JOHN ADAMS; South Carolina Shows Lady Vols How to Play Catch-Up

Article excerpt

The game unfolded like so many others in the storied history of Tennessee women's basketball. Then South Carolina suddenly and dramatically altered the course of the game and its basketball history Thursday night.

Until the last five minutes, UT's two-time defending SEC champions seemingly had summoned enough resolve to weather another underdog's charge, just as they have so many times at Thompson- Boling Arena.

The eighth-ranked Lady Vols had overcome a career game from South Carolina guard Markeshia Grant and taken a sevenpoint lead with just under five minutes to play against a team they had beaten 40 consecutive times.

That's when the Gamecocks gave the Lady Vols and history a resounding comeback kick. They rallied down the stretch, making the kind of clutch plays championship teams usually make and pulled off a 64-60 victory that coach Dawn Staley called the "biggest of my career." "We didn't have an answer for them the last four minutes of the game," UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said. "We didn't have an answer for their runs."

Many Tennessee fans

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didn't bother sticking around for the clinching points. Maybe they had a premonition based on how confidently and determinedly South Carolina played down the stretch.

Those early departing fans apparently knew what they were doing.

They didn't have to watch South Carolina's La'Keisha Sutton hit two free throws after a timeout to give her team a fourpoint lead with 12 seconds to play. They also missed a rare, unseemly sight: opposing SEC players celebrating on UT's home floor.

Afterward, South Carolina players joined their 50-or-so fans sitting behind the goal closest to their bench. The crowd included South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, who has a history of leaving Knoxville with a victory in tow.

The pregame was altogether different. It was another tribute to UT coach Pat Summitt, who is battling early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

South Carolina presented a check for $20,000 to Summitt's son, Tyler. …