every single day. I think the refs did a fine job of avoiding any altercations. Nothing happened. Words were said, but words are words. No actions took place.

Q. Holly, you won an SEC championship as a point guard. How does this feel first as a head coach?

COACH WARLICK: It's very, very special, it really is. You got to have players making plays. It's about talent, I promise you that. You got to have players step up. I think everybody stepped up. Jordan stepped up and got us ahead. Cierra had some big rebounds. You can keep going down the line.

Thankful that I have this opportunity. It's a great feeling.

Q. Holly, you trailed by double digits in each of the three games. Talk about the resiliency of this team.

COACH WARLICK: Well, hour halftime talks are very interesting. I would really like to lead by double digits early if we could. I just think it speaks of our resilience.

We try to make practice as hard as we can. We talk a lot in the timeouts about drills that we've run and stops that we need to get. We just keep going back to things that we've already worked on.

I think they pull from that. Like Cierra said, they're competitive. Everybody is. But they've got a little bond here going together and a trust for each other that is really strong. I attribute to them stepping up, not caring who gets the credit, who makes the play, but did you make a play and did you win.

I just would like them to step up a little earlier than, what, seven or eight minutes to go in each game. I wouldn't be as hoarse and look as bad as I do (laughter).

Q. Isabelle, it was getting really rough in the paint in the second half. How did you keep your emotions contained and ride that to victory today?

Isabelle Harrison: I think the most important thing we did today was stayed together. There were times there was confusion, but at the end of the day we consistently talked to each other, no matter whether it was what defense we were going to be in. We were always talking to each other. There wasn't a moment that we were quiet on the court.

Out of everything, the aggressiveness has really helped us.

Q. Holly, Matthew said he sensed tension rising and he had spoken to the refs before. Did you see things rising? The game was called much tighter afterwards. Did you have to make any adjustments for that?

COACH WARLICK: I didn't foresee anything happen before those technicals. I did not. I thought the officials made the right call. I mean, I don't know if it got tighter or not. Of course, I want every foul called. I'm acting crazy.

But I think they do their job. They're human. It's a difficult job. I didn't feel that. I just wanted us to compete, and I thought that's what we were doing.

Q. Coach, you guys just won this tournament. Most people think the SEC is probably the best league in the country. Speak a little bit about how the strength of this league, the grind every time you play a team, is going to prepare you and have you ready for the NCAA tournament.

COACH WARLICK: Well, it is a grind. You look at Kentucky's record. That does not show how strong that team is. You look at LSU. That does not show how strong that team is. You can just go down the line. Florida. Georgia has 20 wins. It's a battle every night, every night. We go to Ole Miss, we go to Mississippi. Everywhere we went this year, it was a battle. We were nervous to go up to Missouri. They beat us up there.

I think it's an unbelievable conference. You look at the record. You look at what people have done. We got beat twice on our home court. For us, we feel it shouldn't happen, but it happened to two very good teams.

I think we've got great coaching and we've got great athletes who compete. This conference for women's basketball is special. It has been. I think we recognize that it's going to continue to be.

Q. 53% for Kentucky first half, 31% in the second. Talk about your defense. COACH WARLICK: We weren't very good defensively the first half consistently. We talked about that at halftime, just getting stops. We started the game in a zone and we weren't very good, we went to man. We were okay.

But I think we gathered ourselves at halftime and talked a lot about getting stops and locking your player up. We were concerned with Nae Nae Harper who had a great game, great series, and Jennifer O'Neill, too. Obviously I think we were kind of worried about everybody.

We gathered ourselves. We relied on each other to get stops and rebounds. That's what we talked about.

Q. Given what you said about how tough this conference is, given the fact that all the pundits have been put back on their heels with what's gone on in the other conference tournaments, do you think Tennessee has a case to make for a one seed? If so, what would it be?

COACH WARLICK: I would think so. I think this is the toughest conference in the country. I would think if you win the tournament, you would get an opportunity to have a number one seed.

Of course, I can't control what the NCAA thinks. But I think we've come on strong at the end of the year. You can make a case for South Carolina, as well.

I think we've put ourselves out there to give us the opportunity to.

Q. Expand on winning your first SEC tournament as a head coach. Pretty good way to start. This is what's expected at Tennessee. Does it feel that much different than when you were a player, an assistant coach?

COACH WARLICK: It is an expectation. I tell these kids every day, it's expected. When you don't win an SEC regular season, it's a disappointment.

But this is obviously special to me because it's my first one. But I've been involved in so many and was very fortunate to have the chance to coach with Pat Summitt. They all felt special.

With this team, what I think they've put out there, what they've been through, just the sacrifices they've made, I'm obviously happy for myself, but I just love that these guys get to experience it.

We talk a lot about it. They're part of our history. We talk a lot about the history, the tradition. They've put themselves as a part of our tradition and history, so...

