The established mantra of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and her band of merry ladies is, "Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships."
Sunday night’s game against Georgia was, in no way, a championship, but the latter two elements of said mantra were out in full force.
The first element was on display as well, in the form of Candace Parker, and if you think for one minute that half the tickets to the game weren’t sold simply based on her appearance you’re crazy.
For the duration of warm-ups it seemed as if I had traveled back in time to when the Beatles first came to the states: The screaming, "Candace, Candace," and the flash bulbs.
It’s no secret that when facing the Lady Vols, keeping them off the boards is going to be an issue; they are trained to rebound with reckless abandon.
Tennessee leads the Southeastern Conference in offensive rebounding and is third in defensive rebounding. They take it pretty seriously in Knoxville.
Case in point came Sunday night at Stegeman Coliseum.
The overall margin was nine rebounds, Tennessee had 38 to Georgia’s 29, but 14 of those were offensive rebounds for a Lady Vols’ team shooting, on the season, 45 percent from the field.
When you give a team like Tennessee more than one opportunity to make a shot, chances are they are going to seize the moment and score the putback or get fouled trying, either way it’s not good.
"I think, for the most part, we did a decent job on the boards," former Gainesville High star and Georgia standout Tasha Humphrey said after playing in her final game at Stegeman Coliseum. "But you can’t let Tennessee get 14 offensive boards."
It’s also no secret that when facing the Lady Vols, passes need to be more crisp and dribbling more purposeful because they are relentless defensively.
Once again, case in point came Sunday night in Athens.
Known for a suffocating version of man-to-man, the Lady Vols opted for a three-quarter court zone and left little time for Georgia to get off a good shot on account of a little thing above the basket called the shot clock.
The Lady Bulldogs, when things went according to Tennessee’s plan, rarely got into the front court with more than 15 seconds left on the shot clock.
Basketball is a fast-paced game where quickness abounds, but it’s difficult at best to call an offense, then run an offense and get off a good, high-percentage, shot in 15 seconds more than once or twice a game and it not be by accident.
When a team, Georgia, is having to toss up fade away 3-pointers just to keep from a shot clock violation, shooting percentage goes down which, in turn, means scoring doesn’t happen.
"That’s what Tennessee is known for," Humphrey said, "defensive intensity."
Throw in the fact that the Lady Vols were limiting the Lady Bulldogs to one shot due to their superior blocking out and rebounding and, well, you get the picture.
Now for the fun part.
In the waning minutes of Sunday night’s 30-point performance Tennessee star, to put it mildly, and the first woman to leave the college ranks early for the pros, Candace Parker, had a strange look on her face.
She looked like she was about to cry.
Could it be that Parker is so good, capable of being so thoroughly dominant, that it hurts her own feelings? Is it possible that she feels sorry for the team, or player, that has to try and contain her?
Parker torched Georgia with fadeaways, hook shots, up and unders and, unfortunately, everything but a dunk.
And when Parker was done, Lady Vols’ lightening quick point guard Shannon Bobbit took over and played shake and bake on her way to the basket and 15 points.
Let’s review: The offense that sells the tickets, check. The defense that wins the games, check. The rebounding that wins the championships, check.
The most interesting part of it all was what Summitt said after the game, "We’re getting better. I’ve been frustrated with this group at times but we are starting to come together and play well."
Starting to? Oh no!