The game was still close at halftime – Tennessee held a 35-28 lead – because the Lady Vols were shooting too quickly and throwing the ball away.
"We weren't real happy at halftime," coach Pat Summitt said. "I don't think they realized the turnovers. We had 16 turnovers in the first half. We did a poor job in our transition defense. The play off the bench was unacceptable in a couple of areas."
"She wasn't happy," Tennessee senior forward Shyra Ely said. "The first thing she wrote on the board was the fact we had 16 turnovers. Take care of the ball. Please get to the free throw and just get the ball inside."
The team got the message and within three minutes of the second half getting underway, Tennessee had doubled its halftime lead to 14. It was out of reach for Ole Miss a few minutes later.
"We tried to make a run when we came out in the second half, and they answered before we could make it," said Ole Miss guard Armintie Price, who led the Lady Rebels with 19 points and nine rebounds. "They came out very aggressive."
"It's one thing to get beat, but we got taken to the outhouse and whupped as we like to say in the South," Ole Miss coach Carol Ross said. "It didn't feel good. Give Tennessee a lot of credit. When we made our little stand there late in the first half, they came out of that locker room and played like I've seen them play a few times too many in my career with a lot of pride in their home court and really involve the fans. That's not the environment you really want to be in when you're visiting here. Great job on their part."
Lady Vol junior guard Shanna Zolman led the team with 21 points and has now scored 49 points in the last two games. Ely had 19 points and six rebounds. Dominique Redding was the leading rebounder with eight and also had 11 points. The other double figure scorers were Brittany Jackson with 16 and Nicky Anosike with 11.
"I really thought the second half was about as efficient as our basketball team has been at times in terms of taking care of the basketball, moving with or without the ball, just very unselfish play, with really good player-ball movement," Summitt said. "I thought we did a much-better job of running in transition, and our defensive intensity was at a different level obviously than it was in the first half."
Summitt raised her concerns at halftime, especially the turnovers and three-point shots. Tennessee was 6-15 from behind the arc and although Summitt wants her sharpshooters to look for the basket, she also wants them to make good decisions.
We just addressed it," Summitt said. "But you can address it – I address everything every halftime – but I just thought they came out and really turned the heat up defensively, pushed tempo. Our defense obviously gave us more opportunities to run the basketball. And then we shared it very, very well."
Guard Alexis Hornbuckle led the team with seven assists and only one turnover. She also had six rebounds and seven points.
"She did a very good job," said Zolman, who was on the receiving end of three of Hornbuckle's assists. "Anytime you get seven assists she's really looking for others, she's really looking to create for other people and kick it out when we have an open shot. We were able to knock them down tonight."
Zolman also took the opportunity to note how well Hornbuckle played on defense.
"She also did a very good job denying No. 11 (Carletta Brown)," Zolman said." She was their heart and soul of the team, I think, other than No. 24 (Price). She did a very good job of denying her. She couldn't even get it to bring it up and start their offense. She played very good for us tonight."
Tennessee set a new school record for three point attempts with 27 (previous record was 26 at Texas Tech on Dec. 18, 1996) and tied the school record of 13 successful three pointers (the same number swished against Army on Nov. 30, 2002).
"I wasn't comfortable in the first half (with 15 attempts) because of the flow of the game and the fact we didn't go inside," Summitt said. "I want to give three-point shooters the green light within our offensive scheme. It's not that we want to come down and take quick threes. With Brittany and with Shanna obviously the two of them I don't want them second-guessing when to take the threes. But I think now they understand we want to go inside, we want to reverse the ball, unless we've got numbers in transition and even then we look to try and get a layup."
Tennessee hit several threes in transition after either first penetrating the lane and then kicking out to an open shooter or finding the shooter on the run. Summitt was particularly pleased with those shots, primarily because the team was pushing tempo and also in proper position.
"Exactly, because you've got a lot of people running to rebound," Summitt said.
The transition game brought a smile to the faces of the players, who would rather run.
"I think we hadn't done enough of it," Ely said. "That's something we want to do. Transition is probably one of our biggest strengths. It's fun. It makes the game go by. I enjoyed it. I enjoy transition."
