RESULT: Tennessee 92, Florida 75
UP NEXT: No. 4 seed Georgia at 3 p.m. Central on Saturday
See separate story about the Lady Vols on Front Page.
RESULT: Kentucky 60, LSU 58
UP NEXT: No. 3 seed Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. Central on Saturday
Kentucky, 23-7, got its third win in a row over LSU, 19-13, which dropped the 60-58 decision in the final seconds to the Wildcats.
A'dia Mathies took a pass from Victoria Dunlap, hit the layup and got fouled to give the Wildcats their first lead since the 19:37 mark of the second half, and Dunlap hit one of two free throws with 13 seconds left for the final 60-58 margin.
"I don't think we started the game the way we wanted to, but we definitely finished it the way we wanted to with a win," Dunlap said. "We've had a couple of games like this where the game has been close at the end, but we got it done together at the end."
LSU led for nearly the entire second half, during which the Lady Tigers shot 56.5 percent from the field.
Dunlap missed most of the first half with two fouls - she played just eight minutes before halftime - and scored 13 of her 21 points in the second half. But it was her pass that ultimately gave Kentucky the lead and the win.
Dunlap got the ball on the wing near the baseline with LSU's defense keying on her. Mathies cut to the basket, and Dunlap delivered the ball.
"I was definitely about to shoot it, some crazy shot," Dunlap said. "I knew the shot clock was running down. I saw A'dia cut back door, saw she was open, passed it to her, she finished."
Kentucky shot 36.8 percent for the game but made the shots it had to hit to stay in Nashville.
"It's just no fun at all to play LSU," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said, referring to the defense of the Lady Tigers. "That's not my idea of a good time to play LSU. It's very, very difficult. … Neither team really seems to be able to get any separation from the other."
Kentucky's defense came up big in the final seven seconds when LSU need a bucket to tie or a trey to take the lead. Katherine Graham drove left and lofted a 12-footer that was well defended.
"I thought that was a great play on our part to get a contested (shot)," Mitchell said. "A lot of times kids are worried about fouling. You give up a layup in that situation. A lot of times people lose focus and get lost in screens or you give up a three."
Graham's shot fell well short and left LSU in limbo until the Selection Committee announces the NCAA bids.
"We tried to run a little play, get the ball to Boogie (LaSondra Barrett)," LSU Coach Van Chancellor said. "They did a good job of denying her the ball. … It wasn't a bad shot that we got. It was contested, but it was still a shot."
Chancellor made his case post-game for an at-large bid.
"Well, if Kentucky deserves to go, we deserve to go," Chancellor said. "We played them twice, went to two points both times. If there are 64 teams better than LSU right now, I'd like to find them. I don't have any doubt in my mind."
LSU was led by Barrett with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Adrienne Webb added 16 points, and Courtney Jones chipped it with seven. The Lady Tigers squandered points at the free throw line with a 6-15 (40 percent) performance at the stripe.
Kentucky was 15-19 from the line, led by Dunlap's 5-7 and Bernisha Pinkett's 4-4. Dunlap led the Wildcats with 21 points, while Mathies and Pinkett added nine each.
After Dunlap watched for most of the first half, Mitchell talked to the Lebanon, Tenn., native at halftime.
"Boy, did she respond," said Mitchell, referring to the flurry of baskets from Dunlap to start the second half. That's about as good a stretch as she's ever had facing the basket. Shows you she's still developing, getting better.
"A player of her caliber, arguably the best player in this league, needs to come up big in that kind of situation. She did. That's why she's one of the best players that's ever played at Kentucky."
GAME THREE No. 4 seed Georgia vs. No. 5 seed South Carolina
RESULT: Georgia 66, South Carolina 34
UP NEXT: No. 1 seed Tennessee at 3 p.m. Central on Saturday
Georgia, 21-9, took control of its first tourney game early in the first half and never allowed South Carolina, 17-14, a shot to get its second victory in Nashville with a dominant 66-34 win.
The Lady Bulldogs scored the first seven points of the game and never trailed while South Carolina went 0-5 in second round games in the tourney and managed to score just 15 points in the second half.
