‘Sweet’ trip not easy for tough Lady Vols
Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 7:00 pm
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Glory Johnson figures that in the past she might have slugged an opponent in such a physical game.
Instead, she kept her cool and Tennessee moved on.
The Lady Vols would love nothing more than to make another Final Four with Pat Summitt, and they moved one step closer Monday, beating DePaul 63-48 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Shekinna Stricklen scored 17 points and Johnson grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds.
Vicki Baugh scored 16 for the Lady Volunteers (26-8), who grabbed a double-digit lead early in the second half and closed out a physical game in which players seemed to hit the floor about as often as they hit shots.
“My whole attitude has kind of developed over time,” said Johnson, a senior. “That’s something I thank my teammates for and my coaches. They always kind of keep me composed and say, ‘The refs will handle it.’ Or, ‘We’ll talk to the refs. We’ll talk to the refs, don’t worry about it, keep playing as hard as you can.’ I just rely on my teammates and my coaches and trust them. If I keep working, they’ll handle it. As a freshman, that wasn’t going to happen. All I knew is if someone ticked me off, I’d hit them back. I’m a lot more composed.”
The referees didn’t call many fouls, with Tennessee attempting 18 free throws and DePaul just five, and both teams got their share of bumps and bruises along the way.
Tennessee stretched a five-point halftime lead to 12 early in the second half and was up 42-29 after a hook shot by Baugh with 11:41 remaining.
The Lady Vols remained in control from there and moved closer toward their ultimate goal — a 19th Final Four and ninth NCAA title.
The powerhouse program hasn’t been that far since it repeated as champions in 2008, a nearly four-year drought that might as well be four decades given its history.
If the Lady Vols have another reason to make it to Denver.
Summitt announced in early August that she has early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, and she might not coach beyond this season. There have been ups and downs on the court, too, but Tennessee appears to be in stride at the moment, with six straight wins after improving to 20-0 against the Blue Demons.
Tennessee routed DePaul in December in New York and prevailed this time on the court where the Blue Demons’ men’s team plays most of its home games.
The Lady Vols shot just over 37 percent but prevailed anyway thanks to a huge rebounding advantage, particularly in the second half. The final tally was 51-31 after Tennessee outrebounded the Blue Demons by two in the first half.
Anna Martin scored 20 points for DePaul (23-11), but a difficult season came to an end. The Blue Demons were hit hard by injuries, losing star Keisha Hampton (knee), and were forced to go with a seven-player rotation.
“I think a lot of people counted us out, but we’re not that kind of program and we proved that in making the NCAA tournament in the first place and then pushing through into the second round,” forward Katherine Harry said.
DePaul made its 10th straight NCAA, but came up short against one of the marquee programs.
No other school has made all 31 NCAA tournaments, and the only time Tennessee failed to reach the Sweet 16 was in 2009, when the Lady Vols got knocked out in the first round, a year after capturing their eighth championship. The only player left from that team is Baugh.
“I think in the past, they’ve looked ahead,” associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “I think they thought if they put a Tennessee uniform on, they’re going to win a national championship, but it’s hard work. It doesn’t just happen.” Published in The Messenger 3.20.12