A chapter ended in the Lady Vols history book on Sunday as No. 9 Tennessee defeated Florida 75-59 to close out the regular season.
The victory marked the last time five Lady Vol seniors would take the court at Thompson-Boling Arena.
It was also the last chance the team had to solidify its position in the conference standings.
With the win, UT (21-8, 12-4 SEC) secured the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament that begins Thursday.
“I just knew that we had to win,” senior forward Glory Johnson said. “There was no other option. We couldn’t take another loss.”
Johnson posted a double-double with a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds in front of a home crowd of 18,563.
The Webb School graduate scored the Lady Vols’ first basket and sparked a 15-0 run early in the first half as a seniors-only UT starting lineup jumped on the Gators 15-3.
Florida (18-11, 8-8 SEC) had closed the gap to 33-25, when UT freshman point guard Ariel Massengale drove coast-to-coast and dished to Johnson who scored as time expired in the first half.
“They got us off to a great start,” associate head coach Holly Warlick said of the starters. “They had a lot of pride in wearing the Tennessee orange, so I’m excited for them.”
Massengale amassed five assists, giving her 137 on the season, a UT freshman record.
Her drive-and-pass set up senior forward Alicia Manning’s jump shot that extended the UT lead to 72-57 with 1:13 to go in the game.
 The basket gave the Lady Vols their largest lead of the game.
Eight seconds later Johnson and Manning were given a standing ovation as they checked out of a home game for the final time.
 “I was just excited,” Manning said. “Our fans have been with us through everything. I personally felt like I owed it to them.”
 Manning posted 11 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a block.
The Woodstock, Ga. native has averaged 3.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game this season.
“It was good to get this one under my belt heading into the SEC tournament,” Manning said.
 Senior Shekinna Stricklen, reigning SEC Player of the Week, pitched in 15 points and five rebounds.
 Sophomore guard Meighan Simmons was the fourth Lady Vol in double figures with 12 points.
 “All of our underclassmen are very close with our seniors,” Simmons said. “They set a very good example for us.
“We act goofy off the court. People don’t know it, but we are always together. For me, it’s an emotional moment because I know that these girls are going on to bigger and better things, and I wish the best for all of them.”
UT will begin SEC Tournament play on Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.