That heart-stopping victory followed come-from-behind decisions over Baylor and Stanford in the Midwest Regional semifinals and finals, respectively. The three UT victories were secured in a total of 2.9 seconds of game time making each a literal last second win.
"They have low blood pressure," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said of her players. "My blood pressure right now is not even worth checking. ... I told them I was really proud of them but I don't know how much more of this I could take."
The Lady Vols overcame a 25-19 deficit at the half and an eight-point advantage, the largest by either team, in the second half en route to the triumph. Shanna Zolman's 3-point jumper pulled UT even at 34-34 at the 10:30 mark. A pair of free throws by senior Tasha Butts gave Tennessee its first lead since 6-5 at 43-42 with 4:58 remaining in the contest. Zolman nailed another trey to give UT its biggest advantage of the game at 50-46 with 1:38 left but LSU got back-to-back baskets to tie the game with 26 seconds on the clock, setting up what looked to be Tennessee's final shot in regulation — an off balance shot by Butts that missed its mark.
Although Butts didn't score the game-winning points as she did against Baylor from the foul line with 0.2 seconds left, or as she did against Stanford on a twisting drive with 1.7 seconds left, she did have another outstanding game. Butts finished with 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds and provided most of the defense against LSU's leading scorer Seimone Augustus who finished with 16 points on 7-of-21 shooting. She entered the game shooting 67 percent for the season.
Tennessee's backcourt trio of Butts, Zolman, 13 points and Davis, 10 points, accounted for 34 of their team's 52 points, helping to offset a sub par night by Tennessee's starting front court duo of Ashley Robinson and Ely, who is UT's leading scorer. She sat most of the first half with foul trouble and finished with four points on 1-of-11 shooting. Robinson was 1-of-3 from the field and 0-of-4 from the foul line. Tennessee also got a lift from freshman forward Sidney Spencer who came off the bench to add seven points.
UT overcame 13 turnovers against only four assists in the game by holding a commanding 41-30 advantage on the boards. Johnson doubled Tennessee's assist total with eight, forcing Summitt to go to the zone late in the second half.
Tuesday's final will be a rematch of last year's UConn vs. Tennessee final in Atlanta. The Lady Huskies have beaten UT five straight and seven of the last eight, including January's regular season meeting in Knoxville. UConn reached Tuesday's final by beating Minnesota 67-58 in Sunday's second game at the New Orleans Arena.
TENNESSEE (31-3) — LaToya Davis 3-6, 4-4, 10, Shyra Ely 1-11, 2-2 4, Ashley Robinson 1-3, 0-4, 2, Tasha Butts, 4-14, 3-5, 11, Shanna Zolman 4-10, 2-2, 12, Sidney Spencer 2-6, 2-2, 7, Dominque Redding 0-0, 0-0, 0, Brittany Jackson 1-4, 0-0, 2, T. Fulker 2-3, 0-0, 4. Totals: 18-57, 13-19, 52.
Rebounds 41(Butts 11), Turnovers 13, Assists 4 (Butts 2), Blocked shots 3 (Ely, Robinson, Zolman) Steals 6 (Butts 2, Davis 2), 3-Pt FGs: 3-12 (Zolman 2-5).
LSU (27-8) — W. Jones 2-4, 4-7, 8, T. Willis 2-4, 0-0, 4, T. Johnson 3-8, 3-3, 9, S. Augustus 7-21, 2-2, 16, D. Hodges 3-9, 1-2, 7, F. Williams 0-0, 0-0, 0, S. Hoston 1-2, 1-2, 3, T. Clavelle 1-2, 0-2, 2, C. White 0-0, 1-2, 1. Totals: 19-50, 12-20, 50.