With the game tied at 50-50, the fourth-seeded Lady Tigers (27-8) had the ball with 6.0 seconds left, but point guard Temeka Johnson was unable to shake off a triple team in the back court and her pass was tipped into the waiting hands of Ely.
Johnson's one-handed, 65-foot shot at the buzzer hit the top of the backboard and fell away.
Neither team shot the ball well in the battle of Southeastern Conference juggernauts. LSU managed to make only 19-of-50 shots (38 percent), while holding Tennessee to 18-of-57 shooting for 31.6 percent.
The free throw line was just as unkind, with LSU making 12 of 20 attempts (60 percent) and Tennessee hitting 13 of 19 for 68.4 percent.
Critical to LSU's success was it's ability to keep Tennessee of the broads, as the Lady Vols had 18 second-chance points and outrebounded the Lady Tigers by nine.
However, LSU dominated the otherwise post-oriented Tennessee offense, outscoring the Lady Vols in the paint, 38-20.
LSU All-American Seimone Augustus wasn't immune to the cold shooting, as the tournament's second-best percentage shooter made only 7- of-21 attempts. She scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
Scholanda Hoston goes airborne. (JoeyBordelon)
Johnson, who with eight tonight broke the tournament's 6-year-old assist record (50), added nine points on 3-of-8 shooting. Her last of only two turnovers was most costly.
Three Lady Vols scored in double figures, led by Shanna Zolman with 12. Tasha Butts had a double double with 11 points and rebounds, while Davis had 10 points including the game winner.
The Lady Tigers jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on a three-point play by Johnson and a turn-around jumper in the paint by Wendlyn Jones with 18:52 to play.
Tennessee answered with six straight to take their first lead of the game, 6-5, with 14:37 to play including a 14-footer from LaToya Davis.
LSU responded with a 10-2 run over the next 4:30 to take their largest lead of the half, 15-7, on a floating eight-footer from Augustus with 9:57 to play in the half.
Butts capped an 11-3 Tennessee run and tied the game at 18-18 with layup at the 5:48 mark, however, the Lady Tigers finished the half with a 7-1 run to lead 25-19 at the break.
Augustus scored four of her eight first-half points during this run, despite only making 3-of-10 shots in the first 20 minutes of play. She played the entire half and led all players with six rebounds.
LSU held the Lady Vols to 8-of-28 shooting (28.6 percent) in the first half while hitting 8-of-22 shots of their own for 36.4 percent.
To start the second half, Tennessee narrowed the LSU lead to five, 29-24, on a three-point play by Butts.
The Lady Tigers were able to keep the five-point advantage until the 11-minute mark when Tye'sha Fluker scored a second-chance layup and Shanna Zolman hit a three-pointer from the left wing. The trey was Tennessee's second in 11 tries and tied the game at 34-34, forcing a 30-second timeout by LSU.
The game was tied twice more, but the Lady Tigers refused to give up the lead going into the 6:20 media timeout.
A three-point play by Butts with 4:38 gave Tennessee their first lead of the
game, as the Lady Vols were shooting less than 30 percent from the field but
benefited from 18 second-chance points.