Glory Johnson leads Lady Vols

Tennessee got back in the win column Sunday with an 87-64 victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt. Go inside for the game story, Inside Tennessee's take and post-game press conference videos.

Pat Summitt delivered the thunder at halftime, and her team responded with inspired defense in the second half to break open a three-point game at halftime into a 23-point victory.

The senior frontline of Tennessee (13-4, 4-1) reached double-digit scoring and the freshman point guard tallied 12 assists to lead the Lady Vols to the 87-64 win over in-state rival Vanderbilt (14-3, 2-2) before a raucous home crowd of 17,879.

The victory was Summitt's 500th win at home. She now has 1,084 career wins, so she is just 16 away from 1,100.

"If you question that Pat Summitt has an influence on this team, at halftime, she had a major influence," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said.

"She challenged them the way Pat Summitt challenges them. They were inspired when they left the locker room."

It was the first outing for the Lady Vols since the 61-60 defeat at Kentucky in which Tennessee struggled to hit shots and hold onto the ball, went down 12 points, had a three-point lead late in the game and then lost in the final seconds.

"She asked us, ‘What have we been doing? This looks like the Kentucky game,' " Lady Vol forward Vicki Baugh said. And (she said) we cannot play like this and win against anybody no matter who the team is. So, that was just motivation.

"We're wearing ‘We Back Pat' shirts as well. We know we're Tennessee, and we can't just put on the orange and win. I think she reinforced that."

The entire week of home games in the SEC, women and men, is part of the "We Back Pat" initiative in which schools promote Summitt's foundation and raise awareness of Alzheimer's.

Tennessee's assistant coaches wore their usual dress suits, but with a fashion twist. They had "We Back Pat" T-shirts on under their suit jackets. Summitt donned an orange blazer that she often breaks out for the Vandy game but she didn't wear her own T-shirt underneath it.

The first half wasn't Summitt's style of basketball. The second half was vintage Tennessee.

"Obviously, I thought we really committed to our defense and our board play, especially in the second half," Summitt said. "We've been talking about that consistently. We've also been stressing the need to pound the ball inside if we could.

"We have to take advantage of what Glory, Kinna and Vicki can do in the paint."

The next order of business for Tennessee is to get a definitive diagnosis of the condition of Shekinna Stricklen's right knee. Stricklen's knee was hit by the knee of a Vandy player while both attempted to snare a rebound. When Stricklen landed, the knee shifted slightly backwards, and she crumpled to the court in pain.

The preliminary diagnosis was a knee sprain, and Stricklen will undergo additional tests on Monday to determine the extent of the injury.

Stricklen came to the post-game press conference on crutches and fielded questions about the game and her knee. Stricklen said she thought she may have hyperextended her knee, but she didn't know yet and would await the final word from Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine.

"Honestly, I just felt the pain," Stricklen said. "I really don't have a clue, but I trust JMo. I know we have the best trainers, and I know I'll be all right."

Baugh, Stricklen and Glory Johnson reached double digits – and did a good job of finding each other inside – and set the tone defensively in the second half.

"I think one thing Vanderbilt did well was set a lot of screens, and at first we were kind of hitting the screens and (it was) every man for himself," Johnson said. "In the second half we came out (and said), ‘OK, we're a team.' We're going to help each other through the screens. If they get stuck, we're going to switch.

"We're going to do whatever it takes to stop them. It's not really one-on-one if your man screens, and you have to help. Our guards did a great job of fighting through the screens, and I think that intensity, along with communication, helped us defensively."

The defensive issues in the first half started on the ball, and Vandy's guards got little resistance from Ariel Massengale, Meighan Simmons and Stricklen.

"I really challenged Ariel at halftime, and she really responded with a better second half," Summitt said. "She's the type of player who will take the information and use it. That's exactly what she did."

The initial listlessness meant Tennessee had a 7-3 lead at the 17:20 mark of the first half – Massengale teamed with Alicia Manning on a trap and got the steal and a layup – that turned into a 13-9 lead for Vandy after Christina Foggie drained an 18-footer over Stricklen, and Jasmine Lister got to the rim with ease against Simmons.

At halftime, the Tennessee coaches asked for more pressure on the ball – they had shifted Johnson outside at times but she also had to account for the Vandy bigs inside – from Massengale and the other guards.

"It started with Ariel on the ball," Warlick said. "When she had pressure, Shekinna got more intense, Meighan got more intense, and it carried over. I didn't think our pressure was very good in the first half.

"It starts with Massengale, and that's a lot of pressure on a freshman, but she's one of the best point guards in the country. She needs to take that responsibility. As we're asking her to do offensive things, get our team in an offense, we're asking her to come out and play hard on the defensive end and set the example."

