A big one

Sophomore guard Katherine Graham drained two free throws with 7.9 seconds left, and the LSU women's basketball team held on to defeat No. 18 Tennessee, 63-61, in front a raucous crowd Thursday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Lady Tigers (16-9, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) won their fourth straight game and secured a bye in next week’s SEC Tournament in North Little Rock, Ark. The top four seeds receive byes and play on Friday against Thursday’s winners.

Tennessee dropped to 19-9 overall and 8-5 in league play.

Playing without its top player in Allison Hightower in the final 9:31, LSU further solidified its NCAA Tournament resume with its second win over a ranked opponent despite boasting five starters who had never made an SEC start heading into the season.

“What a win for our team,” LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. “I’m going to give Tennessee credit for roaring back. I couldn’t be happier for our team. I couldn’t be happier for (Kristen) Morris as a senior.  I’m about as proud of this team as any coach could be.” 

Hightower, who finished with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting, suffered through leg cramps through most of the second half. She reached double-figures for the 13th straight game and added 13 rebounds.

Freshman forward LaSondra Barrett led all scorers with 18 points to go along with two blocks and three steals. Senior forward Kristen Morris, who was playing in her final regular season home game, added six points and recorded the steal that clinched the game for LSU.

Morris tied up Glory Johnson in the left corner on the Lady Vols’ final possession as time expired. However, officials put 0.3 seconds back on the clock and LSU inbounded the ball as the final horn sounded. 

LSU led by as many as 18 points, but Tennessee fought its way back to tie the game in the second half with a 15-4 run. Shekinna Stricklen’s 3-pointer with 8:33 left tied the game at 51-51.

Barrett then made a layup and Graham knocked down a jumper with 4:12 left that put LSU up 59-54. The Lady Vols responded to tie the game at 61 all on Angie Bjorklund’s two free throws with 1:04 to play.

Morris missed a jumper with 36 seconds to play, but Eason grabbed the rebound to give LSU another chance to break the tie. Graham then drove through the lane and drew a foul with eight seconds to play before burying the game-winning free throws.

Tennessee finished 46.9 percent (23-of-49) from the floor after shooting 28 percent in the first half. LSU shot 45.5 percent on 25-of-55 from the field.

Bjorklund led all scorers with 21 points and Stricklen finished with 18 points.

LSU took advantage of 15 first-half turnovers by Tennessee that led to 17 points. The Lady Tigers mounted a 12-0 run in the first 10 minutes as the Lady Vols missed nine consecutive shots from the field after the score was tied at two apiece.

All five LSU starters scored in the first six minutes. Hightower dropped an eight-foot turnaround jumper to make it 12-2 and Morris followed with a bucket in the paint that upped the lead to 14-2.

Tennessee’s offense could not get into any rhythm as five LSU players recorded steals in the first 20 minutes. Stricklen finally ended the dry spell on a four-foot jumper with 11:45 on the clock.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories