Feb. 22, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt kicked her players out of their locker room. The Lady Volunteers responded with what Summitt called one of their best victories of the season.
Kelley Cain scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds -- both career highs -- to help No. 13 Tennessee beat Mississippi State on Sunday and avoid its first three-game losing skid since 1986.
"I'm proud of the way we played, but this is just one game," Summitt said. "We've got two more big games with LSU on the road and then coming back to face Vanderbilt, who is in a tie for first in the SEC."
That's why Summitt isn't quite ready to restore locker room privileges to the Lady Vols (19-8, 8-4 Southeastern Conference), who instead dressed in one of the visitor's locker rooms.
"They probably won't be back in there before postseason," she said.
The only other time Summitt has banned her players from the locker room was during the 1989-90 season, when assistant coach Daedra Charles-Furlow was a player. It took that team two months to earn the right to re-enter.
Summitt wanted to punish her players after losing back-to-back games against Duke and Kentucky. Tennessee hasn't lost three in a row since they dropped games to Mississippi, Auburn and Louisiana Tech in February of 1986.
For more than 26 minutes, it looked as if the Lady Vols might be on their way to another loss.
The teams tied 16 times and exchanged the lead 14 times. They were tied at 64 when Alex Fuller's layup launched a 15-1 run.
Mississippi State (19-8, 6-6) hit only one more field goal, a 3-pointer by Mary Kathryn Govero with 31 seconds left.
"Down the stretch they were a tougher basketball team," Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning said.
Tennessee shot a season-high 52 percent thanks to 44 points in the paint. Mississippi State shot only 35 percent but went 11-for-27 from the 3-point line.
"I think we needed the win, but mainly we needed to play the way we played especially in the end of the second half," Fuller said. "The intensity we had was great, and we were just having fun."
Alexis Rack led Mississippi State with 24 points. Govero had 14, and Armelie Lumanu and Chanel Mokango both added 13 points.
Mississippi State led 36-34 at halftime.
Tennessee had made 50 percent of its first half shots compared to Mississippi State's 36.8 shooting percentage, but the Lady Bulldogs shot 7-for-13 from behind the arc in the opening half.
Rack had four of her six treys in the first half and broke Tan White's school record of 222 set from 2001-05. The junior has 223 for her career.
Rack also extended her school single-season record of 3s made to 88.
"In the second half we didn't really get into the paint where we could kick it out," Rack said of the team's cooling in the second half.
The Lady Vols have won all 30 games in the series, and the Lady Bulldogs remain the only team in the SEC without a win over the league's perennial powerhouse.
The Lady Bulldogs led the Lady Vols through much of their meeting on Jan. 15 at Starkville, but Tennessee scored the last nine points of the game to win 63-56.
"When you come into the arena here, you know it's going to be a 40-minute game," Fanning said. "Toughness has a lot to do with winning. I didn't think we were very tough, and today we were in a position to win a basketball game."