Kara Lawson scored a career-high 32 points and hit a runner in the lane with one second left to give third-ranked Tennessee a 76-75 victory last night over No. 10 Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals in North Little Rock, Ark.
Tennessee (28-3) overcame 34 points by Mississippi State's LaToya Thomas in an intense, back-and-forth game and reached the SEC final for the first time since 2000 and 15th time overall. The Lady Vols, now 21-0 against Mississippi State, will play No. 6 LSU in today's title game.
Lawson, a senior guard, came through a year after the ball was swiped from her in a similar situation in an 81-80 loss to LSU in the same round.
"You always remember those situations," Lawson said. "But you're always happy when you can be in those type of situations again."
Mississippi State (23-7) led by 11 points early in the second half and looked to have a chance to end its drought against Tennessee when Tan White hit a jumper to give the Lady Bulldogs a 75-74 lead with a minute to play.
Lawson then missed a jump shot, and Mississippi State's Doceide Warren went to the line for a one-and-one with 22 seconds left. She missed the shot, though, and Lawson made the Lady Bulldogs pay.
She dribbled near midcourt as time ran down, then started toward the basket against White with 10 seconds left. She worked her way inside the free throw line, leaned in and made the shot.
"I want the ball in those situations," said Lawson, who was 6 for 9 on three-pointers and topped her previous best of 31 against Vanderbilt on Feb. 27. . . .
Seimone Augustus scored all 20 of her points in the second half, including 12 in the final four minutes, to lead LSU to a 78-69 win over 15th-ranked Vanderbilt in the semifinals of the SEC tournament.
Aiysha Smith led LSU (26-3) with 21 points, but Augustus led the comeback over the Commodores, who had eliminated the Lady Tigers from the tournament the past three seasons.
Vanderbilt, which had 11 turnovers in the second half to LSU's three, went six minutes without a basket after Jenni Benningfield gave the Commodores (21-9) a 63-59 lead with 6:41 to go.
LSU capitalized by going on a 15-4 run, during which Augustus gave the Lady Tigers the lead for good, 68-67, with a jumper in the lane. She made six free throws in the final 1:35 and added two jumpers during LSU's spurt.
* PACIFIC-10: Nicole Powell scored 18 points and had nine rebounds, and ninth-ranked Stanford advanced to the semifinals with a 60-35 victory over California in San Jose.
Azella Perryman added 12 points, and Chelsea Trotter had 11 as the top-seeded Cardinal (24-4) won for the fifth time in six games.
Leigh Gregory led California (10-19) with nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Cardinal, which won the regular season title, took advantage of Cal's early shooting troubles to open a huge lead, and Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer substituted liberally.
Eight Stanford players played at least 10 minutes in the first half, and no one played more than 15. Powell, who played a total of 25 minutes, averages a team-high 30.8 per game.
Cal lost by 24 at Stanford and by three in Berkeley during the regular season. Yesterday's game was the first time the Bay Area rivals met on a neutral court in the 53-game history of the series. . . .
Giuliana Mendiola had 29 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 25 Washington move on to the semifinals with a 64-63 victory over Southern California.
USC (14-17) had a final chance with 19 seconds left but ran the clock down before turning the ball over without getting off a shot. The Trojans then had to foul, and Washington's Loree Payne converted both shots.
The Huskies (22-6), seeded second behind Stanford, have won three straight games since giving up 100 points in a loss at Oregon State on Feb. 20. . . .
Krista Warren scored 20 points, and conference freshman of the year Shawntinice Polk added 15 points and 13 rebounds for No. 22 Arizona in a 70-56 win over Oregon State.
Jessica Jones and Michelle Smith had 12 points each for the sixth-seeded Beavers.
Polk, a 6-foot-5 center, also had four steals, three assists and a blocked shot for the No. 3 seed Wildcats (21-7), who shot 44 percent after making 52 percent of their shots in the first half. Arizona led the Pac-10 in field goal percentage this season at 48.1.
* SOUTHERN CONFERENCE: Chattanooga blew most of a 17-point lead in the second half before holding off Georgia Southern, 66-52, in North Charleston, S.C., to reach the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year.
Jennifer Wilson had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Chattanooga (26-4), winner of nine in a row.
* OHIO VALLEY: Austin Peay rode a 27-point effort by tournament MVP Brooke Armistead for its third consecutive Ohio Valley Conference tournament title, 85-61 over No. 2 Southeast Missouri in Nashville. As the tournament champ, Austin Peay earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
* UC SANTA BARBARA 76, UC RIVERSIDE 36: The 19th-ranked Gauchos finished the regular season undefeated at home for the first time in the program's 31-year history. Santa Barbara has won 23 straight at the Thunderdome.