Afterwards, it seemed almost like a purge for Tennessee.
"Finally get that off my back," said sophomore guard Shekinna Stricklen, who added she knew reminders of the loss would still crop up on occasion. "Not as much, but I don't think people are ever going to let that go away."
The win does allow the players to put some true distance between them and that crushing 2009 loss – which forced them back to practice a year ago plus conditioning workouts so difficult that Pat Summitt said it was tough for even her to watch – because they can now focus on the second round.
"It does help because we finally are past the first round," sophomore forward Glory Johnson said. "We're excited, but at the same time we're thinking about what the next mission is. But it does help a lot as far as us growing from last year."
No. 1 seed Tennessee, 31-2, took out No. 16 seed Austin Peay, 15-18, in methodical fashion after opening a 15-0 lead in a little over six minutes.
"Overall, I thought we came ready to play," Summitt said. "We started out really strong and then kind of gave in to fatigue and that's when you have to start coaching a little bit more. Halftime was good."
The Lady Vols led at halftime, 37-16, and Summitt had emptied her bench, but Tennessee barely led on the boards, 21-20, and had played in spurts at times.
Part of that was the assorted combinations on the floor – all 10 players logged minutes in the first half – and part was the last remnants of the backwash of a year ago when the program was saddled with its first-ever first round loss in the NCAA tourney. Tennessee took some tentative shots to start the game, as a few nerves were being worked out in the first half.
The exception was Kelley Cain, who was 5-5 in the first half for 10 points and also tallied six rebounds in 11 minutes of play. Cain couldn't play in the second half of the Ball State game because of her ailing knee, but she added 11 more minutes after the break this time and finished with 18 points on 9-11 shooting with 12 boards for the double-double.
"Obviously, Kelley has done a great job," Summitt said. "I thought today she really worked for the ball and also us being able to get the ball inside. You've got to give our guards a lot of credit for getting her touches."
Angie Bjorklund hit four 3-pointers and was 5-13 from the field – she also hit a long two – and tallied 14 points. Stricklen added 12 points on 4-7 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, including four on the offensive end off teammates' misses.
"I thought Shekinna Stricklen pushed tempo," Summitt said. "She has really elevated her intensity both offensively and defensively. Pushing tempo for us is something that she does better than anyone right now.
"What can you say about Angie Bjorklund? She is going to hunt shots, and she is going to knock down shots for us. And it takes a lot of pressure off of our defense."
Summitt wasn't particularly pleased at halftime, especially with the slim edge on the boards and uneven play at times, depending on combinations on the floor.
"I think it sets the tone. When you come out and you are ready to play, it's a feel-good for our coaching staff, our team, our fans, our administration that we are ready to play and we're ready to take it up to the highest level and get the job done," Summitt said. "That's why I wasn't happy at halftime. That's my job is to make sure that I am holding everyone accountable, including myself.
"Because I do think this team plays very well together. They're unselfish. They understand playing from the inside out. I think defensively they are committed. We have to get every player in that circle to understand what you have to bring every night."
That was pretty much the same way the players saw it but with an even heavier emphasis on getting better in their remarks, especially from the freshman Kamiko Williams. Summitt's postseason approach often orients to one of praise for her team, but she wasn't too pleased with the spurts in effort from several spots on the floor at various times in the game.
"I thought (Alyssia) Brewer was picking and choosing when she was going to play hard," Summitt said." I had no idea what Glory Johnson was going to do or Kamiko Williams. Those are three players that are difference makers for us, and I am not going to let up. So hopefully (Sunday) after I watch film with all three of them and we get back on the court, they will be a little bit better."
" … Lyssi did some good things, but she can be so much better. We'll challenge her for the next game, and I think she will respond to that."
Alyssia Brewer was 4-10 from the field for eight points, but the misses for the usually accurate shooter were at the rim, causing the sophomore forward to laugh when asked if she needed to hold some sort of exorcism ritual under the basket before the next game.
"In the game I was thinking that, ‘Is somebody controlling the ball whenever I shoot?' " Brewer said after watching her shots pop or roll out. "It just went around and wanted to come right back out."
Brewer did maintain her sense of humor with her position coach, Dean Lockwood. The staff had emphasized for players to use their weak hand at practice, and the lefty Brewer suddenly couldn't hit with her strong one.
"I told Dean, ‘Maybe, since I was working so hard on my right hand the past two weeks that I just couldn't make one with my left,' " Brewer said. "The last time I was out there I made a right-hand layup."
