March 9, 2014
DULUTH, Ga.. -- 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.
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.