Tennessee finished what it started Sunday night but not without needing more time and more effort.
After shooting their way to a 14-point first-half lead, the Lady Vols fired a lot of blanks in the second half, falling behind six points.
The ominous turn of events didn’t shake UT coach Pat Summitt’s resolve.
“I couldn’t even think about anything other than ‘we have to find a way to win,’ ’’ she said.
More importantly, it didn’t diminish the Lady Vols’ determination. They put Summitt’s thought into action during the final six minutes of regulation.
Meighan Simmons’ 3-pointer with 48 seconds left recouped the remnants of the deficit and served as a dramatic prelude to a dominant overtime and an 82-72 women’s basketball victory before a crowd of 14,197 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I think everybody thought about what they needed to do to help the team win and we just brought that all together,’’ Simmons said.
Simmons led No. 6 Tennessee (10-2) with 23 points, scoring in double figures for the 12 consecutive game to start her collegiate Angie Bjorklund scored 16 points, recorded a team-high four assists and had a defensive hand in Stanford’s Kayla Pedersen shooting 3-for-16 from the floor.
Shekinna Stricklen had 15 points and Taber Spani scored 10.
Jeanette Pohlen scored a game-high 24 points for No. 3 Stanford (6-2). She hit six 3-pointers before fouling out 49 seconds into overtime.
“It really hurt our team when Jeanette fouled out,’’ said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, who remained stuck on 799 career victories. “That was something that really hurt us in terms of our execution.”
Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 20 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds in a game that featured seven ties and seven lead changes.
Tennessee struck the first scoring blow and it was from long range. The Lady Vols swished four of their first five 3-point attempts and bolted to a 16-6 lead within the first five minutes.
The Lady Vols had 11 assists by the break, more than twice as many as the five they had against Baylor last Tuesday.
The Lady Vols twice built leads of 14 points —26-12 and 30-16 —before settling for a 39-31 halftime lead.
Stanford flipped the scoring script in the second half, shooting a gaudy 62.5 percent from the floor (15 for 24) while UT was misfiring at a 35.5 percent clip (11 for 31). The Cardinal regained the lead for the first time since the opening minutes when Pohlen buried a trey with 9:07 left for a 56-53 edge.
“I thought they were shot out of a cannon,’’ Summitt said. “I don’t think it was as much us as it was Stanford.”
The Cardinal led by six points twice, the last time when Toni Kokenis converted from close range with 6:17 left.
Tennessee scored the next eight points – four from the foul line — for a 65-63 lead, which was its final lead in regulation.
Twice, Stanford pushed ahead. The final time was a Pohlen trey with 1:05 left. Twice, Tennessee responded, first with a jumper from Bjorklund and then Simmons’ trey.
“All I have to say to that is to God be the glory for that shot because I really didn’t believe that shot was going in,’’ Simmons said. “… I just think that three just sparked something in the team.”
Tennessee scored eight of its 12 overtime points from the free throw line. Even two misses from the line by Cain worked out. The 6-foot-6 center hustled to the rim for the rebound and scored a putback basket for a 75-70 advantage with 2:35 left.
Summitt and the players gave credit to the fans for their support. Bjorklund referred to them as “like a sixth man out there.”
The Lady Vols also could take a bow for their comeback.
“Any time you come from behind that’s huge,’’ Bjorklund said. “That could and probably will happen in the future. Just knowing that we have a team that’s going to buckle down on defense and really fight to come back is huge.”