CHATTANOOGA — Being back on the women’s basketball court wasn’t enough for Vicki Baugh Friday night.
The sophomore forward’s return from reconstructive knee surgery was dramatic in itself. Thanks to her two key plays in the final minute, her comeback turned out to be triumphant as well.
Baugh’s block and follow-up free throw with 53.7 seconds left gave the Lady Vols the lead for good as they scrambled from behind for a 66-63 victory over Chattanooga before a crowd of 7,008 at McKenzie Arena.
Baugh, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the national championship game last April, helped seal the outcome by pulling down a huge offensive rebound with 3.7 seconds left.
The last-minute heroics made up for her four missed free throws — three in the final minute — and her four fouls. They also helped ease the physical discomfort she was feeling.
“I’m not going to lie; there was some pain,’’ said Baugh, referring to her knee. “It’s something I’m going to have to play through.”
The outcome had a similar affect on Tennessee (2-1), which survived a barrage of nine Chattanooga 3-pointers as well as a second-half stretch of six minutes, 34 seconds during which UT didn’t score a basket.
Tennessee, which led by 10 in the second half, trailed 58-50 with 8:08 remaining after a 19-1 scoring run by Chattanooga. The Lady Vols still faced a 61-56 deficit with 5:37 remaining.
And after UT’s determined rally, the outcome wasn’t safe until Chattanooga forward Megan Rollins couldn’t inbound the basketball and called a timeout with 3.7 seconds left when the Lady Mocs had none left.
“I’m looking at this and trying to figure out how we won this game,’’ UT coach Pat Summitt said. “They didn’t quit. They certainly didn’t quit on the defensive end.”
By that she was referring to the Lady Vols holding Chattanooga (1-1) scoreless after Shanara Hollinquest’s layup with 3:24 left.
“We just came together and played tough defense,’’ Baugh said, “like we should have the whole game.’’
Forward Glory Johnson led Tennessee with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Six of her rebounds came on the offensive end, where Tennessee forged a crucial 22-11 edge.
Hollinquest scored 17 for Chattanooga. Bailey Dewart added 12, swishing four treys.
“You get a chance like this, you hate to let it slip away,’’ Chattanooga coach Wes Moore said.
The game featured 50 total fouls with play slowed to a near-crawl at times. Despite a 30-20 edge in the calls, UT shot a miserable 53.5 percent (23 for 43) at the free throw line. The Lady Vols missed five total attempts in the final minute.
“We’re just going to have to get in the gym more and shoot free throws,’’ Baugh said. “Like coach said, there’s no excuse for that.”
Chattanooga, on the other hand, shot 16-for-17 at the line to minimize the free-throw scoring disparity. The Lady Mocs went for the win with their 3-pointers.
“That was about the most miserable defense a team can play when it comes to playing the 3 ball,’’ Summitt said.
She blamed herself for UT’s effort.
“I have to take full responsibility,’’ she said. “I haven’t done a good job of making them close out on threes.”
Tennessee, meanwhile, shot just 1-for-11 on 3-point attempts. But that one was huge with Alicia Manning scoring from the corner for a 63-all tie with 1:21 left.
“That probably gave them the lift they needed to finish the job,’’ Moore said.
And for all that they didn’t do, the Lady Vols did come up with a worthy closing act.
“We found a way to win,’’ Summitt said. “I’m never going to overlook that.”