Lady Vols advance to SEC title game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Saturday brought a different opponent but provided the same story for the No. 2-seeded Lady Vols as seniors Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen combined for 39 points in Tennessee's 74-58 semifinal victory over the No. 6 seed South Carolina Gamecocks.

Glory Johnson's 18 second-half points coupled with Shekinna Stricklen's 16 proved to be all the offensive power the Gamecocks could handle following the 28-22 halftime score.

Headed into the break, senior Vicki Baugh was the bright spot for the Lady Vols with six points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks to lead the team in the first half.

"It was a great night for us," said Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick. "I thought the first half Vicki Baugh was just dominating. She kept us in the game. Great team effort, great team win."

The game marks the second in a row that Stricklen has recorded all of her point totals in the second half, following Friday's 18 points to lead Tennessee to a 68-57 victory over Vanderbilt.

However, unlike Friday night, it was Johnson who led the team in scoring with 23 total points and 10 rebounds against the Gamecocks, marking her 11th double-double of the year.

Despite their success, Tennessee's offensive production in the second half are not the stats that the Lady Vol coaches first look at. The Lady Vols pride themselves on rebounding and defensive effort and they accomplished both in Saturday's win.

South Carolina shot only 34.9 percent in the game, 29 percent in the first half, while being out-rebounded 38-30.

"I credit our seniors," Warlick said. "It's probably our best defensive team that we start with. It's really worked for us. And we mixed it up. We felt like once they got into a rhythm against the zone, we would go to man."

"We've gone back and we really put in the time with our defensive effort," Warlick said in response to a question on what the Lady Vols did after the loss in Knoxville to South Carolina on Feb. 2.

Tennessee improves to 23-8 on the season and will advance to the SEC Women's Tournament final to play LSU at 6 p.m. Eastern time. The Tigers are a familiar foe, coached by former Lady Vols assistant Nikki Caldwell.

"Getting into the championship game is huge," Johnson said. "We put in so much work in practice, out of practice for so long. I think it means a lot that we can show people what we've been working on."

The game will mark the 21st time Tennessee has played in the SEC championship and the team is looking for its 16th title.

Tennessee is 68-17 all-time in the SEC Women's Tournament.

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