DULUTH, Ga. — As the game turned: With 8:32 remaining in the game, LSU's Jeanne Kenney stepped to the charity stripe and knocked down a pair of free throws to push the Lady Tiger lead to 55-51.
Then, the Lady Vols took over.
A basket by junior center Isabelle Harrison with 5:56 to go gave Tennessee it's first lead since the 17:41 mark in the first half.
After taking the lead, the Lady Vols never looked back, scoring 13 consecutive points over the next 2:31 to give themselves a 15-point lead.
Over that final 8:32 following Kenney's free throws, Tennessee forced LSU to shoot 12.5 percent from the floor and outscored them, 26-10, on their way to a 77-65 victory in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal.
"We talked a lot about our defense," head coach Holly Warlick said. "We gave up seven threes (in the first half) and you just can't do that. I thought in the second half – when we made our run – we didn't give up any threes and we made them take difficult shots.
"We talk a lot about our defensive play, and this (game) attests to them understanding why that is so important, because that is why we got back into the game. We had steals... and when you get steals you get great looks."
Hot topic: Meighan Simmons struggled in the Lady Vols victory, shooting 5-of-19 (.263) from the field, which was her third-lowest shooting percentage of the season.
The lone senior on this UT team, however, did not let her cold shooting night affect her impact on the game.
After going 1-for-9 in the first half and scoring only two points, the All-SEC guard rebounded to score 12 in the closing period, pushing her consecutive double figure points streak to 13 games.
"The coaches were getting on me about continuing to shoot the ball, and Holly was telling me to get on the defensive end and just stay within the system," Simmons said. "As a shooter, you're going to continue to shoot, but I was really proud of how my teammates stepped up.
"They lifted me when I got down on myself and when I felt like I wasn't doing things right, they just stayed on me and told me that I needed to be out there to lead them, so that's what I did."
Normally known for her big scoring outbursts, Simmons played more of a defensive role on Friday night, recording two steals and being a major factor in slowing down the Lady Tigers' starting guards, who combined to shoot 4-of-16 in the second half after hitting on seven of their 14 shots in the first 20 minutes of action.
"She understands the importance of the defensive end," Warlick said. "It's a mindset for Meighan. I think she is one of the best defenders on the ball and when she puts her mind to it she is a tough defender."
Spotlight: With their guard play not excelling, the Lady Vols relied heavy on their interior players to lead them to victory, and that is exactly what they did.
Sophomore forward Bashaara Graves and Harrison combined to score 35 points and corral 21 rebounds, 11 of which were offensive.
As a team, the Lady Vols grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and scored 17 second chance points – a result of the hard work that the bigs were putting in down low.
"When you are getting easy points like that under the basket and you are just battling and getting points off of putbacks it's a good feeling," redshirt freshman Andraya Carter said. "Those are easy points and they give us momentum."
The other guys: LSU was led by Theresa Plaisance, who tied a game-high with 21 points.
Jeanna Kenney and Danielle Ballard were the only other Lady Tigers to score in double figures, registering 13 and 15, respectively.
Say something: After Simmons talked about her cold shooting night, Warlick added, "Meg was probably harder on herself for missing that one free throw than she was for missing all the other shots." Simmons responded by saying, "I really was."
By the numbers
13: The Lady Vols recorded 13 offensive rebounds in the first half, more than the Lady Tigers team total of 12.
52: Tennessee scored 52 points in the paint, outscoring the LSU by 34 down low.
0: The Lady Vols didn't make a single 3-point field goal in the entire game, which is the first time that has occurred all season.
Up next: The Lady Vols will face off against the Texas A&M Aggies in the semifinals on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The contest will be televised on ESPNU.