Commodores shoot down Lady Vols in SEC semis
Updated: Sunday March 04, 2001 8:17 AM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Although top-ranked Tennessee had history and the crowd on its side Saturday, Vanderbilt had Ashley McElhiney.
The sophomore guard hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final 3:16 and finished with 27 points as No. 15 Vanderbilt upset Tennessee 77-74 in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Vanderbilt center Chantelle Anderson added 26 points as the Commodores (21-8) ended a 14-game losing streak against its instate rival with its first victory against Tennessee since the finals of the 1995 SEC tournament.
"Ashley is awesome," Anderson said. "You can't get in her head. They tried to take her out of the game, and she runs this team and it's very obvious. We all know that. Obviously, they did too because they tried to take her out, and she refused to let it happen."
The loss also snapped an 18-game winning streak for top-seeded Tennessee (29-2).
Vanderbilt scored its last 16 points at the free-throw line, going 16-of-20 in the final 3:16. McElhiney, who played all 40 minutes, handled most of the load despite Tennessee fans almost shaking the court at times with cheering that made The Pyramid the Lady Vols' home away from home.
"We all have confidence we can knock down big shots," McElhiney said. "We have to block all the extracurricular stuff out like the fans hollering, whatever else, waving, and concentrate on the basketball."
But the Lady Vols didn't go down easily.
Tennessee pulled within three twice in the final 19 seconds with 3s from April McDivitt and Semeka Randall, but ran out of time.
"They were the better team, and they made the plays and we didn't," Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said.
It was a sweet victory for junior Zuzi Klimesova, who had lost seven consecutive to Tennessee.
"We have been waiting for this a long time," Klimesova said. "I hope that we finally will start to be a little bit arrogant like other teams and believe in ourselves and do great things just like everybody else."
Vanderbilt hadn't beaten a top-ranked team since February 1996, when it upset Georgia. The Commodores ended the Lady Vols' hopes of stringing together four consecutive titles at the tournament where Tennessee had won its previous 10 games and the last three titles.
The Lady Vols have dominated this tournament since its inception, playing in 14 of 21 finals and winning 10 titles. Now they will head back to Knoxville and work on fixing mistakes.
"We have a chance to really learn from this," Summitt said of her Lady Vols' first loss since losing to Connecticut on Dec. 30.
"The pressure's off. There's no No. 1. I hope there's still a No. 1 seed, and we'll go back to Knoxville and hopefully, get serious about what we want to do and where we want to end our season; hopefully, the next time not with a loss."
The Lady Vols did themselves in with poor shooting against the nation's most accurate team.
Tennessee led by as much as 13 three times in the first half by taking advantage of Vanderbilt's mistakes. The Commodores had 11 turnovers in the half and finished with 21, and the Lady Vols turned them into 16 points.
But the Lady Vols went into a shooting slump that started with eight minutes left in the first half. They shot just 7-of-27 during an 18-minute period into the second half.
"As we struggled offensively, we were less committed defensively. I think that's it in a nutshell," Summitt said.
Vanderbilt took advantage by scoring the final eight points of the first half to pull within 36-30. The Commodores then used a 10-0 spurt in the second half to tie it at 44, the closest they had been since the opening minutes.
Neither team could get an edge until Vanderbilt outscored Tennessee 10-2. Anderson keyed the spurt, and her layup put Vanderbilt ahead to stay with 5:08 to go at 58-56, and her three-point play capped that spurt for a 61-56 lead.
Michelle Snow and Semeka Randall each had 15 for Tennessee, which hadn't lost since Dec. 30 at Connecticut.
Georgia 63, Arkansas 44
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Georgia head coach Andy Landers likes the way his team has played defense. He's not sure about the Lady Bulldogs' offense.
Sixth-ranked Georgia (25-5) limited Arkansas to 13 points in the first half and beat the Lady Razorbacks 63-44 Saturday night in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
"I thought defensively we were very good," Landers said. "We set the pace defensively early. Offensively, from time to time, we did some good things, and from time to time we did some bad things."
Arkansas (19-12), playing its third game in as many days, looked tired and shot a season-worst 27 percent. Wendi Willits scored nine points to lead the Lady Razorbacks.
"Our kids played very hard, the shots just did not drop, and we had some good looks, despite Georgia's good defense," Arkansas head coach Gary Blair said.
Kelly Miller scored 12 points and Tiaunna Briggans added 11 as the Lady Bulldogs (25-5) built an 18-point halftime lead and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way. Tawana McDonald had 10 points and 13 rebounds for Georgia before fouling out with 5:18 left.
Third-seeded Georgia will face No. 15 Vanderbilt in Sunday's championship game. The Commodores upset top-ranked Tennessee 77-74 in the other semifinal.
"Are we glad to have a rematch with Vandy? We've got it, so we're glad," Landers said. "There's probably 200 other teams I would just as soon play.
"Vanderbilt is unique. Playing them is unique, and they test you in different ways. I'm not sure how helpful that is in developing a basketball team for the NCAA tournament. It's a challenge we'll embrace."
Georgia led 31-13 at the half behind 10 points from Kelly Miller.
Arkansas's 13 first-half points was its lowest scoring half of the season, and two points better than the tournament-record 11 points scored by LSU in the first half of its game against Vanderbilt last season.
Neither team shot well. At one point in the first half, the teams were a combined 9-for-40 from the field.
Briggans converted a three-point play with 1:32 left in the first half as the Lady Bulldogs built their lead to 20 points, 31-11. McDonald grabbed 11 rebounds in the first 13 minutes.
The Lady Razorbacks closed within 11 points when Willits hit a pair of free throws with 12:07 left, but never got closer.
The Lady Bulldogs built their lead back to 21 points twice down the stretch, the last time with 1:20 remaining on a jumper by Deanna Nolan.
"It just wasn't our night," Arkansas guard Amy Wright said. "We came out and played two really hard days in a row, and maybe we thought we didn't really need the effort that we had the past two days."