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Lady Vols beat South Carolina 73-61 in regular-season finale

March 2nd, 2014 5:19 pm by STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer

Lady Vols beat South Carolina 73-61 in regular-season finale

Tennessee forward Jasmine Jones (2) and South Carolina center Elem Ibiam (33) battle for a loose ball in the first half on Sunday in Knoxville. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE — Isabelle Harrison had 20 points and 15 rebounds Sunday as No. 10 Tennessee defeated No. 4 South Carolina 73-61 to snap the Gamecocks’ 10-game winning streak in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Tennessee (24-5, 13-3 SEC) never trailed as it ended an eight-game losing streak against top-five opponents and clinched the No. 2 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament that begins Wednesday at Duluth, Ga. Tennessee hadn’t beaten a top-five team since an 82-72 overtime victory over No. 3 Stanford on Dec. 19, 2010.

South Carolina already had clinched its first SEC title Thursday with a 67-56 victory over Georgia.

The scenario was similar to the end of last year’s regular season.

After clinching the SEC regular-season title last year, Tennessee went on the road and lost to 2011-12 SEC champ and preseason conference favorite Kentucky in its regular-season finale. This year, Tennessee was the defending champion and preseason favorite that closed the regular season by beating the team that had just wrapped up the conference championship.

Meighan Simmons added 16 points and Andraya Carter had 14 points for Tennessee, which has won 10 of its last 11 games. Aleighsa Welch had 16 points, Tiffany Mitchell scored 11 and Alaina Coates added 10 for South Carolina.

This marked the last regular-season home game for Simmons, the lone senior on Tennessee’s roster. Simmons still could end up playing more games at Thompson-Boling Arena in her college career, since Tennessee is a host site for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.

A videotape showing Simmons’ career highlights was shown on the overhead scoreboard before the game. Simmons was introduced with her family before the game, and she received a framed jersey from Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick. As is her usual pregame custom, Simmons went into the front row of the stands to embrace former Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt before lineup introductions. After the game, Simmons blew a kiss to the crowd while walking to a team gathering at midcourt.

Summitt, who remains on staff as Tennessee’s head coach emeritus, coached Simmons during the guard’s first two seasons with the Lady Vols.

Harrison led Tennessee to a 36-28 halftime lead. Harrison shot 7 of 8, scored 14 points and pulled down six rebounds in the first half against South Carolina’s vaunted frontcourt.

The Lady Vols also got 10 first-half points from Carter, who made her first four shots of the day with a pair of 3-pointers.

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, Tennessee cooled off after halftime. But the Lady Vols stayed in front by taking care of the ball playing solid defense. Tennessee committed a season-low seven turnovers and South Carolina shot just 38.5 percent (25 of 65) overall and 35.3 percent (12 of 34) in the second half.

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