Q. Isabelle, talk about being named tournament MVP, what that means to you.

Isabelle Harrison: I mean, my freshman year I didn't really play much. Last year I was out, so I didn't play again. I mean, this year I just really wanted to go in with a different mindset, do whatever it took for us to get this win.

Honestly, I never really thought something like that would ever happen to me. It helped me a lot because my teammates helped me get there. That's just something that I've seen every time we win something like this. Freshman year we all had each other's back, too. I'm glad we were able to carry it out this year.

COACH WARLICK: I think Izzy, we talk a lot about doing work in the off season. Izzy was injured last year, didn't play a lot as a freshman. This summer everybody stayed in school. Izzy went that extra mile, worked out with her brother. She put in the time.

I think Izzy herself deserves a lot of credit because she's put in the work, she's battled. I can't tell you how many shots she's taken on a post move or in free throws and that.

I'm just really proud of her because just seeing the result of time put in. Just really proud of her for being the MVP of the tournament.

Q. For the student- athletes, if there were one snapshot or scrapbook moment you were going to take away from the tournament experience, what would it be and why?

Isabelle Harrison: My snapshot would be... Cierra Burdick: I'll go. I think there was 11 seconds left in the game. We all huddled together. I mean, there was no room for any space. It was all 11 of us, all four coaches. I just remember thinking in my head, This is what it's all about.

Since I've been here, I've never been on a closer team than this team right here. Just the relationship that we have with our coaches, the relationship that we have with our teammates. I don't think there's a closer team out there in this country. I really mean that.

I think that moment really spoke for how strong we are as a unit. It was like you couldn't push us because we were just all standing together as one. That moment I knew we were going to win the game. It was that moment.

Jordan Reynolds: Cierra took mine so I'm going to have to think about mine.

I would say, just because this is my first time, just being here, getting off the bus and being able to be in this SEC tournament with these guys. We worked so hard off season, regular season, just during practices all the time. We worked so hard to stay together. It just shows.

I would say my snapshot moment would be just getting here.

Isabelle Harrison: My snapshot would have to be me and Dean's talks before each game before we got here. He's my post coach. Since I've been here, Dean has honestly had the most faith in me no matter what was going on. I'm just blessed I was able to share this experience with him because he really had my back with everything.

COACH WARLICK: Mine was seeing these kids put their hats on and smiling and getting under the confetti, holding up that trophy. It was great to see, great to see.

Q. Cierra, what went through your mind when you fouled on that three pointer? Looked like you might lose it right there.Cierra Burdick: I was on the verge of losing it (laughter). But I'm an emotional player. I think I play with my emotions on my sleeve. A lot of times my teammates and my coaches, especially Coach Elzy, told me I needed to come back. They always tell me to play in fast forward.

I was mad at myself for fouling. It was a dumb play on my part. I looked at my teammates. They helped me keep my head high. They told me we were going to win this game. I definitely wouldn't have been able to do it without Bash, Izzy, Dray, and Meig, telling me it was going to be all right, that we were going to win.

I was distraught, I was, but they had my back. That's what it's all about.

Q. Holly, Matthew had some discussion about their seeding going forward. He said he saw somewhere they were a four seed currently. What would you make of something like that? COACH WARLICK: That's crazy. I don't know. Like I said, I know he doesn't, and I don't have control over the seeding. I would hope that you would look at where Kentucky's at right now, how hard they're playing, what they've done.

They just knocked off supposedly a South Carolina, No.1 seed. I think they're better than a No.4 seed. I don't get it.

They have a system in the NCAA, and we follow it. But I don't see that. I really don't.

Q. Isabelle, after you walked up on the podium, you screamed out 'Nashville.' Isabelle Harrison: We need to have an aggressive mindset on defense. When we play our best defense, we're unstoppable, honestly. When we don't focus on the offensive end, we're good, we're going to make our shots.

I think we need to have the same mindset that we had here, that we're going to be in the final game.

Q. Coach, can you update Massengale? How close was she for her tournament?

COACH WARLICK: She was not going to play in this tournament. It's day to day. We're waiting on her to be headache free. I mean, I'm sitting here and I would anticipate she may be back for the tournament. But, you know, she's still a part of our team. We want her back.

But I cannot say enough about Andraya Carter and Jordan Reynolds, how they've stepped up and what they've done. We've been tough on those two in practice, before Massengale ever got hurt. Really tough on 'em just to prepare for something that may happen. It may or may not. We've put them in situations where they've had to run their team while Massengale was here. I think you're seeing two young ladies step up and take up the slack for Massengale, who was leading us in scoring.

We hope she's back. I think our number one concern for her is her health, her long term health. So she's still very much a part of this team.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, ladies, thank you very much.

COACH WARLICK: Thank you all.

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