Feb. 8, 2009
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- It's been 12 years since Florida has been able to be beat Tennessee at home.
Sha Brooks wouldn't let 11th-ranked Florida lose again to its Southeastern Conference rival. She scored 29 points to lead Florida to a 66-57 win over No. 12 Tennessee on Sunday night. It was only the Gators third win in the last 40 meetings between the schools.
"It meant a lot to everybody, just to show everybody that we are who we say we are," Brooks said.
It was the Gators (22-2, 8-1 SEC) first victory over the Lady Vols at the O'Connell Center since Jan. 21, 1997. The win left Florida tied atop the conference standings with Auburn.
The Gators not only beat the Lady Vols for the first time since Feb. 26, 2006, but they snapped a three-game losing streak in the series in which they were never closer than 22 points. Tennessee's 57 points were its fewest in the series with Florida.
Certainly Tennessee (17-6, 6-3) is not the same team that won the last two national titles -- the Lady Vols play seven freshmen, two sophomores and a senior -- but the program is still the measuring stick in the SEC and women's college basketball.
"There's no question Tennessee does set the standard and I think that's because of all the things that have transpired to this point," Florida coach Amanda Butler said. "The 1,000th win and that sort of thing signifies a lot of consistency. Freshmen, sophomores, seniors, whatever they have you always know that Tennessee is going to be a contender to win our league and a contender to win the national championship. That's just how it is in women's basketball.
"This is a program, this is a team in particular, that wants to be the best, and if you aspire (to be the best) then you've got to beat the best, so it is a big night in that regard."
Brooks single-handedly erased Tennessee's seven-point lead late in the second half by scoring 12 consecutive points. The Lady Vols led 50-43 before Brooks' run, which began with a 3-pointer with 7:06 to play. She followed with another 3-pointer, two free throws, another 3-pointer and one more free throw to put the Gators ahead 55-52 with 3:19 to play.
Brooks also hit a free throw with 52.5 seconds to play to give the Gators a 61-57 lead and added one more with 27.8 to play to put Florida ahead 62-57.
"I basically took what the defense gave me," said Brooks, who is from Jackson, Tenn. "It was a lot of teamwork. I can't just take it all by myself because when I was missing layups somebody else came in and picked up some slack.
"It's just something about wanting to beat Tennessee. Not saying I don't want to beat every other team but I really, really want to beat Tennessee."
Summitt, who picked up her 1,000th career victory by routing Georgia 73-43 on Feb. 5, said the Lady Vols lack Brooks' toughness and leadership.
"It's amazing because her toughness, how she comes after you . . . obviously she plays both ends of the floor and plays with great passion," Summitt said. "(Brooks) makes big plays, takes care of the basketball. I think she, without a doubt, has the biggest influence on how Florida plays the game.
"We're lacking that. We don't have a player that's going to come out there and demand everybody step up their level of play. She certainly seems to know how to motivate the team."