Seniors shine for Vols, Lady Vols in must-wins
Saying Cameron Tatum has been much maligned during his time on Rocky Top would be an understatement.
Just during this season Tatum has been called upon as a team leader, had his every move ridiculed by fans, his effort and mindset questioned, and suffered through the worst stretches of play in his career, before finally capping his home career with an 18 point performance in front of 22,172 at Thompson-Boling Arena on senior night.
Tatum's performance Saturday helped the Vols defeat Vanderbilt 68-61 and clench the number two seed in the SEC tournament and a first-round bye. The Vols will play the winner of the Ole Miss-Auburn game on Friday, March 9th.
With Saturday's victory, coach Cuonzo Martin, Tatum and the Vols inched their foot further into the NCAA tournament discussion. In tournament guru Joe Lunardi's latest projection on ESPN.com, the Vols are said to be one of the “First Four Out” along with VCU, Oregon and North Carolina State. The “Last Four In” according to Lunardi are Northwestern, Seton Hall, Xavier and Texas.
A win against the Ole Miss-Auburn winner, and a second round victory against the winner of the Vanderbilt-Mississippi State/Georgia game could very well put the Vols into the tournament, which looked to be the longest of longshots following early-season losses to Austin Peay, Oakland and College of Charleston.
Seniors Vicki Baugh, Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen led the Lady Vols to their third consecutive SEC Championship Sunday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Johnson, the tournament MVP, led the Lady Vols with 20 points and 11 rebounds as they defeated LSU 70-58 in front of a crowd of 12,441. The oft-injured Baugh added 10 points, seven rebounds and Stricklen added 16 points for coach Pat Summitt's squad.
The win gives the Lady Vols 16 total SEC tournament titles to go with 16 regular season titles.
March 12th is the next big day on the calendar for the Lady Vols as they will learn their NCAA tournament seeding and bracket pairings that day. ESPN.com bracketology expert Charlie Creme has them slated as a number two seed in the Des Moines region. The projected top seed in the Des Moines region is top-ranked Baylor and Player of the Year front-runner, Brittany Griner.