"We had a tremendous amount at stake today," LSU head coach Sue Gunter said. "The game we played in Baton Rouge was one of those things where Tennessee wanted it more than we did. It's a championship and it makes a statement for us as a team."
The Lady Tiger must now wait and see if the NCAA Tournament selection committee awards Gunter's team a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
"Hopefully, the impact of this game is that both teams earn a No. 1 seed," Gunter said.
The Lady Tigers (27-3) completed a three-day run scoring 78 points in each game won in North Little Rock. Last weekend's win over Arkansas (78-72), Vanderbilt (78-69) and finally Tennessee (78-62) completed a string of three straight victories over the only three teams to beat the Lady Tigers this season.
"We knew coming in here we would have to beat the three teams that had defeated us," Gunter said. "I don't know what else we could possibly do to deserve a No. 1 seed."
If Sunday's was any indication of things to come for the Lady Tigers, LSU is without a doubt a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Tigers never trailed in the game grabbing the momentum of the contest from the onset. Tennessee (28-4), who went undefeated in conference play during the regular season, had few answers for Johnson, Augustus and the rest of the Lady Tigers as LSU built a comfortable 17-point lead by the halftime intermission.
"I am disappointed in our lack of competitiveness and big play ability," Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said. "Kara Lawson and Shanna Zolman put up the only big numbers we can recognize. You aren't going to beat a team like LSU, who has their balance on offense, if our starters only score 14 points without Kara Lawson. This is a time we could learn something."
Lawson, who sank a game-winning shot with one second left to upend Mississippi State 76-75 in the semifinals Saturday, finished with 16 points, eight points below her average of 24 per game. Zolman was the only other Lady Vol in double figures with 15 points.
Johnson, who scored 18 points in an 81-80 win over Tennessee in last season's semifinals, sliced through the Tennessee defense with ease. Along with two-dozen points on 10-of-15 shooting, Johnson grabbed nine rebounds and dished out seven assists.
"Tameka Johnson is a difference maker for them," Summitt said. "They pushed the ball in transition and made plays. We didn't have an answer for her. We didn't have an answer for her the first time we played them. The difference was the first time we defended better and scored better."
LSU forward Aiysha Smith gets the ball from Tennessee guard Shanna Zolman. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Johnson said she made up her mind even before the game began how she would perform.
"My mindset was to come out and play hard," she said. "I was definitely going to win tonight."
Tennessee was miserable from the field sinking 24-of-64 shots for an under whelming 37.2-percent. LSU, on the other hand, popped 30-of-60 nets to finish at a sparkling 50-percent.
"We didn't play well in the first half of any game this tournament," Summitt said. "I hold our starters responsible for that. We have to play defense and score. We went on long droughts in these games. Maybe our starters are complacent, but they certainly aren't productive with the exception of Kara Lawson."
Speaking of production, Augustus has been spark plug for Gunter's team in the second half. After scoring all 20 of her points in the second half against Vanderbilt, Augustus put up 10, second half points finishing with 12 on the day.
"Tonight I just felt it more and I got some really good looks and knocked them down," Augustus said.
LSU opened the game with seven straight points sparked by a driving layup and foul shot by Johnson. Two quick layups by Aiysha Smith put the Lady Tigers on top 7-0 with 15:16 left to play. Tennessee did not dent the scoreboard until Zolman converted a four-footer at the 15:07 mark.