Even Tennessee's advantage in depth didn't appear advantageous as 11 Lady Vols played at least six minutes compared to 7 Lady Tigers who logged at least that many.
But the biggest difference was at point guard where LSU's 5-foot-2 Temeka Johnson dominated play. Johnson finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals while committing only two turnovers in 35 minutes of play. UT's Loree Moore had two points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals with three turnovers in 19 minutes.
Tennessee's six guards couldn't slow Johnson down and starters Tasha Butts and Moore had four total points. Lawson scored 16 and Shanna Zolman came off the bench to add 15, but while Butts and Zolman hit 13-of-25 field goals, Johnson hit 10-of-15.
In the last three games against Tennessee, Johnson has averaged 20 points, 8.3 assists and 6 rebounds per contest. In those three games, of which LSU won two, she has shot 21-of-37 from the field and 17-of-20 from the foul line. It's apparent the Lady Vols don't have a favorable match up with Johnson in their preferred man defense. A better question might be, has Tennessee ever had a player that could match up with Johnson?
At any rate, Johnson joins UConn's Diana Taurasi at the top of Tennessee's least favorite list of opponents and thus encountering either team in the NCAA will pose a huge challenge for UT and it's coaches to find a way to offset either player's impact on the final outcome.
LOSS A GAIN?
Tennessee's loss in the SEC Tournament could turn out to be a blessing. The Lady Vols are apt to be more attentive and open to input from the coaches during their 13-day hiatus from competition.
Also, UT's areas of need have been exposed and there's time to work on remedies. The Lady Vols need more penetration and points out of their lead guard and a stronger presence in the post. A starting lineup that includes Shyra Ely seems like a plausible alternative. More minutes for Courtney McDaniel may also be warranted.
Often teams that win their conference's tournament lose some of their momentum during the long layoff and almost invariably come back operating at less than peak efficiency.
By the same token, UConn's upset in the Big East Tournament to Villanova that snapped a 70-game win streak will likely reduce pressure on the Lady Huskies going into the NCAA.
REASONS TO LOVE WOMEN'S GAME
Four reasons women's basketball is superior to men's basketball.
• The women's game is generally played at a higher fundamental level and with better execution.
• The women's game is played with more emotion.
• On a whole women's basketball is played less selfishly than the men's game with better teamwork.
• Women shoot free throws much better than men.
In Tennessee's three SEC Tournament games the Lady Vols hit 43-of-56 from the foul line while opponents Auburn, Mississippi State and LSU hit a collective 35-of-43. That's 78-of-99 total or nearly 80 percent from team's playing before large crowds and tournament pressure.
In the last three games between Tennessee and LSU, the teams have connected on 90-of-103 free throws collectively. As a comparison no NBA game played Wednesday night had as high a shooting percentage at the foul line.
I'm tempted to add sportsmanship to this list as generally speaking the teams, players and crowds at women's games, while competitive, do seem more considerate of each other.
An exception would be the LSU pep band which had several members that offered up a continuous stream of crude and obscene insults aimed Tennessee's players and coaches. This transgression was compounded by the fact that it occurred when LSU wasn't even playing, but rather waiting for Saturday's late game with Vanderbilt. The band was allowed to take its seats under Tennessee's basket at half-time of the Lady Vols game against Mississippi State and these blowhards never stopped spewing bile.
Oh well, I guess there's a few in every crowd.