Photo by: Brendan Sullivan University of Kentucky's Denesha Stallworth (11) takes a hook shot over Vanderbilt's Kendall Shaw (30) during the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth Friday.
DULUTH --On a day when her high school team made history, Anne Marie Armstrong inched a little closer to a milestone of her own.
The Georgia senior scored 12 points, moving within 24 of 1,000 for her career, late Friday night as the Bulldogs defeated LSU 71-53 in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Tournament at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. She was one of five Bulldogs to score in double figures.
It was a nice finish to the day for Armstrong, who found out before UGA's game that her alma mater, Wesleyan, won its state record-tying sixth straight state championship earlier that day in Macon.
"I don't really think about (1,000 points," said Armstrong, also had six rebounds, four assists and two steals. "I think I'm around 30 or so away. But at the end of the day it's more important that we win the SEC. I don't really think about it. I think more about team goals."
The Bulldogs, 25-5 and ranked 12th nationally, wouldn't mind Armstrong getting to 1,000 points in the SEC tourney, with the help of another victory or two this weekend.
Their opponent in today's 6 p.m. semifinal will be No. 2 seed and No. 7 nationally ranked Kentucky, which ended the tourney for Norcross grad Tiffany Clarke and No. 7 seed Vanderbilt with a 76-65 victory Friday night. Clarke had her second straight double-double of the tourney, but her 24 points and 12 rebounds couldn't overcome a sloppy first half by the Commodores.
Nothing was sloppy about UGA's first half.
The Bulldogs were up 40-30 on 22nd-ranked LSU at halftime after making 16 of 31 (51.6 percent) first-half shots. LSU (20-11) made just 11 of 36 shots (30.6 percent) in the opening half.
UGA scored the first five points of the second half to go up 45-30, then kept its comfortable lead the remainder of the game and turned around its earlier loss to the Tigers --a 62-54 setback Feb. 10 in Baton Rouge.
Jasmine Hassell (19 points, eight rebounds) led UGA offensively, while Tiaria Griffin (15 points), Shacobia Barbee (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Jasmine James (10 points) also scored in double figures.
UGA had 20 assists on its 28 field goals.
"I think we came out and our offensive sets we had designed for them, we did a good job executing those," Armstrong said. "Coach said whoever plays the best defense will win. (LSU) controlled the game last time with their matchups and we came out more focused today and ready to execute."
Kentucky (26-4) reached the final thanks to an impressive first half, which ended with the Wildcats leading 38-23. They forced 15 Vandy turnovers in the first half alone and SEC co-player of the year A'dia Mathies had five steals by intermission.
Kentucky kept the heat on, going up by 20 quickly in the second half and Vandy (20-11) couldn't overcome the deficit despite a late charge.
"I thought the start was very good for us," Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We wanted to have a fast start. We wanted to use the energy of the second five coming in fresh, almost like they were starting the game. We talked about that before the game. That was the plan. I thought we had a great start."
Ten different Wildcats scored and they had a 32-12 edge in bench points, thanks to nine points each from Azia Bishop and Samantha Drake. Mathies (16 points) and DeNesha Stallworth (14 points) were Kentucky's top scorers.
Clarke had 17 of her points in the second half for Vandy, which also got 17 points from guard Jasmine Lister.
Tennessee 82, Florida 73
Fueled by its typically large fan base, Tennessee, ranked ninth nationally, jumped out to a 17-4 lead on Florida with its early surge of momentum Friday afternoon. But the Gators didn't go away easily.
They chased the Volunteers' lead throughout and cut the gap to six three times in the final minute, but they couldn't quite pull the upset as top-seeded Tennessee finished off an 82-73 victory.
The Vols (24-6), in their first SEC tourney since longtime coach Pat Summitt retired, put six scorers in double figures, led by 20 from Meighan Simmons. Cierra Burdick (14 points, eight rebounds), Taber Spani (13 points, seven rebounds), Kamiko Williams (12 points), Bashaara Graves (10 points) and Ariel Massengale (10 points) also scored in double digits.
Sydney Moss led Florida with a game-high 22 points and the Gators also got 18 points from Jaterra Bonds and 12 points from Carlie Needles.
Tennessee takes on Texas A&M in today's semifinals at 4 p.m.
Texas A&M 61, South Carolina 52
Kristi Bellock had 17 points and reserve Karla Gilbert scored 11 Friday afternoon as fourth-seeded Texas A&M won a close battle with No. 5 seed Texas A&M, 61-52, earning the right to play top seed Tennessee.
The Aggies (22-9) led from the start, but South Carolina (24-7) took its only leads, both one-point edges, early in the second half. Texas A&M, which also got 11 rebounds from Courtney Williams, responded with a 10-1 run and never allowed South Carolina to get closer than five points the rest of the way.
The Gamecocks were led by Ashley Bruner's 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Ieasia Walker contributed 15 points.