KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Once Tennessee realized it couldn't win a second straight Southeastern Conference title this year, the Lady Vols decided knocking off the team that had taken their crown was the best possible alternative.
Isabelle Harrison had 20 points and 15 rebounds Sunday as No. 10 Tennessee defeated No. 4 South Carolina 73-61 to snap the Gamecocks' 10-game winning streak in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Tennessee (24-5, 13-3 SEC) never trailed as it clinched the No. 2 seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament that begins Wednesday at Duluth, Ga. South Carolina (26-3, 14-2) already had wrapped up its first SEC title Thursday with a 67-56 victory over Georgia.
"It's huge for us," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We talked a lot about seeding for the SEC tournament, talked a lot about seeding for the NCAA tournament. We thought it was really important for us to go out and make a statement. Obviously, I thought we did."
Tennessee also ended an eight-game losing streak against top-five opponents. The Lady Vols hadn't beaten a top-five team since an 82-72 overtime victory over No. 3 Stanford on Dec. 19, 2010.
"It really got us back to where we need to be and showed us how when we play hard, who we can defeat," said Harrison, who shot 9 of 11.
The scenario was similar to the end of last year's regular season.
After clinching the SEC regular-season title last year, Tennessee went on the road and lost to 2011-12 SEC champ and preseason conference favorite Kentucky in its regular-season finale. This year, Tennessee was the defending champion and preseason favorite that closed the regular season by beating the team that had just wrapped up the conference championship.
Meighan Simmons scored 16 points and Andraya Carter added 14 points for Tennessee, which has won 10 of its last 11 games. Aleighsa Welch had 16 points, Tiffany Mitchell scored 11 and Alaina Coates added 10 for South Carolina, which shot 38.5 percent (25 of 65) overall and went 1 of 8 from 3-point range.
"We're a lot more efficient basketball team than we displayed," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "Part of it is I thought the pace of the game was a lot quicker than we'd like to play. They forced us to play fast and probably take quicker shots than we normally take. I think Tennessee had a lot to do with it because they want to get up and down in transition. We just tried to keep up pace with them, but that's just really not our pace."
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