"I'm starting to be a lot more comfortable," Baugh said. "I think what it is, is that I'm able to be out on the floor and am not having to sit and watch from the sideline in practice. I've been involved in most every practice this year. I think I've only missed one."
Two ACL injuries kept her from being much of a factor in the two seasons since that last title. Baugh spent most practice days going through rehabilitation exercises rather than working with her teammates.
Baugh's potential showed against the Longhorns. She was 8 of 10 from the field and reeled in five offensive boards and six defensive ones against Texas' bigger post lineup.
Baugh had a big defensive stop late in the game when she stayed on Chassidy Fussell, until the Longhorns' sharpshooter was so smothered she couldn't get the basket in the air before the shot clock buzzed.
"What Vicki does is intangible for us," Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick said. "You don't think of Vicki Baugh being able to get out and play on the perimeter, but that was a key play for us to force a 30-second call.
"A healthy Vicki will take us a long way."
Texas had been whittling down a 14-point Tennessee lead. Chelsea Bass hit a 3-pointer that cut the Lady Vols' lead to 59-53 with 8:50 to go, and it took nearly two minutes before Tennessee answered with a layup from Glory Johnson.
When Fussell turned the ball over without a shot, Longhorns coach Gail Goestenkors called a timeout to keep Tennessee from gaining too much momentum.
It didn't make a difference. Shekinna Stricklen drained an NBA-deep trey for the Lady Vols, firing up the crowd, and Baugh stole the ball from Ashley Gayle on Texas' next possession.
Gayle fouled Johnson on the other end of the court, the first of three quick fouls by the Longhorns. Johnson hit three free throws on two trips to the line, capping a 10-0 run that put the game out of reach.
"I felt good when we cut it to six. I felt like we were at a good spot, but I felt like we ran out of gas a little bit," Goestenkors said. "We started fouling and had a couple of turnovers. With a great team like Tennessee, you've got to take advantage of every opportunity that you have."
Tennessee (4-2) turned a 49-38 rebounding advantage into 17 second-chance points and got 21 points off 16 turnovers by the Longhorns (5-2). The Lady Vols also drained 11 of 21 from the arc.
Ashleigh Fontenette became the Texas' 36th player to score 1,000 career points with her first made basket of the game, and her team-high 22 points put her at 1,020 total. Fussell added 14 points.
"I didn't even know I was close, so I'm kind of shocked right now," Fontenette said. "I think we did good as a team today, we just couldn't put it all together."
Fontenette was the hot hand during the first half and gave the Lady Vols fits as the teams traded the lead five times and tied twice before halftime. Tennessee used an 11-0 run to take a 38-27 lead with 1:28 to go in the first half. Simmons hit a 3 and Baugh and Johnson got back-to-back layups on the break during the stretch. The Lady Vols have now won three in a row in the streaky series against their longtime rival, and they hold a 21-12 overall advantage. Coach Pat Summitt, who announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, is now 8-6 against Goestenkors in her time at Texas and Duke.