Redshirt freshman Candace Parker scored a game-best 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while Sidney Spencer and Shanna Zolman added 14 points for the Lady Vols (17-0, 3-0) who ran their record to 25-0 against Mississippi State. Tennessee outrebounded the ‘Dogs by just four, 37-33, despite holding a considerable size advantage, particularly in the post.
"It is frustrating when you have a team as talented as this one, and they aren't committed on both ends of the floor," said Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt. "There were a lot of broken plays and we really just couldn't get into a flow. When we went back with our starters, I thought that was when we stepped up and played a lot better."
Tennessee stretched a 16-point halftime lead out to 20 on a jumper by Nicky Anosike with 17:27 left, but Natasha Henderson's jumper three minutes later helped cap off an 11-1 run by the Lady Bulldogs that cut the deficit to a more-manageable 10 points. Despite the threat, the Lady Vols would use a flurry of missed shots and MSU turnovers over the game's next nine minutes to cushion their advantage out to 22 on a Parker free throw at the 5:59 mark.
"Every team is beatable if you work hard and execute. Executing is the important part," said Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning. "We shot such a poor percentage in the first half, but the good part was we were getting shots. We missed several shots around the bucket, but I think, at time, we were just intimidated with their size. I am proud of the way we fought back though."
Tennessee scored 16 of the game's first 20 points to take an early 12-point lead on a Zolman three-pointer just more than nine and half minutes into the contest, then stretched the advantage out to 27-11 on Alexis Hornbuckle's shot from the charity stripe with 5:23 left. Mississippi State scored the game's next four points to trim the UT lead back to 12 with just less than four minutes remaining in the stanza, but Zolman and Parker combined to score nine points down the stretch to give the visitors a 16-point edge heading into the intermission.
Mississippi State will return to action on Thursday when the Bulldogs head to Athens, Ga., for an inter-divisional clash with 13th-ranked Georgia (12-4, 2-1). Tipoff has been set for 7 p.m. at UGA's Stegeman Coliseum and has been slated to be televised on Comcast Sports Southeast.