KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee's Meighan Simmons scored a game-high 19 points as the 9th-ranked Lady Vols survived a courageous effort from the LSU Lady Tigers in coach Nikki Caldwell's return to Knoxville by a score of 65-56 in front of 13,107 fans Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
LSU (13-5, 4-2 SEC) dropped its second straight game and had to play the entire second half without two starting guards – senior Destini Hughes and sophomore Jeanne Kenney.
Kenney suffered a concussion in the first minute of the game. Hughes sustained a right knee injury with 1.3 seconds left in the first half when she landed awkwardly in attempting to catch a pass on an inbound across the court. Hughes will be evaluated Friday.
Tennessee (14-4, 5-1) won its fifth straight game against the Lady Tigers as Caldwell, a former player and assistant coach for Pat Summitt, received a standing ovation during introductions. LSU, Tennessee and the SEC also celebrated "We Back Pat" week in raising awareness for Alzheimer's disease.
Courtney Jones led LSU with 16 points and 8 rebounds and Adrienne Webb added 12 points. Shanece McKinney blocked four shots and LaSondra Barrett, LSU's leading scorer, was held to 6 points before fouling out at the 1:39 mark to go in the game.
"I will credit this group for not backing down, showing a lot of heart and sticking together," Caldwell said. "We had two of our starting guards out and had to do it by committee the rest of the game. Offensively, we had to move a big out to the perimeter. We were able to do what we needed to do. When you look at how the game came down to the last few minutes of the game, we were still in position to win the game even without those two."
Despite losing Hughes, LSU battled all game and the contest was tied at 26-26 at the half. The Lady Tigers took a 39-37 lead on Theresa Plaisance's four-foot jumper, but the Lady Vols quickly went from down two points to up 47-39 with a 10-0 run. Plaisance snapped the spree with a 3 and Jones added another one. Bianca Lutley's layup tied it at 49-49 with 6:41 to go.
Glory Johnson, playing with a dislocated arm, put the Lady Vols up 58-53 and they never gave the lead back. Johnson finished with 10 points, one of three Tennessee players in double figures. Cierra Burdick provided a spark off the bench with 15 points and 6 rebounds.
The Lady Tigers shot 34.4%, while Tennessee finished at 37.5% from the floor. LSU committed 18 turnovers that led to 14 Lady Vol points.
LSU returns home and will host Arkansas at 2 p.m. Sunday in its "We Back Pat" contest. T-shirts are now on sale at LSUshop.net with proceeds going directly to the Pat Summitt Foundation. The first 1,000 fans in attendance receive a free Lady Tiger yo-yo. Talented halftime act "Red Panda" will perform once again in the Maravich Center.
Short-handed LSU tumbles to UT
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