No. 4 Tennessee 68, Vanderbilt 49

The rest of the Southeastern Conference has only one more chance

to disprove a conclusion stated by Tennessee coach Pat Summitt

after her team’s 13th straight win.

“I think we have the best team,” Summitt said following No. 4

Tennessee’s 68-49 victory over Vanderbilt in Saturday’s SEC

tournament semifinal.

Added Summitt: “I wouldn’t have know that when the year

started.”

Tennessee’s argument for SEC supremacy is looking as strong in

the postseason as in the regular season.

The Lady Vols (29-2) moved within one victory of a sweep of the

SEC regular-season and tournament championships, something they’ve

accomplished six times. They’ll play Kentucky, which beat

Mississippi State 76-65 in the second semifinal game, for the title

on Sunday night.

Tennessee won 15 of 16 conference games in the regular season

before opening the tournament with a 76-51 rout of Mississippi. The

Lady Vols’ third win of the season over Vanderbilt (22-10) was just

as lopsided.

Summitt said her players are motivated by sweeping the

regular-season and tournament championships for the first time in

10 years.

“I think our team is very motivated,” she said. “The regular

season, I think, gave them a lot of confidence and also inspired

them. I think they want more. They want to win here.

“It’s their idea and it works a whole lot better when it’s

their idea.”

Vanderbilt trailed 45-36 following a 3-pointer by Marsh with

9:17 remaining, but Tennessee pulled away with 11 straight

points.

Angie Bjorklund finished with 12 points for Tennessee, while

Hannah Tuomi had 12 points before fouling out and Merideth Marsh

added 11 for Vanderbilt.

The challenge facing the smaller Vanderbilt team was obvious

from the minute starting lineups were announced. Tennessee’s

shortest starter, 6-foot Bjorklund, was as tall as Vanderbilt’s

tallest starters, Tuomi and Tiffany Clarke.

Vanderbilt’s top scoring threat, the 5-foot-6 Marsh, was guarded

by 6-foot-2 Shekinna Stricklen and 6-foot-1 Alicia Manning. Tuomi

was looking up at 6-6 Kelley Cain and 6-3 Alyssia Brewer.

Vanderbilt, playing its third game in three days, couldn’t

overcome the mismatches.

“It’s tough because we know each other so well, and they played

like Tennessee and we didn’t take their strengths away,” said

Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb. “They did a better job taking

our strengths away.”

Tennessee’s superior size showed in the first half when its 12

offensive rebounds equaled Vanderbilt’s total rebounds. The Lady

Vols claimed a 9-0 advantage in second-chance points in the opening

20 minutes, providing the cushion for a 31-22 halftime lead.

Tennessee finished with a 42-27 advantage in rebounds.

Vanderbilt’s best chance was the 3-point shot, but Tennessee’s

defense was ready. The Commodores made only 3 of 17 3-pointers,

including 3 of 11 by Marsh.

“I just thought we really bought into our scouting report

defense,” Bjorklund said. “We knew who were the shooters, who

were the drivers. … I just thought our team did a great job

having that sense of urgency to not let them get the open looks

that they got the last couple games we played them.”