KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's Meighan Simmons scored a game-high 19 points as the ninth-ranked Lady Vols survived a courageous effort from the LSU Lady Tigers in head coach Nikki Caldwell's return to Knoxville by a score of 65-56 in front of 13,107 fans on Thursday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.
LSU (13-5, 4-2 SEC) dropped its second straight game and had to play the entire second half without two of its starting guards in senior Destini Hughes and sophomore Jeanne Kenney. Kenney suffered a concussion in the first minute of the game. Hughes sustained a right knee injury with 1.3 seconds left in the first half when she landed awkwardly in attempting to catch a pass on an inbound across the court. Hughes will be evaluated tomorrow.
Tennessee (14-4, 5-1) won its fifth straight game against the Lady Tigers as Caldwell, a former player and assistant coach for Pat Summitt, received a standing ovation during introductions. LSU, Tennessee and the SEC also celebrated "We Back Pat" week in raising awareness for Alzheimer's disease.
Courtney Jones led LSU with 16 points and eight rebounds and Adrienne Webb added 12 points. Shanece McKinney blocked four shots and LaSondra Barrett LSU's leading scorer, was held to six points before fouling out at the 1:39 mark to go in the game.
"I will credit this group for not backing down, showing a lot of heart and sticking together," said Caldwell. "We had two of our starting guards out and had to do it by committee the rest of the game. Offensively, we had to move a big out to the perimeter. We were able to do what we needed to do. When you look at how the game came down to the last few minutes of the game, we were still in position to win the game even without those two."
Despite losing Hughes, LSU battled all game and the contest was tied at 26 at the half. The Lady Tigers took a 39-37 lead on Theresa Plaisance's four-foot jumper, but the Lady Vols quickly went from down two points to up 47-39 with a 10-0 run. Plaisance snapped the spree with a three and Jones added another one. Lutley's layup tied it at 49 with 6:41 to go.
Glory Johnson, playing with a dislocated arm, put the Lady Vols up 58-53 and it was a lead they would not relinquish. Johnson finished with 10 points, one of three Tennessee players in double figures. Cierra Burdick provided a spark off the bench with 15 points and six rebounds.
The Lady Tigers shot 34.4 percent, while Tennessee finished at 37.5 percent from the floor. LSU committed 18 turnovers that led to 14 points on the other end.
LSU returns home and will host Arkansas at 2 p.m. CT Sunday in its "We Back Pat" contest. LSU "We Back Pat" t-shirts are now on sale at LSUshop.net with proceeds going directly to the Pat Summitt Foundation. The first 1,000 fans in attendance on Sunday receive a free Lady Tiger yo-yo. Talented halftime act "Red Panda" will perform once again in the Maravich Center.
The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Net and to viewers outside SEC states on ESPN3.com.