Briana Bass made it a point to feed Brewer the ball after seeing the forward get so frustrated. Bass had three assists and two were to Brewer, who clearly had somehow annoyed the gods of the basketball rim.
"(The rim) didn't like her at all. It wasn't her friend," Bass said. "There was one shot that I passed up. I told her that I wanted to give it to her so she could get her confidence back for layups, because she missed a lot today."
That pass came when Bass was open on the wing with the shot clock at four, but she zipped the ball inside to Brewer, who hit the layup for a 35-14 lead in the first half.
Cain advised Brewer to keep shooting.
"She knows she has a good shot," Cain said. "She has that soft touch. Every player has those days when something doesn't go for you and unfortunately today was her day. I told her, ‘Everything is not going to fall but don't dwell on it. Move on to the next play. Keep shooting it.' That is what good players do. They keep shooting it, and they leave what happened in the past in the past."
The ball in Cain's hands was an excellent place for it in the first half, as she didn't miss a field goal and helped Tennessee shoot 44.1 percent before the break.
The Lady Vols didn't light it up to open the game but played suffocating defense and didn't let Austin Peay get a good look at the basket, especially from behind the arc.
Tennessee built its 15-0 lead with Cain and Brewer getting the first eight points inside – Brewer hit her patented lefty flip shot after a power move to the middle of the paint – and Bjorklund connecting from behind the arc, a stick-back from Stricklen and then Taber Spani with a banked shot on a drive to the rim.
Stricklen had all six of her rebounds in the first half – she was needed for just six minutes in the second half – and got four of her nine first half points on putbacks of teammates' misses.
Stricklen will dart into the paint from the perimeter to get on the glass.
"Usually the point guard guards me, and they really don't box out," Stricklen said. "They just go back like they're supposed to. I just go and find the open holes, and the ball is right there."
Austin Peay got on the scoreboard at the 13:18 mark of the first half on a putback from Ashley Herring, who added back-to-back layups to trim the lead to 15-6 with 12:10 to play in the first game.
"I remember crashing the boards," Herring said. "I got some easy points from crashing the boards and attacking. That's a lot of our team's game, taking whatever opportunities we could to score, taking advantage of it."
But Alicia Manning got a stick-back for the Lady Vols to extend the lead back to double digits, 17-6, and the lead never fell into single digits again.
"Obviously, we got off to a really slow start and we couldn't get the ball down and that's kind of been throughout this season when the games have started this way, it's been a rough go for our team," Austin Peay Coach Carrie Daniels said. "When we get going and a quick basket we've been a little more to our step.
"When you have a couple players that step up and score for you and other players who have a rough night shooting it makes for a long night and that's kind of the way it went for us today."
Tennessee continued to pour in the points in the first half even as Summitt played all 10 players on the active roster. Spani found Cain on a high-low pass that Spani launched from behind the arc and Cain caught cleanly for a 19-6 lead. Stricklen deflected a pass at the top of the key on Austin Peay's end, tipped it to herself and scored the layup for a 21-6 lead.
Tennessee didn't shoot well from behind the arc in the first half – 2-10 for 20 percent with both makes by Bjorklund – but the Lady Vols got 17 points off turnovers to just two for Austin Peay, and 20 points in the paint for a 37-16 lead.
Summitt liked the balanced scoring, but the one-rebound lead at halftime popped out on the stat sheet. Williams, an athletic guard who can get on the glass, had zero boards in six minutes of play, and Johnson had just one in 10 minutes. Sydney Smallbone played just four minutes before the break but managed to get one board.
"We had roll call," Summitt said. "Not happy. Our rebounding has got to be there every night. We always talk about that. It's the rebounds that can separate us out. Our defense and our board play are just critical for us all the time. That is why we put a place of emphasis on it. We had roll call at halftime, and they responded. Sometimes they don't respond."
Johnson finished with eight rebounds, and Cain added six more to her first-half total to finish with 12. Spani and Bass had zero in the first half and grabbed two and three, respectively in the second. Brewer had four boards before the break and nine for the game.
"We know that rebounds win championships and that's one thing we really try to do is rebound it," Cain said. "If we can't do anything else … if your shots not falling, you should be rebounding on both ends. That's just something the coaches stress with us, and we got after it."
The Lady Vols out-rebounded the Lady Govs, 26-8, in the second half for an overall 47-28 margin on the boards.
"I was pretty disappointed that at halftime we were down only one rebound and in the second half we only get eight rebounds," Daniels said. "You know that was pretty disappointing but that was the main thing that we had to keep fighting we couldn't hang our heads and get disappointed in ourselves that we had to keep fighting."
