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Lady Vols Postgame - Never Count These Gals Out

All you really need to know is this:  at halftime, Rutgers led the Lady Vols 33-13; by game's end, the Lady Vols had won 55-51.  Those familiar with the Lady Vols basketball program know what happened in between those two scores.  Pat Summit furthered her legacy as one of the best basketball coaches ever - men's, women's, amateur, pro, take your pick.

This Lady Vols team is very young.  When you lose 5 starters in an offseason, you have to expect some growing pains.  When you're down by 20 in a hostile environment against a very good team that has every reason to hold a grudge against you (national championship tourney loss 2 years ago; controversial loss in Knoxville last year) and you're starting a bunch of sophomores and freshmen, things are bleak.

I didn't get to catch anything of the game except the last 14 seconds when Rutgers missed a shot on their last possession, but they did replay one thing from halftime: Pat Summitt explaining to Angie Bjorklund exactly why it was unacceptable for her to not take a shot during the first half and exactly why lapses like that were the reason the team was behind.  No punches pulled, no feel-good tactfulness, just straight-up Summittizing of the players.

Ask any former Lady Vols player and they'll all tell you that the hardest thing to get used to is to not take Summitt's criticisms as personal attacks, but simply the bare-bones, objective realities that the players need to understand to improve.  If the players don't figure that out, a halftime like that could cause them to cocoon within themselves, never to re-emerge for the rest of the game.

But this Lady Vols team got it.

In the second half, they simply outworked Rutgers, never allowing an opportunity to pass.  They consistently battled back, holding Rutgers to an 18-point half themselves and slowly bringing the score even, then finally ahead.  Angie took her shots to end second on the team with 12 points (Stricklen had 16) off of 4-6 FG, 2-3 3-pt and 2-2 FT.  That's just one example of many individual efforts that stepped up and contributed to an entirely different team dynamic in the second half -one that we're used to seeing from a Summitt-led team.

We can't assume that this team will win all of their games from here one, but we can assume this much; they'll never count themselves out of a game until the final buzzer sounds.

Congrats, Ladies.