Tennessee knotted the game at 13 in the first half after Simmons swiped the ball from Stephanie Holzer and hit the layup, but, in what became a pattern in the first half, Vandy answered on its end.

Backup point guard Briana Bass entered for Massengale at the 9:29 mark of the first half and provided effective minutes in relief.

"Bree gave us some quality minutes at Kentucky, too," Warlick said. "I never question Bree's heart or her ability to defend. I think sometimes her size affects her on the defensive end, but she plays hard.

"She gets after it on the ball and sets the tone for us when she's in. She doesn't make a lot of mistakes. She's a team player and she's into the game whether she's on the bench or playing."

Massengale reentered at the 5:35 mark for Kamiko Williams, and Bass remained on the floor. Bass hit a timely three-pointer from the left corner that was assisted by Massengale at the 3:55 mark to give Tennessee a 33-26 lead.

Baugh followed up with a drive and floater for a 33-26 lead at the 3:32 mark, and Vandy Coach Melanie Balcomb got a timeout.

It worked because Foggie drained back-to-back three-pointers to trim the lead to three, 35-32, with 2:39 left before halftime.

The margin remained at three when the teams went to the locker with Tennessee leading, 39-36.

The Lady Vols, sparked by Summitt's halftime declarations, got in gear in the second half, and it was Balcomb's turn to be displeased with a half of play.

"I think they came out more inspired and intense on defense and took away passes and shot the gap and got us to turn it over," Balcomb said. "We have been struggling all year. We have not come out inspired after halftime, the first four minutes. I thought we helped feed into that.

"We did not come out the way we should have as well."

Tennessee had just three turnovers in the second half while Vanderbilt lost the ball 15 times after the break. The Lady Vols also hit 55.6 percent of their shots in the second half.

"When you're not turning the ball over and have the opportunity to make plays and score, your chances of winning are a lot better," Warlick said.

Foggie finished the game with 27 points, but she wasn't getting the open threes that she got in the first half when she was 4-7 from behind the arc.

"In the first half I hit a few threes and after halftime they were more up in my space, and that is when I became aggressive and attacked the basket, got fouled a few times," Foggie said. "It was just an adjustment of how to score after halftime."

Stricklen struggled to guard Foggie in the first half – Johnson shifted to her at times to help – but did better in the second half, despite picking up four fouls in the process.

"She still had some open shots, but I think we limited her shots a little more in the second half," Stricklen said. "I think my teammates had my back and called the screens. They made sure if she curled there would be someone there.

"We just have to do it from the beginning of the game and not just wait until the second half."

Warlick did note that the Lady Vols' struggles in the first half were not all of their own doing.

"Vandy runs a variety of defenses and changes them up," Warlick said. "They're good. They're physical. They're very well coached.

"I think it was a combination of what Vandy was doing to us and our lack of effort and not playing as hard as we're capable of doing. I think it was pretty much a combination of both."

The script seemed to flip for the teams in the second half.

"I liked how calm we were in the first half in this atmosphere," Balcomb said. "I was disappointed in the second half just because I felt like they really outworked us, outhustled us and were more aggressive, and we didn't rise to that challenge and that is what we needed to do.

"That second half, we can't play that way against anybody in the SEC."

Tennessee turned a close game into a rout in the second half.

"I thought we really did a nice job of forcing Vanderbilt turnovers in the second half instead of committing them," Summitt said. "That was huge for us."

Tennessee also got on the glass, especially on the offensive end. The Lady Vols shot 52.9 percent for the game and 17 of their 39 boards came on offense. Tennessee had 21 second chance points to 11 for Vandy.

"Turnovers and offensive rebounds," Balcomb said. "That is usually the stat that jumps out to me every time I play Tennessee."

Tennessee's lead stayed in single digits for the first eight minutes of the second half, but then the Lady Vols ratcheted up the defense and discombobulated the Commodores.

The surge was led by Johnson and the other two frontline players, Stricklen and Baugh. The Commodore post players struggled to guard them, especially Holzer who committed three fouls in four minutes. Her first foul was called at the 15:38 mark against Johnson – the whistle came seconds after the official had given Holzer some instructions – and the fans erupted with sarcastic applause because Holzer and Johnson had been entangled on multiple occasions.

Post player Tiffany Clarke, who had started for Holzer, had two fouls in the first half, and picked up two quick ones to start the second half.

Holzer then ended up fouling out within eight minutes. Her fifth came after Baugh secured the defensive board, and Holzer reached in from behind as Baugh turned to head up court.

