"It was a good team win, and I am proud of how we played."
Tennessee (11-3, 2-0), had a nine-point lead at halftime and ended up winning by 29 points over Georgia (12-3, 1-1).
Lady Bulldogs Coach Andy Landers was as disgusted with the outcome as Summitt was surprised by it.
"They did what they do, and we didn't affect it very well," Landers said. "I'm not real pleased with that. Not pleased at all. They did what they do. That sums it up.
"They played the way they played. Georgia didn't do one thing to change it."
The game didn't start that way – although Tennessee, and especially Ariel Massengale, did get out of the gate quickly – and the Lady Vols led at halftime, 36-27, easily within striking distance for Georgia.
"The coaches were reminding us that the score was too close," Lady Vols senior forward Glory Johnson said.
Tennessee got some separation to start the game and led 17-6 at the 13:32 mark of the first half after Massengale drove to the left and lofted the layup while falling forward.
Tennessee got a fast-paced game, as expected, and took advantage. The Lady Vols also got to the paint as desired. Shekinna Stricklen found Johnson cutting to the basket for an and-one play to open Tennessee's scoring and then Ariel Massengale found Stricklen on the low block.
That was followed by Massengale scoring in transition on a hesitation spin move for another and-one layup. On the next trip down the court, Georgia expected Meighan Simmons to set up behind the arc on the fast break and instead she cut to the rim and received a pass from Massengale for the layup.
Simmons hit two free throws after being fouled on a jumper and then Massengale scored the next eight points – two three balls after using screens and the forward-leaning layup, and the Lady Vols led 20-11 at the 11:27 media timeout. At that point Massengale's scoring output of 11 points matched Georgia's as a team.
But the Lady Bulldogs hung close and cut the lead to four points, 20-16, and then five points, 30-25, with 2:02 left before halftime.
On both occasions the crowd of 13,721 got restless and then cheered louder. It seemed to work as Tennessee got a bit more separation each time.
A bullet pass from Massengale to Vicki Baugh for a layup made it 28-19 with 5:37 before the break and the Lady Vols used the final two minutes to ratchet up the pace.
Stricklen scored on a drive and brought the crowd to its feet with back-to-back assists when she got the ball from Massengale and sent the ball to Johnson in a catch-and-pass motion for a layup and then drove and flipped the ball to Johnson for another layup to close the first half.
Tennessee then took a 36-27 lead into the locker room.
"We're a team that, we need to take off, and from halftime we're looking at (the fact that) we're playing with this team, and we should be playing just as hard and energy should be a lot higher than what we're showing," Johnson said.
"That's when we just had to take over."
Tennessee did just that, but it took a little while.
"Obviously, I'm excited about the win," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "I thought it was kind of a tale of two halves.
"In the first half, we played pretty even. … But we challenged our team to come out and take control of the first four minutes. I thought they did in the second half."
Georgia closed to within six points, 38-32, less than two minutes into the second half, and the fans got restless again. Stricklen drove – with her outside shot not falling, she put the ball on the floor – hit the layup and got fouled for a 41-32 lead at the 17:53 mark.
When Baugh hit two free throws at the 15:05 mark, the Lady Vols led, 46-36, and the lead never dipped below double digits.
Still, the Lady Bulldogs hovered for the next few minutes, but then Johnson got on the boards – she grabbed the ball after Stricklen was blocked, hit the layup and converted the free throw on the foul for a 51-36 lead at the 13:21 mark.
"I can't say enough about Glory Johnson," Warlick said. "I think she was everywhere. She was rebounding on the offensive end. She was rebounding on the defensive end. I thought she kept her composure. She was just outstanding."
Massengale got the ball to Stricklen in transition – she was fouled – and then delivered the ball to Johnson for a layup seconds before tumbling to the court for a 54-38 lead at the 12:27 mark.
"She makes a huge difference on the floor," Baugh said. "She's a true point guard and very smart. I forget she's a freshman. She's just really mature.
"I think she's handling it well. She doesn't feel pressure, and she talks to us; she knows she can talk to us."
Tennessee kept running – and scoring – and Georgia couldn't slow down the Lady Vols.
"Lack of fight, lack of motivation, lack of intuitiveness," Landers said. "Nothing pleased me. We didn't do one thing that I thought we did well.
