The No. 2 Lady Vols closed out their perfect SEC schedule with a 73-53 win over No. 12 Vanderbilt on senior day in Knoxville.
Candace Parker posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols. Shannon Bobbitt added 14 points and Sydney Spencer had 10 including a three-point basket with 14:19 to go that sparked a 12-3 Lady Vol run to put the game out of the Lady Commodores’ reach.
Prior to that, Vanderbilt had taken advantage of a choppy start to the second half that saw 17 total foul calls in the first eight minutes. During the period, Spencer picked up her fourth foul with 14 minutes, but Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt decided to let her senior play.
“We were going to leave Syd in because she was at a good place offensively and was adequate defensively,” coach Pat Summitt said of her senior guard. “I knew that she had struggled with our confidence a little bit, and I just wanted to let her play, and she played well today.”
Tennessee led the game at halftime by a score of 40-29 and did not plan on looking back.
“I feel like we’re a team that battles through adversity,” Parker said. “We have each other’s back and I feel like when one person has foul trouble, other people step up. We just came in with energy, and I feel like when they closed the gap and hit a couple shots we came right back at them and made big plays, and I think that’s huge.”
The Lady Vols also relied on their defense and ability to create turnovers to win their 13th straight game over Vanderbilt.
“I think this is one of our best defensive teams ever,” Summitt said.
Vanderbilt entered the game leading the nation in three-point shooting and was the nation’s second-best team in overall field goal percentage. However, they were held to a season low 32.7 percent by the Lady Vols and shot just 33.3 percent from behind the arc.
Tennessee was also able to dominate the Lady Commodores down low for most of the contest, outscoring Vanderbilt 28-10 in the paint.
Summitt thinks that, regardless of how the Lady Vols play in the upcoming SEC tournament, they have now done enough to garner a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament.
“If we don’t get a number one seed now, I don’t know what I’ll do,” Summitt said.
She added that she still expects her team to be very competitive in this weekend’s tournament.
“We’ll see how much it means to (the players) to continue to win in this league when we get to (the) SEC (tournament),” she said.
Vanderbilt was led in the game by Carla Thomas, who showed an ability to score from almost anywhere on the court. She finished with 23 points for the Lady ‘Dores.
Tennessee senior Dominique Redding had three points, and fellow senior Elizabeth Curry, a former Lady Vols manager, was able to convert a free throw attempt in the contest.