"We anticipated this freshman class would be good, and those two have excelled," Summitt said.
The play of Hornbuckle and Anosike has been vital because three members of the class - Alex Fuller, Candace Parker and Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood - are injured. Fuller and Parker took redshirt years to recover from preseason knee surgeries, and Wiley-Gatewood played only 13 games. She will have knee surgery March 21.
The play of Ely, who has moved back to the power forward position, is key for UT's postseason chances. Over the final five games of the regular season, Ely averaged 20.2 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Tennessee (23-4) gets the postseason started Friday when it takes on the winner of Auburn-Kentucky at 3:15 p.m. at the SEC Tournament in Greenville, S.C.
Summitt said she had no preference about coaching against either team and noted they are "two coaches that I've known for years, and all of us being friends."
Kentucky is coached by Mickie DeMoss, an assistant under Summitt for 18 years. Auburn is coached by Nell Fortner.
"You play the team that moves forward," Summitt said.
Entering into the postseason is a Tennessee team that hasn't been known for Summitt's trademark defense.
"Usually we're just better defensively," Summitt said.
The last two practice sessions on Monday and Tuesday were devoted to defense and game situations. Nobody who attended Tuesday's practice could have left Thompson-Boling Arena without knowing the date, March 1. Summitt reminded her team of it on several occasions with a rejoinder to increase the intensity level.
"This is the time of the year I really believe coaches and players have to have a sense of urgency," Summitt said. "The coaches have to demand it if it's not occurring. At this point you hope nothing goes unnoticed."
Summitt is optimistic about her team's postseason chances. One positive sign for her is the marked improvement in half-court execution.
"This is a must for us," Summitt said. "You've got to make shots."
The return of Ely inside has greatly influenced the offensive bottom line.
"I think it's had a bigger impact on rebounding and scoring," Summitt said. "It's allowed us to understand inside-outside play."
Ely does an excellent job of getting open inside and finishing under the basket. Ely's time spent on the perimeter at small forward improved her overall game, Summitt said.
"She has learned to read defenses better," Summitt said. "She has a different approach for the post game. She's a smarter basketball player having played both spots."
Ely also brings the mindset of a defensive stopper to the floor and can defend in the paint or, as is more likely, pick up a smaller player on the perimeter. The tandem of Ely and Anosike has brought Summitt the defensive intensity she seeks and also has served as an example to the other post players, Summitt said.
Ely's ability to play at either spot also allows Summitt to deploy a large lineup with Anosike and Tye'sha Fluker inside.
"We can still post her up out of that lineup," Summitt said of Ely.
Although Summitt is pleased with the team's latest display of offensive efficiency, nothing has changed her mantra that defense and rebounding wins championships.
"You have to influence how teams play," Summitt said. "You can't just out-score people. We really have to change the way they do things against us."
Tennessee's first postseason game Friday gives Summitt a chance to enter the record books. A win would be her 876th, drawing her even with legendary coach Adolph Rupp. The record is held by Dean Smith with 879, and Summitt could tie and pass him in the NCAA Tournament.
When Summitt hears those numbers she thinks not of herself but of the long line of women who wore orange and white.
"It's a who's who of women's basketball," Summitt said.
Summitt also believes this team has a solid shot at a national title.
"I think we definitely can make a run at a championship," Summitt said. "I really do."
The following SEC players were honored: * indicates unanimous decision
First Team All-SEC: Tasha Humphrey, Georgia*; Seimone Augustus, LSU*; Tan White, Mississippi State*; Ashley Earley, Vanderbilt*; Natasha Brackett, Auburn; Temeka Johnson, LSU; Armintie Price, Ole Miss; and Shyra Ely, UT.
Second Team All-SEC: Bernice Mosby, Florida; Sara Potts, Kentucky; Sylvia Fowles, LSU; Amber Watts, Ole Miss; Shanna Zolman, UT; Carla Thomas, Vandy; Dee Davis, Vandy; Monique Bivins, Alabama.
All-Freshman Team: Tasha Humphrey, Georgia*; Sylvia Fowles, LSU*; Alexis Hornbuckle, UT*; Nicky Anosike, UT*; Alexis Ogubie, Auburn; Samantha Mahoney, Kentucky; Sara Elliott, Kentucky; Quianna Chaney, LSU; and Megan Darrah, Georgia.
Coach of the Year: Pokey Chatman, LSU
Player of the Year: Seimone Augustus, LSU
Freshman of the Year: Tasha Humphrey, Georgia
Defensive Player of the Year: Armintie Price, Ole Miss
6th Woman of the Year: Sylvia Fowles, LSU
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Sarah Pfeifer, Arkansas