Shekinna Stricklen scored 17 points and Glory Johnson grabbed a season-high 21 rebounds to lead Summitt and Tennessee past DePaul 63-48 in the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament on Monday night.
Tennessee stretched a five-point halftime lead to 12 early in the second half and was up 42-29 after a hook shot by Baugh with 11:41 remaining. The Lady Vols remained in control from there and moved closer toward their ultimate goal — a 19th Final Four and ninth NCAA title.
The powerhouse program hasn’t been that far since it repeated as champions in 2008, a nearly four-year drought that might as well be four decades given its history.
If the Lady Vols make it to Denver, it would be quite the story.
Pat Summitt announced in early August that she has early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, and might not coach beyond this season. There have been ups and downs on the court, too, but Tennessee appears to be in stride at the moment, with six straight wins after improving to 20-0 against the Blue Demons.
Tennessee routed DePaul in December in New York and prevailed this time on the court where the Blue Demons’ men’s team play most of its home games.
The Lady Vols shot just over 37 percent but prevailed anyway thanks to a huge advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Blue Demons 51-31 with Johnson leading the way.
Anna Martin scored 20 points for DePaul (23-11), but a difficult season came to an end. The Blue Demons were hit hard by injuries, losing star Keisha Hampton (knee), and were forced to go with a seven-player rotation.
That didn’t stop them from making their 10th straight tournament, but they simply came up short against one of the marquee programs.
No other school has made all 31 NCAA tournaments, and the only time Tennessee failed to reach the Sweet 16 was in 2009, when the Lady Vols got knocked out in the first round after capturing their eighth championship. The only player left from that team is Baugh.
The rest of the seniors, who were part of a heralded recruiting class, are trying to avoid becoming the first to go all four years at Tennessee without a Final Four appearance.