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Lady Vols Discover the Value of Hard Work and Upend the LSU Lady Tigers, 55-43

It wasn't pretty.  In fact, it was ugly enough to be beautiful.

Despite the 12-point margin of victory, the game was close throughout and LSU even held a 5-point lead with roughly ten minutes of game to go.  After 30 minutes of play, the score was still only 34-37 with LSU leading.  Several Lady Vols were in foul trouble, and baskets were preciously rare for both teams.  But at that point in the game, the grit and determination that they showed throughout the game finally wore down LSU, and Tennessee went on an 18-2 run late in the game to create the deceptively large margin of victory - a run that included a 13-0 run where LSU went scoreless for almost seven full minutes late.

The heroes of the game were surprise characters as well; much of the scoring streak was sparked by terrific defense by Alicia Manning, whose two steals in the defensive end prevented the Lady Tigers from finding any penetration into Tennessee's zone defense.  Alyssia Brewer led all Vols in points (14) and rebounds (7) and turned in a dominant interior performance to cover for the limited minutes of Kelley Cain, who spent much of the game in foul trouble.

The 'hustle' statistics that Pat Summitt cherishes so much also broke in favor of the Vols.  Tennessee led LSU in rebounds 36-26, assists 9-7, and blocks 5-2.  Both teams had 6 steals, but the only real negative in the Ladies' performance tonight was their continued propensity to turn the ball over; they gave the ball away 23 times to LSU's 18.

But all in all, the defensive performance frustrated the Lady Tigers.  In a night where LSU saw far more opportunity at the free throw line (13-21 compared to UT's 11-17, much of which came after the score was beyond reach), the stifling zone defense of Tennessee held LSU to 26% field goal shooting on the night, and only 2-8 from three-point range.

Nothing about this game was pretty.  Following a slip of the tongue by Mickey Dearstone in the postgame interview, Summitt humorously commented about how much it looked like a football game at times.  But the point of tonight was that they earned the victory.  Were the fouls calls one-sided against UT tonight?  Perhaps (although not by an unfair margin).  Were the turnovers excessive?  Absolutely.  Did they fight through the setbacks and keep on digging?  Y.E.S.  And if they can remember the lesson from tonight, perhaps they can finally turn the corner and become the consistent team we expect them to be.

In other news, Georgia lost to Mississippi, meaning that the SEC is now co-led by the Lady Rebels and Lady Vols with one conference loss apiece.  Georgia, after having handed Tennessee their first conference loss, just gave the Lady Vols a gift and now sit with two losses in SEC play.  Tennessee now needs to take advantage of this opportunity to put a winning streak together and hold onto that lead.  With a date with Ole Miss on February 11th, their fate is currently in their own hands.