"Every time we play Tennessee we get into early foul trouble," Balcomb said. "I'm not going to blame the officials. Our kids know we play them twice a year, sometimes three times and if you are the aggressor, that wouldn't happen.

"Tennessee, especially Glory Johnson is so aggressive, Shekinna Stricklen was aggressive and Vicki Baugh is extremely aggressive. It puts us in a bad position that we are fighting back, and we are already behind the play.

"They just beat us to the spot and did the work early that we didn't do."

Vanderbilt was led by Foggie with 27 points. Holzer also reached double figures with 14 points. Lister added nine, and Clarke chipped in with eight points.

The Commodores shot 45.1 percent (23-51) overall, 31.3 percent (5-16) from the arc and 81.3 percent (13-16) from the line. Vandy had 24 turnovers, 14 assists, eight steals and one block.

Stricklen led Tennessee with 20 points, while Johnson and Baugh added 16 each. Johnson completed the double-double with 13 boards. It was the second-consecutive effective game for Baugh, who was 7-10 from the floor with seven boards.

"If Vicki Baugh plays like that, we're a much better basketball team," Warlick said. "She's put two games, as you said, back-to-back.

"She's a leader for us. She's a leader for us on and off the floor. Our players get excited when Vicki Baugh does something special."

Massengale also did something special. She had 12 assists, which set a freshman record. Simmons held the record when she had 11 assists against Alabama on Jan. 6, 2011. Massengale had three assists in the first half and nine in the second.

"I'm not surprised," Summitt said. "She has such great court vision and gets her teammates in a position to score."

Simmons also reached double digits with 10 points. Manning added eight points, while Massengale and Cierra Burdick had six each.

Tennessee shot 52.9 percent (36-68) overall, 25.0 percent (4-16) from long range and 57.9 percent (11-19) from the line.

The Lady Vols had 22 assists, 13 turnovers, 14 steals and one block. They prevailed on the boards, 39-30, and scored 28 points off turnovers compared to 10 for Vandy.

"I'm proud of our effort the second half, but we continue to need to put 40 minutes together as a basketball team," Warlick said.

Johnson logged 33 minutes and gave maximum effort throughout her time on the court.

The Lady Vols will have Monday off, but Johnson expects to inhabit the training room.

"I'll spend the majority tomorrow, since we have an off day, in the training room getting treatment, because I'm hurting today, and then I'm going to wake up feeling worse," Johnson said.

"It's all right, though."

INSIDE TENNESSEE'S TAKE

If human cloning were truly possible, the Lady Vols likely would have already had Glory Johnson duplicated.

Since the loss at Stanford, Johnson has played with a combination of ferocity and poise at both ends of the floor, and she has done so despite absorbing a physical beating in every game.

In post-game press conferences, she looks like a human Popsicle with ice bags taped to assorted body parts. She didn't have one on her head Sunday – though she had an ice pack on her right eye after having her head driven into the court shortly before halftime – but that was likely because she needed to be able to speak.

"Glory is our rock," Holly Warlick said. "She's our constant on the offensive end, scoring, rebounding. She just goes to work.

"She's a constant on the defensive end as well. If we have to lay our hat on somebody, it's Glory Johnson She plays the game the way it should be played, with a lot of effort, a lot of heart."

Johnson stood with Pat Summitt at center court before the game to be honored with a ceremonial game ball to recognize the fact that she became the fourth-player in program history to score at least 1,000 points and tally at least 1,000 rebounds. The other three were Sheila Frost, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings.

Summitt and Johnson posed for photos and before Johnson ran to the tunnel for pre-game introductions, Summitt hugged the senior forward and told her that she loved her.

Johnson, who smiled as she walked away from her coach, then went out and played Summitt's style with effort on every possession.

"Glory just plays so hard," Summitt said. "You probably noticed it was pretty physical in there. I was really impressed with Glory's composure and energy. She was so focused on finishing her shot or boxing out for the rebound no matter how many people she had around her.

"She made such a big difference for us."

One play in particular summed up Johnson's approach to this season. She deflected the ball away from a Vandy ball handler – in the first half Johnson was the only defender putting pressure on the guards so Tennessee had to shift her out of the paint despite Vandy's size – and the ball bounced toward center court.

The Vandy player was now between Johnson and the ball. The easy thing to do would have been to reset and await the ball again. But Johnson darted around the Commodore, dove for the ball, secured it for Tennessee and got her head driven into the court when the Vandy player – perhaps startled that Johnson had scooted past her – dove onto her back.

Johnson had to be helped off the court and spent the final 1:49 of the first half with an ice pack on her right eye.

While Jenny Moshak attended to Johnson and then helped her walk to the bench, Summitt summoned one of the officials, pointed to the spot on the floor and stated her case.

