COLUMBIA, S.C. — Chamique Holdsclaw took the time Thursday night to offer Shekinna Stricklen some advice.
They visited following Tennessee's 71-56 women's basketball victory over South Carolina, and Stricklen appreciated the input from the UT legend, who just happens to be her role model.
The Lady Vols, in turn, were grateful for the time Stricklen logged on their behalf against the Gamecocks. The junior forward amassed 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, playing a Holdsclaw-like role before a crowd of 3,647 at the Colonial Life Arena.
'That's huge for us,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said of Stricklen's 38-minute effort. 'That's not a typical outing game in and game out. I really challenged her to get on the boards.'
While 24 turnovers and a scrappy effort by the undersized Gamecocks threatened to cut them down, the Lady Vols' stood tall — at least tall enough.
Center Kelley Cain had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds and also had six blocks as No. 5 Tennessee (18-2, 6-0 SEC) parlayed a 51-31 rebounding advantage into 24 second-chance points. Freshman Meighan Simmons added 16 points, all in the second half.
'If we don't get the rebounds we did, South Carolina could've won this game,' Stricklen said.
Led by Ieasia Walker's game-high 24 points, South Carolina (10-9, 2-4) did enough to glimpse an upset. The Gamecocks converted UT's turnovers into 25 points and had a 17-4 edge in fast-break points. Their dribble drives helped produce 36 points from close range.
Despite trailing by double figures on two separate occasions earlier in the second half, they rallied to 57-52 inside the final five minutes.
'We had a hard time slowing them down and keeping them out of the paint,'' Summitt said.
Stricklen led UT's 14-4 finishing kick with six points, including a huge rebound basket after a missed free throw by Cain with 2:56 left.
'You can't really get nervous,'' Stricklen said. 'If you get nervous when someone goes on their run, you're not going to do well. We just pulled everyone together.'
Walker, meanwhile, didn't have enough scoring help. La'Keisha Sutton was the only other Gamecock in double figures with 11 points. Other than Walker's 10-for-23 shooting, South Carolina shot 28 percent from the floor.
'We just didn't hit shots when we needed to hit shots, that's what it came down to,'' South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. 'We got shots at the basket. We got shots outside. We just didn't knock them down.'
The Lady Vols fell behind by 13 points at the outset of their last visit here and seemed intent on created a similar scenario. South Carolina, playing without reserve guards Marah Strickland (sprained foot) and Samone Kennedy (personal reasons), bolted to a quick 12-4 lead.
Unlike last season, UT mustered a faster response, taking the lead 15-12 on a Taber Spani trey with 9:22 left in the first half.
The turnovers were piling up, though, at an alarming rate, reaching 13 by the break. The final total was the second highest of the season.
'I thought (South Carolina) really did a good job but I thought we had loose handles quite a bit,'' Summitt said. 'Maybe we were trying to do too much.'
Although they were sloppy ball handlers, the Lady Vols were accurate shooters, going 48.2 percent from the floor (27-and-56). After an 0-for-2 start, Simmons was 5-for-9 from the floor in the second half and hit all five of her free-throw attempts.
'In a situation like that I think I thrive,'' she said. 'It makes me want to go hard and pick the level of my game up.'
Tennessee is back on the road Sunday, playing at Auburn.