"I thought our kids played extremely hard, but obviously it wasn't our night," South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley said. "I thought Georgia had a lot to do with it. They really disrupted us from a defensive standpoint. We really didn't have an answer for them."
The Lady Bulldogs played quite a bit of zone defense and kept the Gamecocks out of the paint - Georgia had a whopping 38-14 margin in points inside - and forced them into taking jump shots. The Gamecocks shot 23.1 percent from the field and were 7-18 from the line.
"It was hard to get buckets," Ieasia Walker said. "When we did get fouls, we weren't making our free throws. That was a struggle for us."
Andy Landers fretted before the tournament about his team's inability to hit free throws and layups but Georgia was 15-19 from the line and shot 47.2 percent for the game. The Lady Bulldogs will make their first appearance in the semifinals since 2007.
"I think everybody came to win," Porsha Phillips said. "We played with a lot of heart, a lot of pride. We just got after it. We executed our offense very well and played our defense well."
South Carolina had just five turnovers in the first round but 18 against Georgia.
"I do think South Carolina played really, really, really hard (Thursday) night," Landers said. "I think they were a little bit tired. And then you get behind, and it's tough mentally.
"But I'm proud of our basketball team."
Markeshia Grant led South Carolina with 13 points and six rebounds. Walker chipped in with eight.
"I think their zone forced us to take more outside shots than getting to the basket, which is what we were used to doing," Walker said. "When we got to the basket, we weren't finishing with contact."
Meredith Mitchell led Georgia with 18 points and hit the Lady Bulldogs' only trey of the game. Phillips tallied a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Jasmine James and Jasmine Hassell both added 14 points.
"Rebounding is very important to me as a player," Phillips said. "I love, enjoy rebounding. Offensively, I just let it come to me."
Mitchell picked up a third foul 13 seconds into the second half but stayed in the game and didn't get whistled again.
"I just tried to play smart," Mitchell said. "I definitely didn't want to do anything that caused me to get back on the bench."
Georgia needed a boost after a disappointing three-game slide to end the regular season and got it Friday.
"I told our kids (Friday) morning at shoot-around you need to win for you," Landers said. "You need to get back to feeling good about you. There were certainly a lot of things in this game that they can feel good about."
GAME FOUR No. 3 seed Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 seed Mississippi State
RESULT: Vanderbilt 69, Mississippi State, 55
UP NEXT: No. 2 seed Kentucky at 5:30 p.m. Central on Saturday
Vanderbilt, 20-10, never trailed against Mississippi State, 13-17, and sent the Lady Bulldogs home with a 69-55 win in the final game of the first day.
The Commodores, playing in their home city, will play in the tournament semifinals for the fifth consecutive year.
"I felt like in the first half we didn't take away their threes like we needed to," Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "They took too many threes. But then I thought in the second half we did a much better job with our game plan, got them to shoot 28 percent in the second half.
"On offense, I thought we did a much better job getting the ball inside to Tiffany (Clarke) and Hannah (Tuomi) and take high-percentage shots. We shoot 52 percent. I thought that was important, us getting our shot selection much higher, a higher percentage. I thought we played a good second half. We played smart and we played both ends of the floor."
The Lady Bulldogs were the only lower seed to pull off an upset Thursday, but their season ended against Vanderbilt, the third time Mississippi State has fallen to the Commodores this season.
"We already beat them twice, that gave us the upper hand in that aspect," Hannah Tuomi said. "Obviously at this point in the season, with any team in the SEC, you can't take anyone lightly. I think that since we played them twice, we knew their personnel, we knew what we had to do.
"In the second half, we really refocused on what we needed to do, get done. I think that's how we beat them for the third time."
Mississippi State hovered throughout the game but Vanderbilt never truly let the Lady Bulldogs threaten the outcome, as they did in their upset win over Auburn over Thursday.
"Earlier in the season, there would have been a point where we wouldn't have fought," Mississippi State's Mary Kathryn Govero said. "I think it shows the progress we made this season, just that we were able to keep on fighting even when shots weren't falling or things didn't go our way. That's all you can ask, is to come together and for everybody to fight until the last second."
