This game had all the usual storylines for the Lady Vols: a slow start with poor shooting, a second-half surge that put the game out of reach, and a few moments of absence throughout the game. But all of those memes were overshadowed by UT's very dominant center, Kelley Cain.
- 16 points
- 12 blocks
- 7 rebounds
Kelley Cain becomes the first-ever Lady Vol to earn a double-double that includes blocks. In fact, she was the first Lady Vol to ever record 10 or more blocks. As if that wasn't impressive enough, Kelley Cain had 12 blocks in 23 minutes of play. Thanks to early foul trouble and eventually fouling out of the game, Cain's minutes were severely limited tonight against the Lady Tigers. Had she not been in foul trouble early in the game, it's entirely reasonable to believe that she would have had a triple-double on the night without having had a single assist in the game.
Those kinds of numbers are absolutely staggering in a game. Right now, Kelley Cain is clearly the most valuable player on the team. For this year, the Lady Vols' hopes in the NCAA tournament will hinge on the play of their sophomore center.
The best news? She plans on staying for all of her years of eligibility.
The Rest of the Game
The Lady Vols started slowly and shot abysmally in the opening minutes. Thanks to some like-minded struggles from LSU, the score stayed low and often tied throughout much of the first half. A late first half surge gave the Ladies a 32-24 halftime lead, but it was yet another first half that the Ladies could not be proud of. In the second half, Tennessee found their stride and ran the score up to a 19-point lead at 64-45 at one point. Once Cain fouled out, however, they fell asleep at the wheel and allowed LSU to close the margin. It may have been too little too late, but it did highlight the need for the Ladies to focus on finishing and competing for the entire 40 minutes.
But despite the lapses, the Lady Vols still won the hustle battle in a very Summitt-like fashion: 37 UT rebounds to LSU's 26; 20 assists to 11; 14 blocks to zero; and only 7 UT turnovers compared to 10 for LSU. They had frequent foul trouble and ended with 17 (LSU had 12), but that was really the only negative stat on the board tonight. Defensively, they held LSU to under 40% shooting, thanks largely to Cain's efforts.
Looking forward, this team has to figure out how to get off to a good start. The pieces are there for a Final Four run, but they'll get caught trailing against a good team if they're not careful. That's the one final component left for this team to emerge from its cocoon. And when they do, the rest of the NCAA better look out.