Jan. 16, 2005
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee got off to a very slow start. Luckily for the Lady Vols, their state rival couldn't make them pay.
Reserve Shanna Zolman scored 20 points and No. 8 Tennessee rallied from a 15-point deficit Sunday to beat 17th-ranked Vanderbilt 79-65.
Zolman said she was surprised at how poorly the Lady Vols opened in a gym that has been their home away from home with plenty of vocal Tennessee fans.
"We were sluggish and let them have their way on offense and defense. We were confused defensively as to what we were playing. Some of us were in man, some of us were in zone. We were able to pull it back together, close the gap and move on from there," Zolman said.
With the victory, the Lady Vols (12-3, 2-0) won their 36th straight Southeastern Conference regular-season game. The streak dates to Feb. 2, 2002, a loss at Vanderbilt.
The Commodores (13-3, 2-1) looked ready to snap Tennessee's streak in the first half when they led by as many as 15 and hit their first 15 shots, including four free throws.
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, now just 16 victories away from becoming the winningest coach in NCAA history, didn't worry and switched to a zone.
"I thought our depth would be key," Summitt said. "If our players play well, I want to keep a team's rhythm and let them play. I felt like we could compete with their bench and we might be able to wear them down by rotating."
The Lady Vols did exactly that against a Vanderbilt team that played its starters at least 34 minutes. With eight Lady Vols playing at least 15 minutes, they outscored Vandy's bench 41-4 and outrebounded the Commodores 37-24.
"Usually, we are the people that wear other teams down," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "But when they are allowed to play that physical, they have the advantage. They definitely wore us down."
The Lady Vols used a 21-6 run to tie the game at 37 at halftime. The teams swapped the lead five times with eight ties in the second half, the last at 59 before Tennessee took control with a 13-0 run started by freshman Alexis Hornbuckle's layup.
Zolman capped the spurt with a 3-pointer and a 72-59 lead. Ashley Earley finally scored Vandy's first bucket in nearly five minutes with 3:46 to go, and Dee Davis added a bucket to pull the Commodores to 72-63.
Zolman hit another 3 with 2:29 left, and the Lady Vols pushed their lead to as much as 14 down the stretch.
Reserve Hornbuckle added 16 points, all in the second half. Brittany Jackson and Tye-sha Fluker had 14 apiece for Tennessee, which shot 48.3 percent (28-of-58) against the nation's third-best defense. Vanderbilt had been holding opponents to 36.3 percent shooting.
Carla Thomas led Vanderbilt with 18 points. Davis had 14, and Earley finished with 12.
With the Commodores driving to the basket for easy shots, the Lady Vols hurt themselves with five turnovers in the first eight minutes and too many shots from outside as Vanderbilt build a 24-10 lead.
Vandy led 31-16 after a pair of consecutive buckets by Thomas with 8:30 left.
But the Commodores started missing shots. Jackson jumpstarted the Lady Vols with her third of four 3-pointers in the first half, and Tennessee outscored Vandy 21-6 and tied the game at the break on Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood's 3.
"We started playing their kind of ball - one pass and a shot," Vanderbilt senior guard Abi Ramsey said.