Ely also had four assists in the game, including an eye-popping one to Hornbuckle in the second half. Ely was beyond the top of the key when she noticed Hornbuckle motioning to the hoop. Ely threw about a 23-foot pass, which Hornbuckle snared and laid the ball in the basket in one move.
"I was bringing it up, and here's Alexis. She's coming around, and she's pointing up. I just threw it up there, and I'm glad she caught it, because I probably would have heard the horn sound," said Ely, referring to the fact she might have been pulled from the game for the rather risky pass if it weren't successful.
The basket came at the 5:17 mark and put Tennessee up by 31 points, 87-56.
With time running out in the game, Tennessee's bench was yelling for Jackson to nail a three – they wanted to set a school record – and she gamely tried but couldn't get a good look. She did manage to try two off-balance shots. By that point Summitt had really emptied the bench – walk-ons Aubrey Guastalli and Abby Canon were on the floor – and Tennessee was in more of a mode to just run out the clock.
"We needed one more three to break the record. I couldn't get it obviously," said Jackson, who was 4-8 from long range before throwing up the two long shots.
The bench played a big role in the second half with nobody playing a better role than reserve Dominique Redding. It was her most-complete game of the season.
"Without question," Summitt said.
It followed a solid performance against Florida earlier in the week when Redding played 17 minutes and had seven points and two rebounds. She played 22 minutes against Ole Miss and upped her totals to 11 points and eight rebounds – seven on defense and one on offense. Redding also drew two charges, and during a scramble along the baseline, she secured the ball and called timeout before an Ole Miss player could force a held ball.
"I think where Dominique has improved is in her tempo," Summitt said. "I thought her defensive position was better. Good job on the defensive boards. Offensive boards is probably the one place that she can get better."
Redding's ability to score has never been questioned, but she had to ratchet up her defense and rebounding to earn minutes in college. The sophomore forward spent the summer getting in better shape and has steadily improved this season.
"The thing about Dominique coming out of high school and watching her play I never doubted that this young lady could do anything but score, and that was it," Summitt said. "Now, she's really developing into a much-more complete basketball player. You have to credit her for working hard in the off-season. You want to reward a player like that. I just think her tempo is getting a lot better. She could be a difference maker for us if she continues to progress and certainly pick up the defensive intensity and board play."
Tennessee was particularly inspired to hit the boards, because Ole Miss came into the game with a plus-seven rebounding margin over all games played this season in and out of the SEC. Tennessee still leads with a plus-9.9 margin in conference games, but has only a plus-5.6 margin in all games.
"Before the game we talked about the fact they have a plus seven margin on the boards, and that's best in the league," Summitt said. "We typically take a lot of pride in being the best in the league. Rebounding has been a trademark of this program for years. I think that might have given them an extra incentive."
Tennessee had 20 rebounds in the first half to Ole Miss' 18. Both teams doubled their boards to finish with 40 and 36, respectively.
Tennessee's first half tally of 16 turnovers was unappealing to its coach, but she was pleased with a second half stat of only three throwaways.
"We were playing fast, and we were playing careless," Summitt said. "We played fast in the second half, but we took a lot of pride in taking care of the basketball. We had three-second calls, we dribble into a double team, try to throw the ball off someone's leg. The decisions in the first half were not as good as the second half. I thought second half we really moved the ball and we got so many good looks, and we had a lot of open passes as opposed to contested lanes."
Ross still had her team within striking distance after the first 20 minutes, but she knew the margin for error would be very small over the final 20 minutes.
"I don't know if we ever had them under control, but we had moments where we were a little bit more physical on the defensive end, and we took better shots on the offensive end," Ross said. "They penalize you greatly for bad offense. If we don't take care of the basketball or we don't have a good offensive possession, they make you pay as great teams do. They were able to really get their transition game opened up a little bit and once they start feeling good, like great players they think everything they shoot is going to go in. And it felt like everything they shot went in. So you have to give them credit."
BAYOU BOUND: Tennessee will start preparations for LSU on Monday and then take off Tuesday. They will practice again Wednesday before Thursday's game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., at 7 p.m. EST (ESPN2).
The game is part of the cable network's Rivalry Week, and both teams have held up their end of the hype. LSU is No. 1 in the country and undefeated in SEC play. Tennessee is ranked No. 5 and also unbeaten in the conference. Tennessee notched its 58th consecutive SEC win at home Sunday.
"Tennessee more than anybody really takes care of their house," Ole Miss coach Carol Ross said.
Tennessee will now put its regular season SEC streak of 42 straight wins on the line in Baton Rouge.
"It's going to be a battle," Shanna Zolman said. "We know right now that it's going to be a dogfight to the very end, especially playing on their home floor. It's going to be very difficult for us, but we know that whether or not our shots go, whether or not they fall, we have to bring our defense and our rebounding no matter where we go. That's going to be very key down there.
"Hopefully, Tye will be back with us by that time, but if not it's going to be another team effort collectively. They're a great team obviously. Two undefeated top five in the nation right now. It's going to be very difficult, but we're really looking forward to it."
Junior center Tye'sha Fluker missed the last two games because of the death of her grandmother, Charlotte Creamer, in Pasadena, Calif. Creamer will be buried Wednesday.
"I talked to Tye last night and right now her plans are to fly from California to Baton Rouge on Thursday morning," Summitt said.
Summitt has said Fluker's playing status would depend on her emotional well being and what Fluker – who was extremely close to her grandmother – felt she was capable of doing.
Tennessee's offensive performance against Ole Miss – the Lady Vols shot 57.9 percent in the second half and 48.6 percent for the game – could be a precursor before taking on the Lady Tigers.
"It gives us a lot of confidence," Zolman said. "It's always good when your shots are falling. It makes you look a lot better as a team. For us to be doing the little things right – lot of ball movement, being able to convert, being able to execute but also and most importantly being able to get the rebounds and run. It all starts on the defensive end and like Shyra was saying it's a lot of fun when we're able to run and get a lot of easy points that way to start. It kind of ignites us a little bit."
COACH'S VIEW: Ole Miss had quite a week. The Lady Rebels played LSU on Thursday (82-58 loss) in Oxford and then had to play at Tennessee on Sunday.
"Rough week," Ross said.
Ole Miss now gets a week off and doesn't play again until Feb. 13 when they will host Alabama.
"They've got a big week," Ross said of Tennessee vs. LSU. "We've got a little bit of a break, which we sort of need so we can regroup, refocus and get the car back on the highway."
Going into the game against UT, the Lady Rebels shared third place in the SEC with Georgia and Vanderbilt. After Sunday's games, Ole Miss is now in fifth place with a 5-4 conference record.
"I would say right now that they've established themselves, both LSU and Tennessee," Ross said. "There's a gap between two and three."
Ross was asked how the Lady Rebels, who went to the NCAA Tournament last season after being picked to finish 12th in the conference, could continue trying to close the gap.
"A lot of it is recruits. You try to get recruits," Ross said. "You try to get better. For the most part we're infants in terms of trying to get our legs under us. There's just a big gap. We were able to play Tennessee last year for a half in Oxford, and we couldn't maintain it. That's just depth and confidence. Tennessee is a team that expects to win. We're still learning how to win and how to compete. We can't look them eye-to-eye at this point. It's a little bit humiliating when you can't stand up and go toe-to-toe with somebody."
To Ole Miss' credit they didn't give up even when Tennessee opened up a huge lead.
"We tried to hang in there and keep fighting," said sophomore guard Armintie Price, who was SEC Freshman of the Year in the coaches' vote, Newcomer of the Year in the media vote and All-SEC Second Team.
"They competed," Ross said. "We got run over, but it wasn't because we laid down."
Ross was asked to assess the upcoming LSU-UT game since Ole Miss has played them back-to-back.
"Home court always gives you an advantage," Ross said. "They're going to pounds the boards, so is Tennessee. I really think the backboards are where it's going to start. Both teams guard you really well. LSU has some great individual talent, but they really play well as a team both offensively and defensively. Tennessee they seem to be hitting their stride, which is typical of them in February."
SA'DE SITS: Freshman guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood dressed out Sunday but didn't play because of some residual swelling in her left knee. Jenny Moshak, associate athletics director for sports medicine, decided additional rest would be best.
"She had some swelling," Summitt said. "She sat out in practice Saturday, and Jenny said she was going to hold her out another day."
Wiley-Gatewood is expected to be OK to practice Monday and play this week against LSU.