REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK

PAID OFF: Pat Summitt installed a new offense this season that has taken the players some time to get used to.

It requires reading the defenses more and making the best decision from several options. When it wasn't working, UT converted to its old triangle offense, but they continued to practice the new stuff.

On Sunday Summitt's patience, or perhaps stubbornness, paid off.

"It's been a lot of fun; it's been a lot of hard work," Summitt said of the season to this point. "We started out early and put in a lot of new offensive looks. Tonight, they paid off. We ran a lot of our early offense when we were shooting 28 percent and losing. We ran very little triangle. We went back to a lot of our quick hitters that cost us in the fall. I kept telling our staff: ‘We keep running these every day, they're going to help us.' And they really helped us tonight. We got to move people an awful lot, got to get the ball inside. Give this team credit. They got the ball inside."

ALL-TOURNEY: Tennessee's Shyra Ely was named tourney MVP. She was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Seimone Augustus, LSU; Tasha Humphrey, Georgia; Temeka Johnson, LSU; and Armintie Price, Ole Miss.

FEARLESS FOWLES: LSU freshman Sylvia Fowles was the difference in the game in Baton Rouge – she had 17 rebounds – and was also a huge factor in this game. Fowles had 10 points and four blocks, but Tennessee did contain her on the boards. She finished with seven.

Besides keeping her off the glass, the Lady Vols wanted to mix it up on offense to try to neutralize some of her defensive power.

"We did a combination," Summitt said. "We went away from her and then at times we went at her. She can really change your shot selection in the paint. She's just terrific. I was just pleased we could score as much inside as we did when she was on the floor."

BLOODIED, NOT BROKEN: Lady Vol guard Shanna Zolman took a shot to the nose when she ran through a screen and into a Fowles' elbow. Remarkably, she still caught the ball – it was an in-bounds play – and while falling to the floor on the baseline threw the ball up with one hand. It went in, but the basket was waved off since she was fouled on the floor.

"It started bleeding," Zolman said. "Coach didn't know it was bleeding."

Then Zolman started grinning and said Summitt told her, "Oh, you're all right; get back in there."

Summitt defended herself by saying, "I didn't realize what she said."

"I'm just joking," Zolman said. "I started running down the floor and noticed it."

Since she was bleeding Zolman had to come out of the game. It took a few minutes to stop the bleeding, and then she had to change jerseys because of the blood.

"I was focused on trying to get it stopped so I could come back in," Zolman said.

FINAL SHOT: Tennessee's three seniors, Shyra Ely, Brittany Jackson and Loree Moore, made it clear at the beginning of the season that they didn't want to end their careers without an SEC Tournament title.

For Tennessee it was the first one since 2000. The seniors also have said they don't want to leave without a national title. The last one was in 1998.

"It's been a long time, not only the SEC Tournament but any type of tournament, especially for a Tennessee program that is accustomed to winning national championships, to winning tournaments of any sort," Zolman said. "I think tonight we obviously went in there with the attitude that nobody's going to stop us. We all had the fire in our eyes. We knew especially for our seniors coming in they were going to lead us. We wanted to work for them as they're working for us."

"Finally to get it," Jackson said. "This was one of our main goals. As a senior it feels great to finally get this. We can't stop here. We've got to celebrate this and start working hard."

"It's a great feeling to actually win the championship," Moore said.

The only ones who wanted it more than the seniors were their teammates. Dominique Redding woke up Sunday morning ready to take a title.

"I just felt it this morning. Loree had pumped me up so much. I was just like, ‘I'm ready.' I told all the coaches that. No hesitation. I didn't even think about it," Redding said. "It's unbelievable, because they wanted it so bad. As a team we wanted to get it for them so bad. We put it together and just got it."

THREE GAMES, ONE TROPHY: Coach Pat Summitt thought her team was tournament-ready, but she never knows for sure until the games are played. She got her answer this weekend.

"I thought this would be a great barometer for us and really tell us where are we," Summitt said. "I think you can now say that we are in a place where we understand how you have to compete for 40 minutes and how important possession basketball is as I told them and the importance of stepping up and making big plays late in the game.

"You think about the defensive plays in the last two games in the closing minutes of this basketball team. To me that really defines the character of our basketball team. That tells me that if we can maintain this – don't go and get the big head because we got to cut down the nets – we'll still be in the hunt come March Madness."

MARCH MADNESS: It might be a madness that Summitt would rather do without but there might be no avoiding it.

With Sunday's win, Summitt has 878 career wins. The record is 879, held by retired North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Since Tennessee hosts the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the milestone victory of 880 could come in Thompson-Boling Arena in the second game.

It's a distraction Summitt wants no part of – though she knows she can't avoid it – and she will quickly steer any questions about it and her accomplishments back to her players.

"Look what the players did," Summitt said. "Right now my focus is on this basketball team, and I want to give them everything and attempt to help them obtain their goals. That means going into March Madness and surviving and advancing. Our entire staff feels that way. We've been through some adversity, players injured. Nothing has broken the spirit of this team. I've worked them hard, and they've bought into it. That's more important to me right now than numbers."

Before the tournament started, Summitt felt like her team had to reach the championship game to secure a No. 1 seed. Now that the Lady Vols won the title, Summitt was softly lobbying to be sent to the regional site in Chattanooga. The other regionals are in Tempe, Ariz., Philadelphia and Kansas City, Mo.

"I hope so," Summitt said of a trip to Chattanooga. "I thought if we lost this game we might be shipped out. I'm glad we won this. We've got a great chance to go to Chattanooga. I think both Tennessee and LSU deserve No. 1 seeds. We'll just have to wait and see. Wherever we go, we'll pack our bags and go. Obviously we'd love to be in Tennessee, and I can only imagine a sellout if we go there. That's in the hands of the committee."

DIVINE INTERVENTION: Freshman guard Alexis Hornbuckle has inexplicably struggled at the free throw line this season, especially of late. Against LSU, she was fouled with 11 seconds remaining and Tennessee up by one point. She went to the line needing to hit the front end of a one-and-one.

"You know what? I prayed at the free throw line," Hornbuckle said. "When I put the ball up here (to her face), I was praying. I just needed that. I was like, ‘C'mon Lex. You can't choke on this one.'

"We needed it, and I'm the type of player if we need something, I want to be the one to give it to them. I was so happy it went in. Second one went in and out. I started backing up because I knew it was good. It went out. I just starting running fast."

Hornbuckle wanted the win as much as the seniors did.

"It means a lot. I told Loree before we even came to the SECs I want to do it for y'all, as in the seniors," Hornbuckle said. "The freshmen want to start off on a good note and start building. You get this confidence – this win is going to give us confidence – but we've got to buckle down and practice that much harder for NCAAs because now we've got teams gunning for us all over again, including LSU. It allowed me to see come game time, come big game time I can still do what I need to do. Coach had the confidence to say we need your attitude, we need you to buckle down and make a difference."


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