The No. 4-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers clinched at least a share of the regular-season SEC Championship Thursday night in Thompson-Boling Arena, defeating South Carolina 82-60.
The Lady Vols (25-2, 13-0 SEC) led by 11 points at halftime and never let the Gamecocks (15-11, 7-6) get any closer, leading by as much as 24 in the second half.
"I actually felt like we had good focus," UT coach Pat Summitt said. "We knew this team was going to come in here and battle us really hard, but I thought we really bought into our scouting report."
A late run to end the first half gave the Lady Vols a 40-29 lead heading into the locker room.
Tennessee utilized its size in the paint, going to the free-throw line 17 times in the first 20 minutes and 25 times for the game.
Junior forward Alicia Manning scored a career-high 22 points, shooting 8-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-4 from three-point range.
"She's a player that has really invested in her game," Summitt said. "There's no substitute for getting in the gym and getting extra shots. I think she's playing with a lot of confidence, but she's extended her range, which I think has really helped her game."
Manning said she believed it was only a matter of time before she was going to have a breakout game offensively.
"I've been shooting a lot more in practice, and I was just feeling it," Manning said. "I think mostly I've just been focusing all year trying to work on my offensive game. Got the opportunity this game, and it feels good to finally put it on display."
Along with getting to the foul line almost twice as much as the Gamecocks, the Lady Vols also controlled the glass, grabbing 51 boards, compared to just 30 from South Carolina.
"Pleased to see that we had 51 rebounds," said Summitt. "That's big."
Freshman guard Meighan Simmons was the team's second-leading scorer on the night, finishing with 17 points.
The only other Lady Vol who finished in double figures in scoring was junior Shekinna Stricklen, who notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior forward Alyssia Brewer got a rare start down low and scored seven points, all early in the first half.
"I just think she is getting more and more confident and playing better and better," Summitt said of Brewer, who's still working back into form after an early season injury.
Said Brewer: "It's just all about getting back into the flow of the game."
Nine Lady Vols scored on the night.
Having that kind of luxury, especially given the injuries to senior guard Angie Bjorklund and junior forward Vicki Baugh, neither of whom played, was an added bonus to Tennessee.
"I think our depth has really worked for us," Summitt said. "It's been very, very important for us."
The victory extends the Lady Vols' winning streak to 32 games at home and 16 games overall since losing at No. 2 Baylor on Dec. 14.
Tennessee will next play host to Georgia on Monday. A win would clinch the SEC regular-season crown outright.
The Lady Vols and Lady Bulldogs tip off at 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.