Jan. 18, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Alex Fuller's new jersey was a little bit small, but it didn't hinder her from carrying her team through a slow first half.
The 6-foot-3 Fuller, who wore the No. 2 jersey belonging to 5-foot-4 Cait McMahan on Sunday to honor her injured teammate, scored 14 points, lead No. 13 Tennessee to a 68-56 win over South Carolina on Sunday for the 36th consecutive time.
"There's a lot of heart in the No. 2 jersey," Fuller said.
The senior forward will wear the jersey instead of her usual No. 44 for the rest of the season now that McMahan has chosen to end her playing career after recurring injuries.
Coming out of halftime with a 33-30 lead, the Lady Vols (14-3, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) used a 15-4 run to take over the game. A layup by Glory Johnson with 12:12 left gave Tennessee a 50-34 lead.
From there, the Gamecocks (8-9, 0-4) could only get as close as seven points when Samone Kennedy kicked out the ball to Lakeisha Sutton for a wide-open 3 with 6:13 left.
"It took us a while to figure out how important our commitment to defense would be," said Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who grabbed her 997th win. "When we defended better we obviously played a lot better together on the offensive end as well."
Shekinna Stricklen added 13 points for the Lady Vols and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Summitt charged Stricklen at halftime with working harder to contain South Carolina's lead scorer, Brionna Dickerson, who had 14 points by halftime, including four 3-pointers. Dickerson finished with 17 points.
Charenee Stephens had 11 boards for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks took an early lead with an 8-2 run. Demetress Adams hit a layup with 13:41 in the first half to give South Carolina a 16-9 lead.
"That was our mentality to come out fighting and come out swinging," Dickerson said.
The Lady Vols used their own 9-2 run to take a 29-28 lead with 4:28 before the break, and entered halftime with a 33-30 lead.
"A loss is a loss," said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley. "We're 0-4 in the SEC and we need a win. Moral victories for us right now just won't get it."
The Gamecocks struggled to stop Tennessee in transition, and the Lady Vols hit 12 fast-break points. Tennessee shot 42.9 percent from the field, while South Carolina could only manage 37.9 percent.
South Carolina is one of six SEC teams without a victory in Knoxville and has struggled to even come close to beating the Lady Vols. The Gamecocks have lost by a double-digit margin in all but eight of those losses.
Summitt attempted to play Vicki Baugh for the first time in four games after the sophomore post sprained her surgically repaired left knee preparing for Rutgers on Jan. 1. Baugh played only 3 minutes, hitting one layup while continuing to favor her knee, which was wrapped in a brace.
Kelley Cain, who came down hard on her surgically repaired right knee in the first half at Mississippi State on Thursday, did not play.
"I put Vicki in, and she's rebounding off one foot. She's got to get where I think she's ready. I don't want to run any risks," Summitt said.