"Nothing. That leaves everything else out there as bad. We didn't hustle. We didn't rebound."
Tennessee native and Georgia forward Jasmine Hassell said, "We didn't do our game plan that the coaches gave us. We didn't play Georgia basketball.
"We pretty much gave up, and we shouldn't have, and that is not Georgia basketball."
Tennessee emptied its bench – all 10 available players logged minutes – and the scoring kept coming from Cierra Burdick's offensive board work to Isabelle Harrison taking a feed from Alicia Manning for the layup.
That basket ended the scoring at 80-51. Georgia turned the ball over on its next possession, and Briana Bass dribbled out the clock for Tennessee.
"I just knew it was going to be a quick game, and we all know that Georgia loves to run in transition every time we play them," Johnson said. "We just wanted to let them know that we're a team that can run in transition, too, and so it's going to be a game."
"It was a great team effort," Warlick said. "People came in and did the things we needed to do at the time. That's what I'm proud of. Everybody got a chance to play and everybody contributed.
"If we do that on a consistent basis, we're a very good basketball team."
Georgia entered the game averaging 40.9 rebounds a game, but the Lady Vols dominated the glass, 52-32.
"I'll take out-rebounding our opponent by 20 boards on any night," Summitt said. "I was pleased to see so many people go hard to the glass.
"We are doing a much better job boxing out; it's been a point of emphasis in practice every day."
The Lady Vols outscored the Lady Bulldogs on second-chance points, 20-6.
"Look, Tennessee gets a rebound, if they get to the offensive boards they are going to get fouled," Landers said. "If they get fouled, they average 20 points a game at the free throw line.
"That is coming from offensive rebounds and coming from transition and running the ball to the basket. We gave up those two things tonight. We didn't even fight. We gave up those two things tonight, gave up 40 points right there.
"Defensively, we were horrible. We have a pretty good defense and we had no help concept, no rotation to where the breakdowns were. We weren't very good and then we started watching them."
Tennessee provided plenty to see as four players reached double figures in scoring and two did so on the boards.
Lady Bulldogs senior Meredith Mitchell led Georgia with 14 points and seven boards. No other Lady Bulldog reached double figures – though Anne Marie Armstrong came close at nine points – or had more than five boards.
"We just didn't do what we were supposed to do," Mitchell said. "We didn't get back. We didn't rebound. We didn't fight, and that's where the game turned for us for the worse."
Johnson led all scorers with 22 points and 13 boards. Baugh also reached double digits in boards with 10.
"Proud of Vicki Baugh," Summitt said. "Any time you rebound the way we do, great things are going to happen."
"It's part of our philosophy," Baugh said of the board work. "That's how we plan to get where we want to go, and we know that's what it's going to take if we want to have a national championship in the end.
"Defense and rebounding is Tennessee, and we're going to live by that no matter what."
Tennessee's goal is the Final Four and a national title, and the Lady Vols haven't been on basketball's biggest stage since 2008. That absence may have caused the program to somewhat overlook its dominance in the SEC, and Thursday was the 35th consecutive victory over a league opponent.
"Any kind of streak in this league is impressive," Landers said.
The streak wasn't a topic for the coaches until the media started bringing it up before conference play got underway.
"They've been totally remarkable in SEC play," Warlick said of the senior class' performance as a whole the past two seasons. "It's amazed me when I hear it. I didn't realize we'd won 35 games in a row.
"And we put a lot of value on going to the Final Four and competing for a national championship. Sometimes what we do in the SEC gets kind of put aside, but it's amazing to me that this group has done what they've done and been very competitive with it.
"I'm proud of what they've done. It's really incredible to go that long and go two years and win both the regular season and conference tournament. Because this is a tough conference, and you can see that it's getting better. Everybody's getting better.
"We just put a lot of emphasis in going to the Final Four and winning it, and maybe we've created a monster. I don't know, but every year, that's our ultimate goal. But it is our goal to win the SEC regular season and tournament as well."
Tennessee's next two games are at Arkansas and Kentucky, and road games in the conference are often adventuresome. Baugh, who had struggled on the road trips in December, is getting back in the flow now that SEC play has started.
