Lady Vols slip by LSU 68-65 in sold out PMAC

What was predicted to be one of the biggest showdowns in LSU women's basketball history turned out to be nothing short of spectacular. <br><br> The No. 4 LSU women's basketball team took a one-point lead into the final two minutes but fell short of beating perennial-powerhouse No. 3 Tennessee, 68-65, in front of a record school-crowd of 15,217 on Sunday in the Maravich Assembly Center.

The Lady Tigers (23-2, 10-2 SEC) lost for the first time since Jan. 19 at Arkansas (82-72), while Tennessee came back from eight points down to win its 15th-straight dating back to a Jan. 4 overtime loss to Connecticut.

 

Leading by four on an Aiysha Smith jumper with 5:44 to play, LSU was outscored 12-7 down the stretch. The Lady Tigers committed three of their school-record low five team turnovers in the final 4:11.

 

 

Crystal White blocks UT's Ty'esha Fluker shot attempt (AP/BillFeig)

 

 

LSU shot only 41.5 percent from the field, 27 of 65.

 

Tennessee (24-3, 12-0 SEC) clinched at least a tie for the Southeastern Conference regular-season title and a No. 1 seed in the 2003 SEC Tournament to be held March 6-9 in Little Rock, Ark.

 

LSU was led offensively by point guard Temeka Johnson, who poured in 18 points and added eight assists in 36 minutes of action. Forward Aiysha Smith paced three other Lady Tigers in double figures with 15 points and a team-high six rebounds, while Doneeka Hodges had 14 and Seimone Augustus added 12.

 

The Lady Vols, who shot 55.6 percent from the field in the second half (15 of 27) and 46.7 for the game, also had four players score in double figures including Gwen Jackson, Kara Lawson and Shyra Ely with 12 each and Shanna Zolman with 10.

 

Tennessee turned the ball over only 12 times, leading to 11 Lady Tigers points. The Lady Vols dominated the boards at times, finishing with a 42-29 advantage. Tennessee had 42 of its 68 points in the paint and 35 points from its bench to LSU's six.

 

In the first half, Tennessee scored 22 of its 30 points in the paint including its first 10 points of the game, as the Lady Vols jumped out to a 10-4 lead only 3:35 into the contest.

 

Doneeka Hodges responded with her first three-pointer before Smith hit a jumper to bring the Lady Tigers within two, 9-11. Consecutive baskets by Johnson game LSU its first lead, 13-11, with 11:57 to play in the half.

 

Tennessee returned to its inside game to score six straight and retake the lead, 17-13, at the 10:00 mark.

 

Augustus got involved in the action after being rendered impotenet by Tennessee's face-guarding guard Tasha Butts. The freshman took five shots in just more than three minutes, making two to keep LSU within three, 22-19.

 

DeTrina White scored her first of two layups in the half to cut the Tennessee advantage to one, 22-21, at the 4:29 mark.

 

Augustus gave LSU the lead with a jumper, however, Zolman and Ely connected on field goals for a 26-23 lead with 2:53 left in the half.

 

Doneeka Hodges hit a 22-foot three-pointer from the top of the key with five seconds on the clock to give LSU a 32-30 halftime advantage, as neither team eclipsed 40 percent from the field.

 

LSU opened a six-point lead early in the second half when Johnson scored four straight. The lead grew to its largest, 46-38, on another basket by Johnson in the paint with 15:02 to play.

 

Still trailing by eight, Tennessee went on an 8-1 run to cut the LSU advantage to 49-48 with just more than 10 minutes to play. The Lady Tigers kept a four point lead until the 5:44 mark when Tennessee took over with a 5-0 run.

 

After Smith and Johnson answered Lady Vols baskets, Tennessee took the lead for good on a floating jumper by Lawson with 1:40 to play.

 

Smith missed a three-pointer and turned the ball over in consecutive possessions, allowing Lawson to hit two free throws for a 66-63 lead with 24 seconds to play.

 

Johnson drove the lane for a layup to cut the lead to one with 18 seconds left, however, after Zolman made a pair of free throws, Doneeka Hodges got trapped at the top of the key and turned the ball over with 2.5 seconds to play.

 

Tennessee's inbound pass went untouched in the Lady Vols' frontcourt, but Hodges couldn't take control for a desperation 75-foot shot at the buzzer.

 

The Lady Tigers return to action on Thursday, Feb. 27, when Arkansas comes to the PMAC for a 7 p.m. contest.

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