Tennessee's associate head coach can only hope the rest of her team follows the senior forward's lead in the NCAA tournament to come.
In winning a third consecutive SEC tournament, the Lady Vols played their best defense of the season and boosted their overall play when the game demanded it. But that won't be enough to carry them to the Final Four.
While their three-game body of work in the tournament was an upgrade over any regular-season stretch, they have yet to prove they can beat a team with comparable talent. The SEC couldn't provide that.
UT defeated three good SEC teams — Vanderbilt, South Carolina and LSU — in the tournament. It didn't beat a team as good as the one likely to be standing between it and the Final Four.
An SEC tournament championship coupled with Tennessee's strong schedule should be enough to earn it a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. That means it's apt to face a No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight — if it advances that far.
At least, the Lady Vols won't be surprised by the challenge. In the regular season, they lost to Baylor, Stanford and Notre Dame — all of whom are virtually assured of a No. 1 seed. Connecticut should get the other No. 1 seed, and the Lady Vols know it by reputation.
UT played No. 1 Baylor a nine-point game at Thompson-Boling arena but was embarrassed in road losses to Stanford and Notre Dame.
UT's elevated play last weekend suggests it would be more competitive in a rematch against either of those teams. But beating one of them or even a team with the kind of talent it might draw in the Sweet 16 will require a more complete game than what it has delivered so far.
Johnson, Tennessee's best player, is playing the best basketball of her career. That's a good starting point for UT's tournament venture.
Its next best player, Shekinna Stricklen, wasn't as consistent in the tournament. But she was sensational in the second halves of each game, totaling 48 of her 50 points. Regardless of when Stricklen scores, those totals would be welcome in the NCAA tournament.
Other players also made significant contributions to the SEC tournament cause:
Vicki Baugh averaged eight points and eight rebounds in three games.
Backup freshman forward Cierra Burdick made five of seven field-goal attempts, which was in line with her shooting in the last few games of the regular season. In her last seven games, Burdick has made 18 of 22 shots (82 percent).
Alicia Manning had 17 rebounds, her most productive three-game stretch since early January.
Guard Kamiko Williams had two crucial blocked shots in the final minutes of Tennessee's 70-58 victory over LSU in the championship game on Sunday.
Ariel Massengale made nine of 10 free-throw attempts and had six assists against LSU.
But she is a good place to start in assessing UT's chances for further improvement. In each of the first two tournament games, she had as many turnovers as assists. And in five of the last nine games, she has failed to make a field goal.
Tennessee will need more from her in the NCAA tournament. It also will need more from guard Meighan Simmons, who played only 23 minutes and scored just five points in the last two tournament games.
Simmons looked shaky against LSU. She looked as good as anyone else on the floor late in the first half against Vanderbilt.
She has struggled with her shooting for much of the season. But in the last five games, she has made nearly half of her field-goal tries.
Tennessee is at its best in an up-tempo game. And Simmons is a great catalyst for that when she's also hitting her shots and protecting the basketball.
Simmons has had her moments this season. So has almost everyone else on the team,
Warlick addressed that after the victory over LSU, saying: "That's what is so unique about this team — anybody can step up and contribute."
But to make the Final Four, they will need everyone to step up at the same time.
Lady Vols win the 2012 SEC Tournament
Game highlights from the LSU-Tennessee SEC Championship game
2012 Women's Basketball Tournament - Tennessee Championship Press Conference
2012 Women's Basketball Championship - Music City Madness
SEC in the Paint on the Lady Vols and the SEC Tournament