Tennessee started the second half the same way it opened the game – getting the ball to Cain, who hit the layup on a feed from Bjorklund for the 39-16 lead. Brewer then got an offensive board off a Cain miss, another one off her own miss and then hit the stick-back for a 41-16 lead.
Cain described the process as if she were a gravedigger.
"We just do a deep double bury," Cain said. "Every time you get in the paint make sure we don't post up with our hands, we post up with our lower bodies and showing big targets for the guards so they can get it into us."
Stricklen drove and flipped the ball over her shoulder to Cain for the layup, and Bjorklund hit a three-pointer on a pass from Stricklen, and Tennessee had a 46-19 lead with 16:59 left in the game.
At that point the only suspense was the margin of the final score, and Summitt continued to substitute on a regular basis – no player exceeded 28 minutes – and pile up some time for her bench players.
Bass logged 19 minutes with three rebounds and three assists and seemed comfortable on both ends of the floor.
"A whole year makes a big difference, and I think we all learned from last year, as long as we play hard, stay as a team and stay focused," Bass said.
Tennessee's lead continued to expand in the second half – it reached a high of 38 points with 3:45 left to play when Spani hit a 20-footer from the corner on an assist from Manning for the 73-35 lead.
Before that, Johnson and Spani had traded baseline jumpers – Johnson from the left and Spani from the right – before Spani ducked into the left corner for the long three.
After the game, she was wrapped in ice, especially her left foot, which has been aching from a painful case of turf toe for months.
"Making it," Spani said, when asked how her foot felt. "One down. Five to go."
Spani was referring to the six games needed to win a national title – she believes that an athlete must visualize and believe in an outcome – and she did her part to get Tennessee started in the NCAA tourney with nine points on 4-7 shooting, two assists, a block and a steal.
"I think our team played well for the most part," Spani said. "We had some ups and downs, but we finished strong, and we carried it through, and we did what we were supposed to do. As a freshman it was fun to get out there, get your feet wet and finally be a part of it."
Tennessee's final margin of victory was 33 points with the 75-42 win, and eight different players got in the scoring column. The Lady Vols shot 46.3 percent for the game and had 18 assists to 13 turnovers with six steals and five blocks. Austin Peay had just four assists and 20 turnovers and shot 30.2 percent (16-53) overall and 21.4 percent (3-14) from behind the arc with all three makes coming in the second half after starting the game 0-6 from long range.
"We still could have dominated a little bit more," Johnson said. "There are a lot of things that we need to work on still, and we could see it in this game. We were letting up a little bit just because we were up. That's some stuff that we've got to work on."
Brewer and Stricklen saw the game the same way.
"We started off really strong on offense and defense, and I feel like we kind of let down a little bit, especially on our defense, when we got up to a big lead," Stricklen said. "We've just got to play hard the whole entire time and keep giving the posts the ball. They are doing a great job."
Tennessee was stifling in its man defense to start the game, and the Lady Govs dealt with the overwhelming size of the Lady Vols by pulling them away from the basket and putting the ball on the floor to go around them.
Tennessee got 36 of its points inside, while Austin Peay went to the paint for 20 of its points. Herring led the Lady Govs with 21 points and was 2-3 from behind the arc and 3-5 from the free throw line.
"Tennessee is a great team, but at the same time, we went in there with the mindset that, ‘This is going to be a competition,' " Herring said. "I don't think it was intimidating. They outsized us, but at the same time we were able to get points in the paint. I don't think it was so much intimidation as it was we didn't really play our game (Saturday).
" … I like to get to the rim. I did take into question that they're really tall and I might have to pull up. When I saw openings, that's a part of my game I like to do. I was able to do it, and that gave more people the motivation to do it."
Jasmine Rayner added eight points on 3-9 shooting with six boards, and the forward/center for Austin Peay had to try to find room to work against Cain.
"I couldn't stay strictly in the paint and try to shoot over her because she can just block my shot," Rayner said. "I had to try to do other things, like getting rebounds.
"(On defense) I had to fight to work with her, to get around her. I couldn't let her pin me as low as she did, but she did a few times. I had to fight to get around her. I knew if I was going to get pinned low, she would just turn around and shoot over me."
Tennessee got 21 points from its bench – nine for Spani, eight for Johnson and four for Williams – to eight for Austin Peay.
Smallbone said the minutes spread throughout the team was the ideal way to open tourney play but the bench can do a lot better overall.
