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SEC WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT - FINAL - Verizon Arena - North Little Rock, AR

South Carolina downs UT to win tournament

1381 days ago
Associated Press
Photo: Todd Van Emst

Game Notes | Box Score | Photo Gallery | South Carolina Quotes | Tennessee Quotes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Tiffany Mitchell scored 17 points as No. 3 South Carolina earned its first women's Southeastern Conference tournament championship with a 62-46 victory over No. 5 Tennessee on Sunday.

The top-seeded Gamecocks (29-2) beat the Lady Vols for the second time in two weeks, and likely secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Mitchell was 5 for 10 from the field, while Aleighsa Welch added 14 points and eight rebounds for South Carolina -- which shot 14 for 26 (54 percent) in the second half.

South Carolina was making its first appearance in the championship game, while second-seeded Tennessee (27-5) was attempting to win for the 18th time in 36 seasons.

Jordan Reynolds had 17 points to lead the Lady Vols, who finished with their lowest point total in tournament history.

Tennessee's previous low was 54 points in a loss to LSU in the tournament semifinals in 2007.

The Lady Vols, the defending tournament champions, were 18 for 54 (33 percent) from the field -- including 8 for 30 (27 percent) in the second half.

Tennessee dropped to 17-6 in tournament championship games, and is now 47-5 overall against South Carolina. That included a 40-game winning streak that began in 1980 and was ended by the Gamecocks in 2012 under coach Dawn Staley. South Carolina improved to 3-3 in the last six meetings against the eight-time national champions.

After trailing by five points in the first half, South Carolina regained the lead with a 10-0 run later that bridged halftime. Led by Mitchell and Welch, the Gamecocks -- the regular-season SEC champions -- didn't trail again while making their case as the SEC's new elite program.

Mitchell, the league's two-time Player of the Year, extended South Carolina's lead to 60-42 late in the game with a breakaway layup -- leaving little doubt about who is this season's best team in the conference.

The teams traded the lead 10 times in the first half, with Tennessee taking its largest advamtage at 26-21 after a fast-break basket by Burdick. Reynolds had 10 of the first 21 points for the Lady Vols.

South Carolina, which faltered in the tournament semifinals last year while also the top seed, responded with their 10-0 spurt -- capped by Welch's put-back of her own miss to early in the second half to put the Gamecocks up 31-26.

Welch had 19 points and 14 rebounds in win over the Lady Vols at home two weeks earlier, and she finished 7 of 15 from the field this time.

All-Tournament Team
Makayla Epps, Kentucky
Cierra Burdick, Tennessee
Jordan Reynolds, Tennessee
Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina
Alaina Coates, South Carolina

MVP
Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina