March 3, 2012
6:00 PM EST
TV: ESPNU / ESPN3
Internet Audio: Lady Vols Network
Live Stats: GameTracker
23-8 (10-6 SEC)
22-8 (12-4 SEC)
Well, this was unexpected. No, I'm not talking about Tennessee's win yesterday; I didn't expect South Carolina was going to make it past Georgia, 59-55. Am I complaining? Well, probably not; on one hand, Georgia was a great matchup for Tennessee and I could easily see winning a third game against the Bulldogs, but on the other hand, I'd be happy to see a chance at revenge from one of the two teams who beat the Lady Vols in Knoxville. (LSU mercifully took care of the other team; Future Lady Vol Head Coach Nikki Caldwell was doin' work, but with a 41-40 final, let's just say I was glad I didn't see it.) With a win today, Tennessee has a chance of taking home a championship tomorrow; lose, and get ready to be a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. No pressure, really.
While it's weird to see Bass remain in the starting lineup, she's done well as the starting PG, leaving Ariel Massengale to split PG duties. Bass hasn't been asked to do a ton other than serve as the place-setter for Johnson and Stricklen, which she's certainly capable of. Beyond that, not to put too fine a point on it, but it's going to depend on if Glory or Stricklen can step up. Last night, it was Stricklen's time; today, South Carolina is rolling a four-guard lineup and Glory's going to have a second tower on the interior. That sounds fun, doesn't it?
Then again, don't be fooled; Courtney Newton starts but only plays 11 minutes or so a game. The first two Gamecocks off the bench are Algeisha Welsh (6'0" and Ashley Bruner (6'0"), both forwards. I can see Manning or Baugh starting on the bench in favor of Meighan Simmons to combat the starting speed of South Carolina, but the particular concern is what to do about La'Keisha Sutton. That sounds weird, considering Markeisha Grant absolutely went off in Tennessee's first game, but she went 7-12 from beyond the arc and shoots 35% from that distance, which ...well, I wouldn't expect that again is all. Massengale's been exposed a bit in man D toward the tail end of this year, so look for some zone until the Gamecocks - who, it should be noted, don't normally shoot well from deep - hit enough threes to force Tennessee to go man.
Regardless, this game is in Tennessee's hands. Win, and Sunday is a free day (no, really, it is; this game may affect Tennessee's seeding, but tomorrow won't, barring two demolition jobs in a row - and none of us are counting on that). Lose, and ...well, tomorrow is a free day too, but for different reasons. Stricklen coming alive yesterday should mean good things, and we remember Glory's demolition job in the SEC tournament last year (that is, until the artillery barrage on Sunday against Kentucky, but let's not get ahead of ourselves). This is what they've been building towards all year, and nothing comes easily now. Then again, we're used to that, aren't we?
Revenge: do it. 78-63, Tennessee. Kamiko Kountdown™: 5 minutes, 1st half. (We can't do BassWatch, but it'll work in a pinch.)