"The fact that everyone got to contribute a little bit I think that was good," Smallbone said. "I think we needed to bring more from the bench, though. There was kind of a drop-off there when she started subbing the starters out. I think we need to take that on our shoulders, especially in postseason right now. That's the time that we need to step it up.
"I think that helps us in practices, staying fresh and staying focused. I think that puts it in perspective that you need to play your role on this team, and you need to accept it, and you need to play your role to the best of your ability, too."
Williams knows her role – she's an athletic guard that can rebound, penetrate and score – and can usually explain what she needed to do. The next step for her is consistency to do it.
"It kind of felt different," Williams said of her first NCAA tourney game. "I just started slow. Why? I just have to get out of the habit of playing down to my opponent's level."
Assistant Coach Stephanie Glance encouraged the freshman during the break.
"Steph talked to me at halftime and said, ‘You've got to learn how to pick yourself up, because you're going to play teams like this. This is your opportunity to prove to Pat that you need to be playing,' " Williams said. "I just tried to pick it up a little bit in the second half, but next game is going to be better. At least I can go home this summer."
Williams is from Clarksville – the site of Austin Peay's campus – and a loss would have been problematic as a team and on a personal level for Williams.
Brewer, who has a knack to put things quickly in perspective, said the first round win was a relief after last season, but it can't stop there.
"We've got to win the second round, too," Brewer said. "(A loss Monday at home) would probably be just as bad."
Tennessee has never lost in the second round of the NCAA tourney. Last season was a program first when the Lady Vols didn't reach at least the Sweet 16.
"Last year we didn't know what to expect," Brewer said. "We had no idea. We were so nervous, and we didn't have any leadership out there. This year everybody's a leader. Everybody is confident, and that helps out a lot.
"We had some times where we let up but I think overall we did a pretty good job. Earlier in the season if we had a big lead we would let them come right back."
Tennessee's overall shooting percentage was solid at 46.3 percent but the players scanned the box score in the locker room and realized several of them could shoot a lot better.
"Every night you can have an off night shooting so just do the other stuff to stay in the game," said Manning, who was 1-3 from the field with three rebounds. "We feel like, as a whole, we're glad to get past this first game. What happened last year is over with. It's in the past. We're staying in the present. We're going to prepare for the next game."
Summitt gave the players a mixed review, as she wants to see consistent effort for a full game, regardless of substitutions.
"She said a few people need to bring it a little more but overall we didn't a pretty good job," Bass said. "We've got to take this game and move on. We continue to work hard, and play as a team, stay together no matter what."
Tennessee was delighted to open at home, and a crowd of 10,922 – most were in orange – greeted them as they came out of the opposite tunnel than usual because it's closest to their home bench. This was the first time anyone on Tennessee's team had played an NCAA tourney game at home since the Lady Vols lasted hosted a sub-regional in 2005.
"We didn't know what to expect, and when we ran out there, it was all orange," Bjorklund said. "We were really excited. Like Coach always says, ‘We need to give the fans something to cheer about,' and I thought that's what we did."
Prior to Saturday's victory, Bjorklund and Smallbone were the only two players among the 10 active ones on the roster who had won an NCAA tourney game.
"It didn't seem like 80 percent of the team hadn't done it," Cain said. "We didn't play like that. We played like we know how it feels to be in this position. That's a good thing, because confidence is everything when you're out there in the NCAA Tournament."
Cain had a front row seat for the 2008 national title run, but the 6'6 center was sitting out that season to recover from major surgery to realign her right kneecap. Vicki Baugh played in that game but sat out this season to recover from her second ACL surgery.
Spani, a freshman this season, watched last season's Ball State debacle on television and couldn't wait to get to Knoxville. She has already bought in to the Lady Vol system.
"If we play 40 minutes and every possession, it's going to be hard to beat us," Spani said.
DAYTON-TCU GAME: Tennessee's next opponent on Monday evening will be No. 8 seed Dayton after the Flyers came back from an 18-point deficit in the second half and beat No. 9 seed TCU on a layup with 1.1 seconds left in the game for the 67-66 win.
The Dayton players threw towels in the air and piled atop each other at center court while the players from TCU, which had led 50-32 with 13:53 left to play, walk stunned to their bench and waited to shake hands.
It was the Flyers first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and Dayton staged a comeback behind the three-point shooting of senior Kendel Ross and the inside scoring of freshman Brittany Wilson, who hit the game-winning shot.
