NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Shekinna Stricklen already was mad about picking up her third foul early in the second half with just two points to her name. Then coach Pat Summitt let the senior know what she thought about it.
"I didn't get to play in the first half because I had two fouls. I picked up the third, got really frustrated," Stricklen said. "Coach came over there, went off me, made it worse. I really got mad. It was a lot of motivation. I think I got the stare. She really stared at me. I had to respond."
The preseason all-American took that anger and turned it into a positive, scoring all 18 of her team-leading points in the second half. That sparked the 13th-ranked Lady Volunteers in their 68-57 win over Vanderbilt on Friday in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals.
Second-seeded Tennessee (22-8) will face No. 25 South Carolina in the semifinals on Saturday. The Gamecocks beat the Lady Vols 64-60 on Feb. 2 in Knoxville.
The Lady Vols had led by as many as 19 points in the first half, thanks to strong play by a senior class trying to win a third straight SEC tournament championship and set the tone for a run at the national championship in honor of Summitt. The Hall of Fame coach announced in August she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
As well as the seniors were playing, they struggled to stay out of foul trouble. Alicia Manning, Vicki Baugh and Glory Johnson also fouled twice each before halftime, and the Commodores hit 11 of 12 from the free-throw line to cut Tennessee's lead to 35-27 by the end of the first half.
Halftime was extended by about 30 minutes because of the conference's concerns about severe weather moving through the Nashville area. Tennessee had warmed up for the second half already but was sent back to its locker room.
When play finally resumed, Vanderbilt got hot after shooting just 26.9 percent in the first half, compared to 53.8 percent shooting by Tennessee. The Commodores used a 13-4 run to cut the Lady Vols' lead to 41-40 with 14:11 to play.
Christina Foggie led the Commodores (22-9) with 16 points, and Stephanie Holzer had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Jasmine Lister added 12 points.
Tennessee had gotten sloppy, committing turnovers that gave Vanderbilt the opportunities it needed. The Lady Vols finished with 16 turnovers that led to 16 points for the Commodores.
"At times we got close," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "There were a couple, probably three possessions in a row that I thought we had a good chance of scoring. It got very physical, but we did not finish."
But with 9:43 to go and Tennessee still leading by a point, Stricklen launched a 3-pointer that cleanly swished through the net. That's when she forgot her first-half frustration and fired up the Lady Vols and their fans, who filled Nashville's Bridgestone Arena with orange.
Over the next two minutes, Stricklen converted a 3-point play and sank another trey to push the Lady Vols' lead to 57-48. Vanderbilt got no closer than six points the rest of the way, returning to the free-throw line just once in the second half.
"I didn't feel like we got the best start, but I thought we had a great finish," Summitt said. "We had a lot of people step up. I was proud of Stricklen. She hadn't done anything early, but she came up really, really strong late."
Johnson finished with 15 points, and Meighan Simmons scored 11.
Vanderbilt has never beaten Tennessee twice in the same season. The teams, which have met annually since the 1993-94 season, split the meetings this year, with the Lady Vols taking an 87-64 win in Knoxville on Jan. 15 and the Commodores winning 93-79 in Nashville on Feb. 9.
"It was a disappointing loss because we fought to the end, but I think we're very proud of each other," Foggie said. "We stayed together. We played really hard."