"When she's under control and still fast, she's just so explosive," Manning said. "I don't know many guys who can guard her."
Johnson mixed a sufficient amount of composure with her boundless athleticism Saturday night against South Carolina. The result was a monster game before a crowd of 11,029 at Bridgestone Arena.
UT's senior forward scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in leading the Lady Vols to a 74-58 victory in the semifinals of the SEC women's basketball tournament.
No. 2 seed Tennessee (23-8) faces No. 4 seed LSU today (TV: ESPN2, 6 p.m.) in the championship game. The Lady Tigers (22-9) advanced by beating top-seed Kentucky in the other semifinal, 72-61.
Fellow senior Shekinna Stricklen added 16 points in support of Johnson. In keeping with her tournament custom, she scored all of her points in the second half.
Another senior, Vicki Baugh, backed Johnson's board play by grabbing 10 rebounds herself.
Markeshia Grant and Ieasia Walker scored 13 points apiece to lead No. 6 seed South Carolina (23-9). Grant's performance was a far cry from the career-high 27 she scored in the Gamecocks' 64-60 upset of UT in Knoxville on Feb. 2.
Johnson was limited to 26 minutes in the first meeting after the Gamecocks coaxed her into early trouble. In the rematch, teammate Cierra Burdick sensed frustration on Johnson's part. But she turned that potential problem into South Carolina's plight, making 7 of 14 field-goal attempts and scoring nine more points at the free-throw line.
"She wasn't finishing (shots) and she wanted to finish," Burdick said. "When Glory gets mad, I feel bad for the other team."
One of Johnson's baskets was the byproduct of a strategic decision that paid huge dividends. South Carolina was lurking within 49-40 with 11:40 left when Tennessee shed its zone defense alignment for some old-fashioned man-to-man.
"We were a little uncomfortable that they were getting comfortable attacking our zone," assistant coach Dean Lockwood. "We didn't want them to get in the flow of anything."
The defensive switch flipped a switch with the Lady Vols. Blocked shots by Stricklen and Baugh led to two transition baskets. The second was Johnson's soaring layup. UT's lead ballooned to double figures and the game's tempo swung decidedly in its favor.
In the end, the Lady Vols scored 46 second-half points and shot 57.1 percent from the floor (16 for 28) in the final 20 minutes. What began as a tense, possession-by-possession struggle ended with an entertaining UT finish.
"Crowds love it when you're getting offense off your defense," Manning said. "It's good, solid basketball."
The Lady Vols will need more of the same in today's championship game. LSU was impressive in beating Kentucky, leading virtually the entire game and leading by as many as 18 points.
"They're playing with as much confidence as anyone out there," Lockwood said. "You can see it."
UT associate head coach Holly Warlick considers LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell, the former Tennessee assistant/player, to be her good friend. That might change for a day.
"She's not going to be a great friend of mine (today)," Warlick said. "Maybe after the game."
Lady Vols win over South Carolina, March 3, 2012
2012 Women's Basketball Tournament - Tennessee Semifinal Press Conference
South Carolina vs Tennessee Women's Basketball Highlights