UT tops Kentucky for SEC title
Bjorklund scored 23 points, including seven 3s
Angie Bjorklund scored 23 points, including seven 3s, and No. 4 Tennessee hit a school- and tournament-record 16 3-pointers to beat No. 16 Kentucky 90-65 Sunday in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
The Lady Vols (31-2), who were unbeaten in the SEC, won their 15th tournament title overall. This one was a bit special because it marked only the third time Tennessee went undefeated in winning the regular-season title before winning the conference tournament. Tennessee also did that in 1994 and 1998.
Kentucky (24-8) goes home still looking for its first SEC tournament title since 1982. The Wildcats were the SEC team that came closest to stopping Tennessee, only to lose by six in Lexington on Feb. 7, and this was a rematch of last year's title game won by the Lady Vols 80-72.
Shekinna Stricklen scored 19 points for Tennessee, Meighan Simmons added 16, and Alicia Manning had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Victoria Dunlap and Bernisha Pinkett each had 15 points for Kentucky.
The Lady Vols shook off the smaller, aggressive Wildcats by putting on a sizzling shooting performance.
They topped the 13 3s Alabama hit against South Carolina in 1998. The Lady Vols had hit 15 3s in a game twice before this season, but they almost couldn't miss in this game with the bottom half of Bridgestone Arena a sea of orange. They finished 16 of 21 from beyond the arc.
Tennessee, which opened the second half hitting 13 of its first 17 shots, shot a season-high 56.4 percent from the floor (31 of 55), while holding Kentucky to a mere 27.3 percent (21 of 77).
The Lady Vols hit their first seven 3s before a miss. Stricklen hit five, and Bjorklund matched her career high of seven to go with only one miss beyond the arc. Simmons hit the 14th 3 with 8:12 left.
This game couldn't have been much more physical in the first half with Johnson going to the sideline to get blood cleaned off her jersey, while Dunlap came back for the second half with her chin bandaged. Neither Tennessee coach Pat Summitt nor Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell was happy, either.
Simmons set the tone by opening the game with a 3-pointer. A'dia Mathies gave Kentucky a brief lead at 11-10, and Pinkett pushed that to 13-10 with a pair of free throws.
Taber Spani hit a 3 from the right corner to tie it up, then Stricklen hit her first 3-pointer to put Tennessee ahead to stay at 16-13 with 15:06 left. Stricklen hit another 3, then the Lady Vols went 4:56 without a point until Bjorklund came off the bench and hit a 3 from the left corner with 9:31 left to push Tennessee up 22-17.
Kentucky had a quick spurt with Crystal Riley driving for a layup, then Jennifer O'Neill hit a jumper and Pinkett hit a 3-pointer with 4:20 left before the break to pull the Wildcats to 30-29.
Tennessee closed the half with a 9-1 spurt started by a 3-pointer from Bjorklund. Stricklen opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Brewer scored on a layup. Mitchell took a timeout to try and slow down the Lady Vols, but it didn't help.
The Lady Vols just kept hitting shots, and Bjorklund's seventh 3 gave them their biggest lead at 88-60 with 2:35 left, setting off a celebration by Tennessee fans.