For the first time in a while, the Lady Vols failed to bring a complete game to the table. Unfortunately, they were playing a Baylor team that dearly wanted to beat Tennessee to atone for the season opener loss.
With Cain in very early foul trouble, the Lady Vols hung in during the first half to a 30-28 deficit to Baylor. Alyssia Brewer did a nice job sliding over to cover the Baylor center and keep the game within reach. But the warning signs were present early; Baylor shot 46% in the first half, which was as good as any team in the country had ever done against Tennessee. Tennessee also had trouble with blocked shots throughout the game as well; not only did Griner get her share of blocks, but Melissa Jones brought a couple of key blocks in the second half to deny some otherwise easy points for UT. And UT had significant trouble keeping up with Baylor's determined rebounding throughout the opening minutes of the game.
When Cain came back into the game in the second half, some new life crept into the Lady Vols. Baylor's shooting percentage slowly fell down to about 40% while Tennessee's crept upward from their 35% first half mark. And with ten minutes to go in the game, Tennessee began to go on a late-game power surge - the kind that had won them so many games throughout the season while they were still developing.
But just as the power surge opened up a 55-50 lead for Tennessee, the lights went out on the Lady Vols for good. From the 7:52 mark, when Cain scored a bucket to get the Ladies to 55, Tennessee did not make another field goal and went until a Taber Spani three-pointer with 1:05 to go in the game. By that time, Baylor had steadily crept to a 71-56 lead and it was too late for a comeback.
Thirteen missed field goal attempts in a row.
If anybody needs to find a reason for the loss, look no further than that number, as that was how Tennessee performed from the 7:53 mark to the 1:05 mark. In the same time span, Baylor went 6-9 from the floor and 8-9 from the free throw line. The most frustrating part of this to Vols fans (and, once they review the game, to the Lady Vols) is that the difference had nothing to do with effort. Baylor simply made better shot selections, while Tennessee took tough, ill-advised shots. And as the scoring differential grew, Tennessee became more impatient and rushed their shots, exacerbating their problems and hurting themselves.
In today's lesson, the Lady Bears played within themselves while the Lady Vols tried to do too much. Tennessee may very well have the most talent on the floor of any team in the country (yes, including UConn), but it's talent that has to learn to play with control at all times, for all 40 minutes of every game.
In hindsight, this year saw the development of that talent into a team - something that last season never really had. Their undoing in this one game was their sudden reversion to old habits of forced shots and a lack of cohesion on the offensive end of the court. The one non-Lady Vol moment of the season unfortunately came at the one time they couldn't afford it, and UT now gets to watch the rest of the women's tournament from afar.