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Lady Vols stop Alabama to reach 13th SEC title game
Posted: Saturday February 27, 1999 11:11 PM
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- If it's not one Meek for No. 2 Tennessee, it's another.
With Tamika Catchings having trouble finding the basket Saturday, Semeka Randall scored 21 of her 23 points in the second half, and the Lady Vols downed 24th-ranked Alabama 80-69 in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals.
Coach Pat Summitt had talked to Randall throughout the first half about her apparent lack of emotion. At halftime, Summitt surprised Randall by saying little to her.
"So it just motivated me to come out in the second half and really play hard," Randall said.
Tennessee (27-2) will play either No. 14 Georgia in Sunday's tournament championship, its 13th overall appearance in the league title game and eighth this decade.
If the Lady Vols have learned anything from winning three national championships the last three years, it's that they are only as good as their next game.
"You win a game, that doesn't mean you've arrived," Summitt said. "Now what you have to do is put it together for the next night."
It looked like it would be a flashback to last year's SEC title game, when the Crimson Tide (19-10) gave Tennessee its biggest scare to that point of an undefeated season, before losing 67-63.
On Saturday, the teams swapped the lead 11 times with nine ties before Randall took over for Tennessee.
Catchings was struggling and missed six of her first seven shots a day after scoring a career-high 38 points.
Tennessee's original Meek -- Chamique Holdsclaw -- scored 22 points to become the SEC's leading scorer with a career 2,909 points, passing LSU's Joyce Walker (2,906).
But it was Randall who grabbed a missed shot by Holdsclaw and laid it in to put the Lady Vols ahead for good at 42-41 with 13:46 left. That started a 12-2 spurt in which Randall scored 10.
Tennessee, which was only 1-of-3 from the line in the first half, sealed the victory there. The Lady Vols hit 11 straight at one point and finished the game 18-of-25.
Catchings finished with 12, and Michelle Snow had 10.
Tennessee, the nation's best shooting team, had trouble finding the basket in the first half.
But Alabama didn't take much advantage of the Lady Vols' problems and never led by more than four. The Crimson Tide took a 31-29 lead into halftime when Snow was called for blocking Dominique Canty just before the buzzer, and Canty hit the two free throws.
Canty led Alabama with 22 points, and Kaunda Williams added 13, Shondra Johnson 11 and LaToya Caudle 10.
Alabama now has lost 21 straight to the Lady Vols, dating back to the 1984 SEC tournament. Coach Rick Moody downplayed that statistic and pointed to the fact that his Crimson Tide was playing its third game in three days.
He also lost forward Joni Crenshaw to a torn ACL with 13:34 remaining. She left with six points in 14 minutes of play.
"She was having a great game," Moody said. "It definitely had an impact on the game."
No. 14 Georgia 68, Kentucky 62
Coco Miller scored 27 points as No. 14 Georgia downed Kentucky 68-62 Saturday night to reach its first Southeastern Conference tournament championship game since 1993.
The Lady Bulldogs (23-5) will get a third chance at No. 2 Tennessee on Sunday for the tournament title. Tennessee, which beat Georgia easily in both previous meetings, advanced by beating 24th-ranked Alabama 80-69 in the other semifinal.
Georgia, which has won three SEC tournament championships and been a runner-up three other times, got a bit of revenge for an 80-76 loss at Kentucky earlier this month.
Kentucky (20-10) looked tired from winning back-to-back games to qualify for its first semifinal appearance since 1992. The Wildcats held the lead three times early before Miller took over.
She scored 16 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put Georgia ahead for good at 26-25 with 5:19 to go. She added six more points down the stretch as the Lady Bulldogs built that to 40-30 at halftime.
Kentucky had trouble holding onto the ball, turning it over 18 times to Georgia's 10. The Wildcats got as close as seven only once early in the second half, on LaTonya McDole's two free throws with 19:18 left at 40-33. Then Miller scored Georgia's next six points, and the Wildcats never threatened again.
Tiffany Wait scored 19 points for Kentucky, which had three starters in foul trouble for much of the second half.
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