"It's funny because it happened similar to our Purdue game when Kristin (Daugherty) got the shot, and I went up for the rebound," Wilson said. "Unfortunately, I did not get the rebound (Saturday), but it was a long rebound and Patrice Lalor grabbed it. I just tried to let her know that I was open. I tried to go up strong with the ball because I really wanted it."
Wilson banked in the layup and TCU, which was without timeouts, got off a shot attempt, but it was off the mark.
Dayton, 25-7, had missed the initial game-winning attempt, but the ball caromed long, and the Flyers got the offensive board. TCU switched on ball screens to stop penetration and forced that first outside shot.
"We did a good job on the initial shot, but it came off," TCU Coach Jeff Mittie said. "My eyes told me there were 10 players fighting like hell for the basketball. Sometimes, the other team gets it. I am just really proud of our group – they responded today."
"We feel very fortunate to be sitting up here with a win," Dayton Coach Jim Jabir said. "TCU is a very well-coached team, and we dug ourselves a pretty big hole. Our coaches did a great job with our prep for this game and then making adjustments throughout the game.
"I thought when we went zone it really helped. Hats off to TCU and their team. They have some great players and a great coaching staff. We have a lot of character to be down 18 and come back like that. I am very, very proud of our kids."
The two teams played closely in the first half with TCU taking a 35-27 halftime lead after spotting Dayton a five-point lead, 7-2, just 75 seconds into the game. But then Helena Sverrisdottir went to work inside – the 6'1 forward from Iceland also often brought the ball down the court – and created some separation from the Flyers. Sverrisdottir had nine points at the break and TK LaFleur had tallied nine.
The Horned Frogs used their length and athleticism to extend the halftime lead and had the 18-point lead again, 52-34, at the 13:07 mark when Sverrisdottir hit two free throws.
But Dayton got two three-pointers in transition from Ross and Daugherty to cut the lead to 12 points, 52-40, and it seemed to energize the Flyers.
"I think once we got a lead, we kind of relaxed," LaFleur said. "They made a push. Our transition defense wasn't as good. We sped things up at the end instead of working the ball around. They carried on the rest of the game. They never stopped."
Dayton shrunk the lead to six points on two more three-pointers from Justine Raterman and Ross – both assisted by Lalor – and then Ross got a putback to pull the Flyers to within four points, 54-50, with 7:04 left.
TCU, meanwhile, lost patience on offense and forced some shots against Dayton's matchup zone.
"I thought we took some ill-advised shots in that stretch," Mittie said. "It was a challenge for us – we knew their matchup was very good. When they hit big shots to get within 10-11, their comeback got sped up a bit. I saw some ill-advised shots there. That is something that is part of growth. We had a couple of freshmen on the floor who battled like crazy. You have to be able to live with a few of those mistakes as a coach.
"I'm real proud of our effort. We didn't get the best of shots, but for only shooting 30 percent and for it to be a one-point game for us, we did a lot of really good things defensively. Dayton did some good things down the stretch, so you have to give them credit. With their transition defense, I would have liked to have seen them have to run their offense against us. That got them back quicker, and you could see their confidence grow."
Jabir switched to the zone in the second half to handle the size and athleticism of the Horned Frogs.
"We knew their defense was very, very aggressive," Jabir said. "Their length bothered us. They pushed us away from where we wanted to be. They forced passes we didn't want to throw. We settled for jump shots in the first half. We did a poor job on their offensive boards on boxing them out. They had quite a few at the end of first half. I kind of felt like they wanted it a little bit more. Maybe we were a little hesitant, a little nervous, tentative.
"In the second, we switched to our zone and that stymied them a little bit. We were able to rebound pretty well out of it. We had a couple of breakouts. We tried to put an emphasis on trying to attack the rim and attack their aggressiveness on the perimeter. Brittany Wilson on the block is only 5'11, maybe, but she is so strong. She is hard to stop when she gets deep. So, we wanted to go back at her again. She did a good job of taking advantage of the position she got. Our kids have a lot of heart."
TCU, 22-9, was led by five players in double figures with Sverrisdottir leading the way with 17 points. Emily Carter, Eboni Mangum and LaFleur had 11 each, and Starr Crawford added 10 points.
Ross led Dayton with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Daugherty added 10 points and seven points. Wilson had six points, none more important than the final two, and grabbed eight rebounds.
Ross is the only senior for Dayton, and she was happy to have her career extended.
