No. 4 Tennessee 70, No. 20 LSU 61
Former Tennessee center Ashley Robinson phoned Pat Summitt recently to check on her old team and coach.
``Ashley called the other day and asked about our post game. I told her, 'Well, Kelley Cain is pretty good,''' Summitt said.
Good enough to break Robinson's single-game blocks record, it turns out.
Cain scored 16 points and blocked 12 shots to help No. 4 Tennessee beat No. 20 LSU 70-61 on Monday night. Robinson had eight blocks against Rutgers on Dec. 11, 2003, a mark Cain tied against Arkansas on Feb. 4.
With the win, Tennessee (25-2, 13-1 Southeastern Conference) grabbed a share of the SEC regular season title.
Cain, with Summitt's permission, skipped a trip to Alabama on Thursday to focus on a class that she had missed several times because of recent road trips. The Lady Vols barely pulled out a 74-67 win without her.
Midway through the first half against LSU (18-8, 7-7), it looked as if Cain again wouldn't be able to help her teammates much. After scoring six points and blocking two shots, she picked up her second foul with 10:27 before halftime and sat out the rest of the half.
While Cain was on the bench, the Lady Vols scored eight straight points in a three-minute span and grabbed a 32-21 lead with 57 seconds left before halftime. Four of those points came from Cain's fellow post player, Alyssia Brewer, who led Tennessee with 18 points.
LSU's Courtney Jones hit a 3-pointer as the first-half clock expired and Allison Hightower hit a jumper just after the break to cut Tennessee's lead to six points.
That's when the 6-foot-Cain and her 82-inch wingspan went to work on both ends of the court.
``She's a force. It's like their guards ran into a force field and got rejected,'' Brewer said.
Cain blocked a shot by Jasmine Nelson, and Alicia Manning's defensive rebound helped set up the first of back-to-back 3s by Shekinna Stricklen that gave Tennessee a 43-30 lead with 15:59 left.
Glory Johnson added 12 points for the Lady Vols, and Angie Bjorklund and Stricklen scored 10 each as Tennessee scored 44 points in the paint and committed just seven turnovers.
``They're big, athletic and strong. It was a problem for us, but who doesn't have a problem with a 6-6 player,'' LSU's Katherine Graham said.
Hightower led the Lady Tigers with 18 points. Graham and LaSondra Barrett both chipped in 13.
LSU threatened once more after a traditional 3-point play by Graham and a free throw by Hightower cut the Lady Vols lead to nine points, but this time Brewer answered. Brewer hit a jump shot in the paint and blocked Jones' next shot.
``Brewer and Cain are just unbelievable,'' LSU coach Van Chancellor said. ``I've never seen two players on the same team that could score, that could get the ball.''
LSU, the only team in the nation to beat Tennessee at least once in each of the past five seasons, had entered the game with some momentum off a three-game winning streak in which it recorded blowouts against Florida, Auburn and Vanderbilt.
The Lady Tigers are one of only five SEC teams that have managed to win at least two games in Knoxville, with victories at Thompson-Boling Arena in 2006 and 2008.
During the preseason, the media had picked LSU to win the SEC regular season title with Tennessee finishing second. The loss dropped the Lady Tigers to a three-way tie with Florida and Georgia for fourth in the league.
Meanwhile, Tennessee can win the conference outright with a victory over Kentucky, who will visit the Lady Vols on Thursday.
``They've got a shot,'' Chancellor said. ``They've got a legitimate shot.''