"Vicki Baugh takes a lot of pressure off Glory Johnson as well," Warlick noted. "When Vicki Baugh plays as she does on the defensive end and rebounds, it's just a bonus for us.
"I think Vicki's got to get a little more comfortable on the offensive end. But I like where she is. I like her progression. I was excited with how she played and got some good minutes tonight."
Baugh added eight points on 2-2 shooting from the field and 4-4 from the line.
"I was pleased for Vicki," Summitt said. "This was one of her better games. She really played on balance and was tough on the glass. I thought it was one of her best defensive efforts."
Tennessee opened the game in its man defense, switched later to its matchup zone and then quickly got out of it. The zone, after some halftime adjustments, returned in the second half.
"We tried the zone the first half, and it wasn't very effective," Warlick said. "They were screening us on the baseline and getting open looks. We got out of it in the first half quickly and went back to man.
"We made some adjustments at halftime and came out, and we were a different team. We had more energy. We were guarding the screen. I thought it was effective. I thought we got them to quick-shoot the basketball.
"And we were rebounding. If we're not rebounding out of the zone, we've gotten out of it. We were pretty strong rebounding out of the zone, so it was working. We'll stick with it as long as it keeps working."
Georgia shot 34.9 percent (22-63) overall, 19.0 percent (4-21) from the arc and 50.0 percent (3-6) from the line.
Mitchell carried the scoring load for the Lady Bulldogs with 14 points. Armstrong added nine points and Hassell and Jasmine James chipped in with eight each.
"I thought Mitchell was outstanding," Warlick said. "She was shooting over us, and at times, we didn't have an answer for her."
Georgia had seven assists, 12 turnovers, six blocks and three steals.
Tennessee was led by Johnson's 22 points followed by Massengale's 19. Stricklen added 12 points, and Simmons chipped in with 10.
The Lady Vols shot 42.4 percent (28-66) overall, 30.8 percent (4-13) from the arc and 20-28 (71.4 percent) from the line. Tennessee had 16 assists, 11 turnovers, six steals and one block.
Tennessee outscored Georgia in the paint, 42-12.
"Georgia is an outstanding basketball team," Warlick said. "They're very athletic. They hit shots. … A win like this tonight is huge for us. It's a huge confidence builder. We don't really look at it that we've won 35 in a row or whatever we've done.
"As I've said, we play for the next game. And this was a huge game for us, huge conference game, and then we get on the road. I like our focus. I like us taking one game at a time."
INSIDE TENNESSEE'S TAKE
Two of Tennessee's perimeter players, Shekinna Stricklen and Meighan Simmons, have struggled to hit outside shots the past four games and combined to go 8-26 against Georgia.
Over the past four games, the pair shot 33 percent (33-100) – 34 percent for Simmons (18-53) and 32 percent for Stricklen (15-47).
And it really hasn't mattered.
Think back to last season and the one before that and the post-game press conferences likely included a lament from the coaches that the Lady Vols can't win – or expect to compete for championships – when the guards shoot so poorly.
But Tennessee is 4-0 in this stretch. Two of the opponents were Old Dominion and Chattanooga so that was not a surprise. But the other two opponents were SEC foes with a game on the road at Auburn and a ranked Georgia team at home.
And it still didn't matter. The Lady Vols broke open close games at halftime and romped in the second half to win handily by double digits.
There are two primary reasons – the overall play of Glory Johnson and the point guard play of Ariel Massengale, which has been enhanced by a flurry of scoring the past two games.
Also, while Stricklen and Simmons have struggled offensively, they both did other things well, especially against Georgia.
Simmons played energetic defense, and Stricklen had eight rebounds, three steals and three assists. They also both scored –Stricklen netted 12, mostly by forgoing the long ball and getting to the rim, and Simmons tallied 10 points.
One of Simmons' three made baskets – the other two were long balls – came on a cut to the basket in transition after the Georgia defender expected her to spot up behind the arc. A perfectly delivered bounce pass from Massengale to Simmons resulted in the layup.
Which brings Inside Tennessee's Take back to Massengale.
For the second game in a row she tallied 19 points – setting and then tying a career high – and also matched her previous high output of nine assists, first reached against Miami on Nov. 15.
Massengale now has 54 assists to just 22 turnovers on the season. She has done so despite missing three weeks in preseason to a concussion and two weeks in December to a severely dislocated finger.
