KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Tamika Catchings scored 17 points before leaving with a season-ending knee injury as second-ranked Tennessee remained perfect against Southeastern Conference rival Mississippi State with a 66-59 victory.
The Lady Vols (16-1, 4-0 SEC) improved to 18-0 all-time against Mississippi State and posted their 29th consecutive conference victory at home.
Tennessee overcame a sluggish start to stretch its overall winning streak to five games since losing at top-ranked Connecticut on December 30. The Lady Vols trailed by as many as eight early in the first half before pulling into a 27-27 tie at the half.
But it proved a costly win. Catchings, Tennessee's leading scorer who surpassed the 2,000-point mark earlier this season, landed on her right knee after being fouled with under five minutes remaining and had to be helped to the locker room.
Tests showed she suffered torn ligaments and will need season-ending surgery later this week.
"We lost our best player and a true leader by example," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "Tamika was injured the way she played the game -- all out and hard on every play.
"I watched her the whole way. She fell hard and landed on that knee. She said she didn't feel anything when she went down but that it was hurting. That was a hard fall." One of four players to score in double figures for Tennessee, Catchings also grabbed 13 rebounds and handed out three assists.
LaToya Thomas scored 16 points and Jennifer Fambrough 15 for Mississippi State (10-5, 1-3), which has dropped three of its last four.
Gwen Jackson contributed 12 points and Ashley Robinson and Michelle Snow added 10 apiece for the Lady Vols, who shot only 40 percent (24-of-63) from the field.