This is a guest contribution by Paxson Spears
The Lady Vols 2011-12 campaign came to an end on Monday night when the Lady Vols fell to undefeated and No. 1 overall seed, Baylor 77-58 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Tennessee began their 25th Elite Eight matchup by taking an early 9-4 lead, but as the game continued their attention was squarely focused on stopping Baylor Center Brittney Griner. The Lady Bears used their outside game to take and maintain the lead. Tennessee continued to fight throughout the game, but Baylor was again too much to handle. Each time Tennessee made a run Baylor had an answer, and most times it was an Odyssey Sims three pointer.
Surprisingly it was not the scoring of Brittney Griner, rather her counter-parts Odyssey Sims and Kimetria Hayden from behind the arc. The half ended with a 35-20 Baylor advantage.
The second half began with another Tennessee run, but following the 6-0 spurt Baylor drilled another three and more of the same continued. Tennessee closed the game to as much as 8 points at 46-38 with 11:13 left, but again an Odyssey Sims three-pointer put an end to the run. Baylor continued to pull away, and the only interesting story coming out of the second half was the scuffle with 46 seconds on the clock. Shekinna Stricklen blocked a Sims layup and appeared to slip, Sims took it personally and words were exchanged between the two ending with both having to be restrained by teammates. It was later announced that 3 Baylor players, including Griner, were ejected but not suspended for future games when they left the bench. When the final buzzer sounded, it was a 77-58 Baylor victory.
Odyssey Sims and Kimetria Hayden combined 8-11 shooting from three-point land to lead the Lady Bears from outside the peremiter. Baylor star Brittney Griner fell 1 block short of her 5th career triple double, finishing with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 9 blocks. Sims had a game high 27 points, with Hayden adding 18. Together these three Lady Bears combined for 68 of Baylor’s 77 total points.
Senior Shekinna Stricklen and Glory Johnson who finished with 22 and 19 points respectively led the Lady Vols. The problems shooting happened to be the downfall of Tennessee going 23-76 from the field, and 4-21 from behind the three-point line. Meighan Simmons scored 5 points, and Ariel Massengale added 4. Also scoring for Tennessee was Taber Spaini, Vicki Bough, and Isabelle Harrison who finished with 2 points each for Tennessee’s total of 58.
Tennessee fans are left wondering following this season. Hoping for the best, but nevertheless unsure if we have seen the winningest head coach in basketball grace the sideline for the final time. Speculation of this being Coach Summitt’s final game will continue until we have a formal announcement, but for the time being we are left with her comments given tonight. ESPN commentators stated earlier in the game they were told, “she would like to stay on the sideline for as long as she can.” However, we do know that we will bid farewell to 5 Lady Vols. Briana Bass, Vicki Baugh, Glory Johnson, Alicia Manning and Shekinna Stricklen all played their final games in the orange and white. We want to wish them the best in there future endeavors.
It has been another outstanding year for Coach Summitt and the Tennessee Lady Vols. It was definitely a year of ups and downs, including huge wins over Kentucky, Miami, and Texas; as well as tough losses to Notre Dame, Baylor and Virginia. All in all the 2011-2012 SEC Tournament Champion Lady Vols end their season with an impressive 27-9 record. Although it didn’t end with #9 that many fans were hoping for, this Tennessee season is one that surely will not be forgotten.