AUBURN, Ala. – Vicki Baugh pulled off a feat she’d rather forget Sunday afternoon.
When Tennessee’s forward shed her warm-up top to enter Sunday’s women’s basketball game against Auburn, her jersey came off, too.
“I was a little too eager, I guess,’’ she said. “At least I had my undershirt under it.”
Baugh’s teammates were still laughing about her wardrobe malfunction after a 73-53 SEC victory over Auburn. Baugh also was laughing, since the day turned out to be memorable for much better reasons.
She played seven second-half minutes and scored nine points, her most points since scoring 11 against Oklahoma on Feb. 2, 2009 — a game in which she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee for the second time.
The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior’s performance before a crowd of 7,536 at Auburn Arena made No. 5 Tennessee (19-2, 7-0 SEC) look even bigger and more imposing, as if that was necessary. After all forward Shekinna Stricklen scored a game-high 18 points, forward Glory Johnson recorded her fifth double-double of the season (16 points, 13 rebounds) and center Kelley Cain grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots.
“They’re big; they can really get big on you,’’ Auburn coach Nell Fortner said. “It’s hard to see over them and around them.”
On this day, the Lady Vols also were sufficiently aggressive, particularly on defense. They held Auburn (12-8, 5-2) to one field goal during the final 8 ½ minutes of the first half, turning a five-point lead into a 34-19 advantage at halftime.
Led by Morgan Toles and Alli Smalley, who each scored 13 points, the Tigers cut a 20-point deficit to 46-35 with 13:40 left. UT then made another defensive end, holding Auburn to one field goal for nearly three minutes.
Overall, Tennessee had 12 steals and held Auburn to 34.3 percent field goal shooting (23 for 67). It was the ninth straight opponent that failed to reach 40 percent accuracy against UT.
“I thought we had our hands up and got a lot of tips,’’ UT coach Pat Summitt said. “That’s where you have to be aggressive.”
The Lady Vols’ size and depth buoyed their defense. Alyssia Brewer, a 6-3 junior forward, saw her first action since Jan. 2 at LSU and played an active part in a switching man-to-man alignment that blanketed Auburn to end the first half.
“It’s hard to play against a switching man defense, especially when everyone looks the same as far as their size,’’ Fortner said. “It made it very difficult for us to find shots.”
Baugh’s points didn’t amount to window dressing her first basket, off a rebound, stopped Auburn’s second-half scoring surge. She followed with three free throws within the next three minutes. Her layup off a foul-lane cut restored Tennessee’s lead to 58-42 with 7:47 left.
“I think I was very confident,’’ said Baugh, who is wearing a new knee brace. “I don’t remember thinking about my knee at all. I didn’t feel anything jumping. This is really going to help as far as a confidence builder.”
Tennessee’s dominance in the post allowed for some discretion on Johnson’s part. She resisted the urge to attempt a dunk on a late breakaway, opting instead for a layup.
“I didn’t know how happy Pat was at the time,’’ Johnson said. “Coming in from the right side I wasn’t too confident. I knew that a layup’s a layup and when I make it Pat will be happy. If I dunk I might miss Pat might not be too happy.”
Tennessee’s post game also helped minimized 19 turnovers (12 in the second half) and a quiet day from the backcourt. Freshman point guard Meighan Simmons had her worst day with five points on 1- for-8 shooting and four turnovers. Angie Bjorklund scored seven, her lone 3-pointer moved her into third place in SEC history with 283.
Some of these numbers were impacted by UT emptying its bench, beginning with about five minutes left. Other than Stricklen’s 33 playing minutes, no Lady Vol played more than Johnson’s 26.
“We weren’t always as efficient as the coaches would like,’’ Summitt said, “… but I thought we really bought in to what we had to do from the standpoint of rebounding the basketball and playing great defense.”