- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) - For the first 35 minutes, LSU looked as if it had the perfect formula to upset Tennessee.

But once the Lady Vols began doubling down to defend LSU forward Theresa Plaisance, the Lady Tigers’ hopes vanished.

“They were just doing a great job taking away basically everything from me,” Plaisance said. “After I hit those first couple of shots, they denied me really hard. I got a back door. After that, it was almost impossible to get the ball inside.”

Plaisance scored 21 points and Danielle Ballard added 15 points in LSU’s 77-65 loss to No. 6 Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday night.

Isabelle Harrison finished with 21 points and Meighan Simmons and Bashaara Graves each added 14 as the Lady Vols used an overpowering late run to advance to the semifinals.

The second-seeded Lady Vols (25-5) have won five straight and 11 of 12. Tennessee will face the Texas A&M-Auburn; winner in the semifinals.

Jeanne Kenney had 13 points for LSU (19-12), but she and fellow guard Ballard combined for 13 of their team’s 20 turnovers.

The Lady Tigers hope the selection committee will look at their tough schedule and decide it’s enough for a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Though seeded 10th in the SEC tournament, LSU has been invited to 14 of the last 15 NCAA tournaments, including two straight under third-year coach Nikki Caldwell.

But the Lady Tigers also have dropped seven of eight. Part of their problem against Tennessee was transition defense as LSU was outscored 25-5 in points off turnovers.

Tennessee’s 19-0 run late in the second half made it 70-55 on Simmons‘ two free throws, but until the closing minutes, the game was tough on the fifth-leading scorer in Lady Vols history.

Simmons, who had averaged more than 22 points in the previous three games, was just 3 for 16 from the field before her reverse layup from the baseline ended a fast break to force a 55-all tie.

Harrison followed with a runner over Plaisance to make it 57-55 and give the Lady Vols their first lead since 4-3 and bring the large contingent of cheering Tennessee fans to their feet at the Gwinnett Arena.

With 12 rebounds, Harrison recorded her 16th double-double this season, but she credited Plaisance for making the Lady Vols work hard to beat her.

“She can play outside and inside,” Harrison said. “Being in the post, sometimes it’s hard to adjust to players like that. I really wanted to get focused. I knew when she was going off, so I made a commitment to myself and the team that I was going to lock her down.”

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