Nobody could ever doubt that the Tennessee Lady Vols had an abundance of individual talent this year, despite some bumps in the road during the season.
But it looks like they're starting to come together as a team, as captured by Chris Pendley of SB Nation's Rocky Top Talk in giving credit to the Lady Vols' seniors who stepped up their games to lead the team to a 70-58 win over the LSU Tigers in the 2012 SEC Tournament Final.
For all Shekinna Stricklen's first half struggles, this team relied on Glory to carry them through, and once again, she did. 20 points, 11 boards, 1 three (yeah, what?), 87 fouls drawn against her, and - always - reliable production...That doesn't preclude Vicki Baugh, who's been dangerous as the second option on the interior; tonight she added 10 points and 7 boards (which goes well with her 8-10 against South Carolina and 6-8 against Vanderbilt). That doesn't preclude Alicia Manning, who was all energy and adding a handful of boards to go with the energy.
Pendley actually credited all five seniors who finished out the game, but the three above are worth highlighting because their efforts were probably most statistically significant in winning the game.
Baugh, Manning and Glory Johnson combined for 11 offensive rebounds - which almost tripled the output of LSU's entire team - to help the Lady Vols win the offensive rebounding battle by +34.6%. In a slow paced game, getting those extra possessions was critical to their success.
The Lady Vols staff put the team's success in the hands of their seniors, who have been scrutinized all year, and they responded as most people assumed they would all season to earn legendary coach Pat Summitt her 16th SEC Title.
However, while Lady Vols fans can celebrate a rather compelling story of a team seemingly peaking at the right time, LSU fans were dealt an additional blow yesterday as they look ahead to 2012 NCAA Tournament seeding: the loss of star forward LaSondra Barrett.
Barrett scored nine points before hitting the floor and suffering a head injury with 14:18 left in the game. She was carted off the floor on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital for evaluation. She was conscious when carted off, able to move all extremities and diagnosed with a concussion.
To say that Barrett is important to LSU would be an understatement, but right now we should all just hope that she's able to recover as soon as possible to finish out her career.