Govero was a senior on a team loaded with newcomers, and Coach Sharon Fanning-Otis hopes the game experience pays off next season.
"This will be really an end to the season, but I hope it's a starting point to a lot of players who are returning, as players are made in the off-season," Fanning-Otis said. "It's what they do when you're not looking that's going to determine their development."
Diamber Johnson led Mississippi State with 20 points and six assists. Porsha Porter and Govero added eight each.
Clarke led Vanderbilt with 23 points, all of which came in the second half after she played just five minutes before halftime because of foul trouble.
"I knew I wasn't going to go back in, I knew I had to be there for my team to cheer and keep them motivated, ready to play, and energetic," Clarke said.
Balcomb said, "I told her at halftime, ‘You've got a lot more energy than everybody else. We should see it.' She didn't just bring energy, she brought a toughness. She rebounded. She defended. She scored. I thought she brought a mental and physical toughness that was hard to fight through sitting so long in the first half."
Clarke also had nine rebounds, only two of which came in the first half.
Angela Puleo added 11 points for Vandy and hit three treys, and Tuomi chipped in with 10 points and was 4-4 from the line.
The Commodores shot 52.2 percent for the game with 15 assists and 13 turnovers.
Vandy will face Kentucky in the semifinals on short rest after playing in the late game Friday.
"I think one of the things my leaders know, Hannah and Jence (Rhoads), we've been successful in tournaments because they know they have to fight through and be mentally and physically tough the next day and play the next day," Balcomb said. "I don't think that will even enter into their minds.
"They know what it takes tournament time and how to prepare for that. The rest will follow that lead."
BEST CATCH: That made by Carolyn Peck, former women's basketball coach and now ESPN announcer, of a loose ball rolling along press row during the Georgia-South Carolina game.
STUDENT COMMENTARY: That of a South Carolina pep band member when he yelled: "Can I have a little less advertising?" The official sponsors were being promoted one by one on the scoreboard screen, and there are 16 of them. For the record, they are AT&T, Aaron's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Allstate, Golden Flake, Infiniti, Gatorade, Regions, Macy's, Merita, Sonic, UPS, Texas Pete, Sirius XM, Sunkist and MascotWear.
BEST ENDORSEMENT OF LSU: That given by Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell regarding the Lady Tigers being on the bubble for an NCAA tourney bid.
Said Mitchell, "There's absolutely no question they're an NCAA Tournament team in my mind. … I think they're one of the toughest teams to play against because they make it so hard to score. Your kids, it starts to wear on their minds a little bit."
SOUTH CAROLINA STATES IT CASE: The Gamecocks finished in fifth place in the SEC and got one win in the tourney. Coach Dawn Staley thinks her team deserves a bid.
South Carolina played three of the top four teams in the SEC twice and got to 17 overall wins, despite transfers and injuries.
"I would think what the committee looks for, as far as playing a tough non-conference schedule, the teams that we had to play twice … If you look at our entire body of work, I think we should be able to grab one of those at-large bids," Staley said.
BEST FANS: Once again, those in orange. They outnumbered every fan base at both sessions, afternoon and evening, even though Tennessee played in the noon game. Lady Vol fans were still present nearly 11 hours later for the final game between Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. That session drew 5,976.
NICE BAND ATTIRE: That worn by Mississippi State pep band, a stylish zippered pullover and khaki pants.
That between Vandy's Angela Puleo and an official. When the ball went out of bounds, Puleo lobbied for possession, as players often do. When the official signaled the ball belonged to Mississippi State, Puleo smiled and said, "Good call."
NICE GESTURE: Pat on the back given to Mississippi State senior Mary Kathryn Govero by Vandy senior Hannah Tuomi right as the game concluded.
BEST ANSWER: That provided by Georgia Coach Andy Landers when it was noted in the post-game press conference that it could be argued that the Lady Bulldogs limped to the end of the regular season with three straight losses.
"Who would they argue with?" Landers said. "I wouldn't argue with them. We slithered in there. We didn't play well. Our team knows that. The coach knows that. Fans know that. Why, is the question."