No. 5 Tennessee 71, South Carolina 56
Shekinna Stricklen got a few pointers from former Tennessee star
Chamique Holdsclaw after the Lady Vols’ latest victory over South
And Stricklen knows that despite 18 points and a career-best 16
rebounds in the 71-56 win, coach Pat Summitt will have plenty to
tell the junior forward, too.
”One thing she’s really going to be on me is missing easy
layups,” Stricklen said with a grin. ”I know I’m going to be in
the gym doing more layups.”
Meighan Simmons had 16 points, all in the second half, and
Kelley Cain added 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Lady Vols (18-2,
6-0 Southeastern Conference) held off a late charge by South
Carolina (10-9, 2-4) for their 39th straight win over the
The Gamecocks cut a 57-45 lead to 5 points in the final five
minutes, but Tennessee closed with a 14-4 run to continue South
Carolina’s run of futility in the series.
”They were just pushing tempo and running the ball right up our
backs,” Summitt said. ”With that being said, I thought we
adjusted, but it took us a while to adjust.”
Simmons, the freshman guard Summitt calls the fastest she’s
coached, began Tennessee’s last push when she beat the defense down
court into the lane, got fouled and made the free throws.
South Carolina couldn’t get any closer.
”I thrive for those situations,” said Simmons, who is
Stricklen posted her sixth double-double of the season and third
in four games. The 6-foot-2 junior, however, was only 7 of 18 from
the field against most smaller defenders.
Holdsclaw watched from behind the bench and, later, encouraged
Stricklen to play with more assertiveness, to finish shots when
matched against shorter defenders. Stricklen listened. ”She’s my
role model,” the junior said.
The Lady Vols get a chance at 40 in a row when the series
resumes in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 17.
Ieasia Walker had 24 points to lead South Carolina. She also had
eight rebounds before fouling out in the final minutes.
Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley knew her team couldn’t match
Tennessee’s height – Tennessee starts four players 6-1 or taller;
the Gamecocks don’t have anyone bigger than 6-1 – so South Carolina
attacked with speed. ”We really pushed the ball before all that
height came into play,” she said.
Simmons missed her two shots in the first half as Tennessee
struggled to get clear of the Gamecocks. When she finally got
going, however, so did the Lady Vols. Simmons scored 10 points as
Tennessee opened a 54-42 lead midway through the second half.
Tennessee has had its way in the series for more than three
decades since last losing to South Carolina nearly 31 years ago.
But the Lady Vols got a huge wake up call here a year ago when the
Gamecocks scored the game’s first 13 points and led for 35 minutes
before Tennessee rallied to a 60-55 victory.
The margin was the closest in the series since 1990 and seemed
to signal a new rival for the powerhouse Tennessee.
The offseason, though, was not kind to the Gamecocks. The
6-foot-5 SEC newcomer of the year, Kelsey Bone, transferred to
Texas A&M. More recently, the Gamecocks lost another highly
regarded prospect in freshman Kayla Brewer to Texas.
Still, South Carolina threw all it could at the Lady Vols.
The Gamecocks led 12-4 as La’Keisha Sutton continually beat
Tennessee’s players downcourt for easy buckets.
Tied 26-all with three minutes in the half, Tennessee closed
with 7-0 run. Stricklen and Alicia Manning had close-in baskets and
Angie Bjorklund hit a 3-pointer as time ran out for a 33-26