Her point guard skills were superb enough for Pat Summitt to declare Massengale the starter before she set foot on campus – those whose eyebrows were raised by the proclamation likely have now seen why – but Massengale has also shown that she can be a scoring point guard.
Massengale basically shrugged it off as no big deal and noted the other two guards attract so much attention from the defense.
"It's just people know that Shekinna and Meighan can score, and so I just have to be a threat for our team on offense," Massengale said. "I know sometimes everything's not going to go their way, but all of us out there can put the ball in the basket."
The fact Massengale is doing so without losing her point guard vision – she had nine assists to just one turnover and would have easily reached double digits in helpers if not for some missed layups and open shots – is all the better for the Lady Vols.
"She's so good in the open court," Holly Warlick said. "I think she took the opportunity tonight to look for her shots. I thought Georgia's zone was very good. We had a little lull there. Then Ariel started penetrating and making plays.
"When she hits and scores, she's able to dish to other people, give Glory looks, Vicki looks. When she's shooting, she's a difficult point guard to defend. That's what she needs to be. She's not one-dimensional, and that's the point guard we've needed."
Coach Andy Landers will likely have a better grasp on Massengale's contribution to Tennessee upon further film review, but he was so livid with his team after Thursday's game that this was his answer to a question about what Massengale means to the Lady Vols.
"I've only watched her play in person one time," Landers said. "She did a lot of good things tonight, no misunderstanding, but if you think we did anything to disrupt her, it didn't happen.
"You would have looked good against us tonight, and I've never seen you play."
The media member he was talking to is a 49-year-old sportswriter who last played basketball in high school, so that's pure hyperbole but point taken.
Massengale went where she wanted to go, created three-ball looks and drives by being patient – she set up the play and waited on the screener. But she also puts so much pressure on the defense by pushing tempo, and she has willing participants to run with her because they know the ball is coming.
Massengale's assists came in the open floor and off perfectly timed lobs and bounce passes. All three of Simmons' made baskets were assisted by Massengale.
She has a knack for finding Johnson in the paint and delivering the ball where Johnson needs it.
Which brings us to Johnson.
Landers perhaps said it best.
"She does what she does," Landers said in response to a local newspaper columnist's question. "You saw it. You've watched it. If you're a Tennessee fan, you probably enjoy it, and every game gets greater and greater because she goes to the offensive boards. She manhandles whoever is there.
"If you try and guard her, she comes right at you and makes you foul her. Put that in a can, because the next time we play that's what she's going to do again.
"She didn't do one thing tonight that you haven't seen 30 times. Did she? No. That is what she does and we didn't resist her."
Johnson had 13 boards against Georgia and with four more will have 1,000 for her career.
That will put her in rarefied air with Sheila Frost, Tamika Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw as the only players in program history to tally at least 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 points in a career. Johnson now has 996 rebounds and 1,331 points.
She has tallied double-doubles in the past four games with a total of 62 points and 50 rebounds.
"Glory was just flat-out terrific from the opening tip," Pat Summitt said.
Indeed, she was.
So much so that a shooting slump by two key scorers has been barely noticeable.
That doesn't mean Tennessee doesn't need Simmons and Stricklen to find their stroke. That will be critical, because Massengale's shot won't always fall and defensive scouting reports previously focused on Simmons and Stricklen will now add "threat to score" to the one on Massengale.
But it has been timely for Tennessee with Stricklen and Simmons misfiring on their jumpers.
Massengale has helped cushion that dropoff, and with Taber Spani resting a knee bruise, her marksmanship has especially been welcome to the team.
Massengale makes it seem simple.
"Just playing the game," Massengale said. "It's all about (taking) what the defense gives you, and the times they leave you open, you have to knock down the open shots, and the other times when they're on you and your teammates are open, you've got to give them the ball."
Summitt perhaps said it best.
"When you have a point guard who is that mentally ready to play and executes the game plan, lots of good things can happen," Summitt said.
"She was all over the place on offense and defense and dictated tempo and the pace of the game. Isn't she fun to watch?"
Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick
Glory Johnson, Vicki Baugh, Ariel Massengale
Georgia Coach Andy Landers, Jasmine Hassell, Meredith Mitchell
Highlights from Lady Vols website