DAYTON, Ohio – Asked an innocuous opening question about the Buckeyes, Lady Vols post player Glory Johnson wasted little time in offering up material suitable for the bulletin board leading up to Saturday’s regional semifinal at the University of Dayton Arena.
“They have a huge post presence, just like ours, but we have more. (We’ll) wear out their posts,” Johnson said Friday. “Try to push it back on them. They can’t run with us. I know for sure they can’t run with us.”
Whether the top-seeded Lady Vols (33-2) can mute the production of Ohio State (24-9) star center Jantel Lavender, and whether the Buckeyes can run with Tennessee, are the two major subplots of the game. The winner will meet either Notre Dame or Oklahoma on Monday night with a trip to the Final Four hanging in the balance.
Lavender, a 6-foot-4 senior, is the linchpin of Ohio State’s attack. She averages 22.9 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. As she goes, so go the Buckeyes, who have won 11 in a row.
The Lady Vols plan to throw a lot of big players at her, hoping to wear her down.
“The Big Ten really prepared us for that,” she said. “We have big-bodied post players, post players who like to (get physical), post players who are really athletic. Tennessee is kind of that same thing all in one.”
As for the Lady Vols winning a track meet, Buckeyes point guard Samantha Prahalis isn’t so sure.
“We’ve been in a few,” she said. “We like to play fast. We like to play in transition.”
Despite winning their last 24 games – dating to a 65-54 setback at No. 2 Baylor on Dec. 14 – the Lady Vols have not been completely satisfied with their play. The players called a team meeting after the Lady Vols slipped by No. 25 Marquette 79-70 in the second round at their own Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday.
Shooting guard Angie Bjorklund was asked if voices were raised or if it were just a friendly chat.
“I don’t know about a friendly chat,” Bjorklund said, grinning. “It was definitely a serious meeting. You could just sense the maturity of this team. We all have the same goal in mind. We’re all working for the same thing. We just went around and voiced what we thought it will take to win.”
Tennessee has won eight national championships in its glittering history. But the Buckeyes – with only one trip to the Final Four and no titles – seem less than impressed.
“We’re in the Sweet 16 with a chance to get to the Elite Eight,” Prahalis said. “They have a great legacy. But this is 2011.”