"It means a lot," Ross said. "I love these girls and I love this team. I'd love to put a uniform on and play for them again. It's our first time in the NCAA Tournament. To get a win in the NCAA Tournament is amazing and really great. To come back after being down 18 is exciting in any game, but since it's the NCAA Tournament it makes it that much better."
"Our coaches instructed us to never give up because we had nothing to lose," Wilson said. "With it being our first time in the NCAA Tournament, we had nothing to lose so we tried to give it all that we could."
BEST HUG: That between Dayton Coach Jim Jabir and senior guard Kendel Ross during the comeback by the Flyers.
After Dayton had cut the lead to four points with 7:04 left, TCU had doubled it to eight, 61-53, with 5:46 left. Ross suggested a play called "Magic," because she thought Kayla Moses could get to the rim and get fouled.
"She came over to me and said to run ‘Magic,' that Kayla can get off that screen and get fouled," Jabir said.
Moses did exactly that and hit the layup to trim the lead to 61-56 with 5:35 left and swing momentum back to Dayton.
"I am not the best coach in the world so I listen to any advice I can get," Jabir said. "So, we ran the play, Kayla got in the lane, and had a three-point play. So, I have to give credit where credit was due."
Jabir's self-effacing sense of humor and quotable nature made him a hit in the post-game press conference.
"When Kendel decided to come to Dayton, we were coming off a 12-win season," Jabir said of his senior from Sarnia, Ontario. "She had offers from New Mexico, Michigan and some other big people. Her whole reason for coming, other than my personality, was to go to the NCAA Tournament."
BEST CATCH: That by Briana Bass as a piece of confetti fluttered from the ceiling. Pieces from events at the arena can get stuck on the catwalks high above the playing court and occasionally float to the floor.
Bass picked it up early in flight, pointed it out to the official, who waited to hand the ball to the in-bound passer, circled under it, cupped her hands together and caught the tiny piece of white paper. She handed it to the official, who smiled and pocketed the debris.
"I spotted it," Bass said. "There was one earlier in the game, and (UT senior administrator) Donna Thomas had to go get it. I thought I would help them out."
BEST SPIN MOVE: That executed by Austin Peay's Jasmine Rayner, a 5'10 center matched up with the 6'6 Kelley Cain.
She made consecutive spins across the paint – it would have rated high in figure skating in Vancouver last month – but got called for the travel.
"She's huge," Rayner said with a laugh and a shake of her head. "And because I was playing someone as tall as she is, I had to find other ways to try and score."
BEST HATS: Those worn by the Dayton band. They had Dr. Seuss-style headwear that looked like basketballs and could be flattened into a beret.
BEST MASCOT: Superfrog. The Horned Frog of TCU looks almost prehistoric.
SECOND BEST CATCH: That of Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood, who caught TCU's Antoinette Thompson when she crashed into media row while chasing down a loose ball.
Water cups and papers were scattered all over, but Lockwood got to his feet quickly to break her fall.
MOST QUOTABLE: Definitely, Dayton Coach Jim Jabir.
Tennessee's assistant coaches scouted the Dayton-TCU game courtside – plus Pat Summitt in the first half – so when asked about getting down by 18 points, Jabir had an explanation.
"Mostly, we knew Tennessee's assistants were there watching the game, and we wanted to kind of lull them into a false sense of security," Jabir said.
TIDIED UP: The locker rooms are briefly open to the media for interviews by NCAA postseason policies during the tournament, and the Lady Vol players have kept a tidy place with all of their gear stashed inside their wooden lockers. The floor area also is remarkably clear of shoes and clothes, despite its use by 13 players.
When a writer walked in and asked if it was always this neat, the question was met with giggling.
Apparently one section remains that way all the time – the one occupied by Taber Spani, Kamiko Williams (hardly surprising given her military background), Shekinna Stricklen, Faith Dupree and Kelley Cain.
"It's kind of a little box and then everything around it kind of gets a little crazy. They shall remain nameless," Spani said with a laugh.
BEST GESTURES: Those of Holly Warlick and Dean Lockwood. After the game ended, the Lady Vol assistants crossed the court to speak to Mickey Dearstone, the radio voice of the Lady Vols for 20 years.
Dearstone's 31-year-old son, Mic, died Tuesday, and the memorial service was held Friday, the day before Tennessee's game in the NCAA tourney.
Warlick leaned across the media table to hug Dearstone, and Lockwood gave him a fist bump and looked at the scoreboard.
"For Mic," Lockwood said, pointing to Dearstone and walking back to the bench.
Both coaches had tears in their eyes.