The crowd erupted with applause with fans giving Summitt a standing ovation.

A very resilient Johnson was back on the court for the start of the second half.

Her impact is such that the opposing team's scheme is to steer the ball away from her.

"I think it's hard to get open on her, so it's hard to enter the ball," Vanderbilt Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "We try to avoid entering the ball when she is defending and have our other post come up and give us some relief.

"She makes it difficult for you to enter the ball to the post to start your offense, as well as anytime you set a ball screen. If she is the one out hedging or trapping hard, she's really tough on getting deflections. She is so athletic on smaller guards like we have."

When Tennessee was last getting to the Final Fours and adding trophies to the basketball office, it had what came to be called "The Big Three" in Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike and Candace Parker.

Johnson could have joined that group with her effort. Tennessee could also form a new Big Three in Johnson, Vicki Baugh and Shekinna Stricklen.

It would be late arriving but, as they say, better late than never.

Baugh has shaken off her uneasiness on the court and has shown in the past two games why she can change the outcome of a game on both ends.

"I have been so pleased the way Vicki has been playing coming off the bench," Summitt said. "Besides scoring, she has really gotten active and come up with a lot of hustle plays for us."

Stricklen is the team's lone All-American whose play can be uneven at times – case in point, her defense in the first half versus the second half – but who changes the tenor of a game – and that of her teammates – when she plays with energy.

"Stricklen's got to know she's a leader by example for us on the court," Warlick said. "So, if she gets after it, shows emotion, then our team seems to take it to another level. We need that from Stricklen.

"Obviously, we need her offensive punch, but she's got to get better on the defensive end. And I thought in the second half, she got serious about defense."

Now, the Lady Vols hope Stricklen can stay that way, but they first have to get a definitive diagnosis on the status of her right knee. She suffered a sprain after a collision with a Vandy player while both went for a rebound that had caromed near the baseline.

It would be brutal if the injury turned out to be serious after the frontline production and effort of Stricklen, Baugh and Johnson, who combined for 52 points and 23 boards in Sunday's win.

The trio has the ability to be another Big Three. What was missing was consistent production and energy on both ends. Baugh is finally getting more comfortable on the court after missing nearly two years to recover from ACL surgeries. Stricklen has always had the ability to play this way. Johnson has taken every aspect of her game to another level in her final season.

Tennessee now has a point guard to get them the ball in freshman Ariel Massengale. She looks to feed the post and has a knack for delivering the ball where the post players need to receive it.

A freshman point guard has a smoother road if three seniors are ready to play every game.

"Like you said, we're seniors, and I think all of us have that leadership ability and have a leadership role on the team," Baugh said. "I think all of our seniors are just great assets to the team in helping our freshmen.

" ‘Big Three' is great, and it's great if you guys see us as the ‘Big Three.' I would definitely consider that a compliment being compared to Nicky Anosike, Candace Parker and Alexis Hornbuckle."

It goes beyond a compliment. It was a state of mind on the court, and it's been missing at Tennessee since the trio left for the WNBA.

The new trio has the capability to play that way. Johnson is there, Baugh – the only one on the team to play with the previous trio – is on the way, and Stricklen has shown she can do it when she sets her mind to it.

It would be one of the cruelest twists of injury fates – and the Lady Vols have seen more than their fair share of them over the years – if Stricklen's knee injury is more troublesome than initially believed.

"All I remember is going up for the ball, and I don't know," Stricklen said. "I hit my knee, and I came down wrong. I probably hyperextended it, but I really don't know."

That medical answer will come this week for a team that at times seems to have more question marks than answers.

Summitt, once again, had to let loose in the locker room at halftime, to get the entire team inspired to play.

"It doesn't hurt to remind them about the pride of wearing the orange … especially when you are playing your cross-state rival in Vanderbilt," Summitt said. "I think they received the message I delivered and responded in a positive way."

Johnson wasn't the one who needed to hear it. The solution on the court has turned out to be simple for her – go hard every play.

That, of course, is not as easy as it sounds. The frontline is physical territory on both ends. Rebounding is a contact sport within the sport. Playing a stopper style of defense is exhausting.

"As a coach, you ask a young lady to play every possession as hard as she can, and that's what Glory Johnson does," Warlick said. "She continues to do that. She's getting beat up a little inside, but she's got a maturity about her.

"I just can't say enough about Glory and what she's doing for this basketball team."

VIDEO COVERAGE

Pat Summitt, Glory Johnson

Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick

Shekinna Stricklen, Glory Johnson, Vicki Baugh

Vandy Coach Melanie Balcomb, Christina Foggie

Highlights from Lady Vols YouTube channel


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