By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Shekinna Stricklen scored 22 points and sixth-ranked Tennessee used a late run to beat No. 11 Rutgers 67-61 on Tuesday night.
The game featured two Hall of Fame coaches with Pat Summitt and C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers. The long-time friends and have combined for nearly 1,950 victories during their illustrious careers. They stand first and third on the women's basketball all-time victory list.
Trailing 54-51 with 8:33 left, Tennessee (6-2) scored 13 straight points, holding Rutgers without a point for nearly 8 minutes. Vicki Baugh started the burst with a layup and Meighan
Simmons hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Lady Vols a 61-54 lead. Taber Spani hit another 3 with 1:52 left to seal the victory.
April Sykes scored a season-high 27 points to lead Rutgers (9-2), which was looking for its first win over Tennessee since 2004.
Stringer hasn't had much success against Summitt in her career, winning only twice in 17 meetings, including losing the last eight games. There have been some memorable games lately in this series, starting with the NCAA title game in 2007 which Tennessee won. The teams met the next year in Knoxville and the game ended in controversy with a last-second clock issue.
The last time the teams played at Rutgers, in 2009, the Scarlet Knights blew a 20-point halftime lead.
"It's been intense," Summitt said of the rivalry after her team's practice Saturday. "Both teams are going to be very focused."
Summitt received a warm standing ovation from the crowd before the game and shared a long embrace with Stringer. Rutgers players wore warmup shirts that said "We Back Pat" in honor of Summitt's battle with Alzeheimer's. The school also presented Tennessee with a collage of Stringer's favorite photos with Summitt and a commemorative jersey at the half.
The Lady Vols got off to a quick start behind Stricklen. The senior preseason All-America had 10 straight points for Tennessee during one stretch. Her jumper with 5:48 left in the half gave the Lady Vols a 33-20 lead. That would be their last points before the half as Rutgers turned up its defensive pressure, scoring the final eight points before the break, including four by Sykes.
Rutgers continued the run to start the second half scoring 11 of the first 14 points. Sykes' layup 2½ minutes in gave Rutgers its first lead of the game at 37-36. Khadijah Rushdan's basket moments later capped the 19-3 burst.
Neither team could pull away. Rutgers built a 54-51 lead on consecutive scores by Rushdan and a layup by Sykes with 8:33 left.
That would be the Scarlet Knights' final points until Sykes hit a 3-pointer with 35.9 seconds left that made it 64-57. Rutgers would get within four on Monique's Oliver's lay-in with 12.6 seconds left.
Rushdan finished with 16 points. Spani and Simmons each had 13 points for Tennessee.
The Lady Vols are in the midst of a four-game trip. They beat No. 20 DePaul on Sunday in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden. After a brief stop back in Knoxville, Tennessee will head to California to play UCLA and No. 4 Stanford. The Lady Vols won't play at home again until facing Old Dominion on Dec. 28.
Tennessee was missing freshman point guard Ariel Massengale, who is sidelined with a dislocated finger on her left hand that she injured while diving for a loose ball at the end of practice on Thursday. She sat on the sideline in a sling and most likely won't play on the California trip.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
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