Walvius also cited the play of Moore, who applied full-court pressure to South Carolina's point guard, as the difference in the game.
"She single-handedly took away our fast break," Walvius said. "That's what we do well, and we've been able to run on every team in the SEC. I think we're one of the better running teams on made baskets in the league, and she did a fantastic job."
Tennessee (20-4, 10-1) was led on the scoreboard by junior guard Shanna Zolman, who scored a game-high 13 points but more notably went over 1,000 points in her career. South Carolina (6-19, 0-11) was led by Lauren Simms with 16 points and Iva Sliskovic, who tied a career high with 14 points, the same number she scored against Tennessee to set the mark Jan. 27 in Columbia.
At the first stoppage in play after the basket, Summitt came onto the court – the first time that has happened since former Lady Vol Chamique Holdsclaw set a scoring record – to congratulate a stunned Zolman, who had no idea she had hit a milestone. Summitt left the court with the ball, and Zolman got a standing ovation from a crowd of 8,907.
"I thought she looked kind of startled when I started out on the court, but that wasn't the only time I'd been out on the court," Summitt said, alluding to her previous encounters over disputes with the officials. "She probably thought, ‘What's coach coming after me for?' She was excited. Obviously she's had a big contribution to the program. If you think about what she's been able to do from her freshman year to sophomore year and now sophomore to junior year, she's the kind of player who's worked really hard. She's got a beautiful stroke, and she wasn't born with that. She's probably spent as much time in the gym as any kid I've ever coached working on her shot."
"I had no idea that it was the 1,000th point first of all," said Zolman, whose 15-footer with 8:56 to go in the game gave her 1,001 career points. "Then when I heard them over the PA, I was like, ‘What's going on?' I really had no idea what was going on. When they said that I was surprised myself. But there was still like eight minutes left to go in the game at that point so I had to keep on playing."
Prior to the South Carolina game, Summitt was looking for better ball movement, a commitment to getting the ball inside and defenders who would stop the transition game of South Carolina. She also wanted to open up both halves well and get minutes for her bench players to see who can contribute in the post-season. She got nearly all of it. The only category that Tennessee came up short in was a slow start in the second half.
In the previous game, South Carolina had scored 26 points off Tennessee turnovers and 16 fast break points. In this game, the Gamecocks got four points off turnovers and zero fast break points.
Tennessee, on the other hand, filled up the stat sheet with: 30 points off turnovers, 16 second chance points – brought on by 14 offensive rebounds – and 10 fast break points.
"Tennessee came out with something to prove today," Walvius said. "Really impressive defensive effort, especially defense and rebounding – had 14 offensive boards, forced 24 turnovers, had 30 points off our turnovers and 16 second chance points. So when you're getting 46 points off your defense and off your rebounding, great teams do that.
"Tennessee played better this week than they did a few weeks ago, and as a coach that's what you want to see your team doing. Real impressive group, especially I thought the pressure on the point guard, Loree Moore came out and did a nice job defensively, denying the ball to the point guard, limited our transition game offensively, which was very good for us at our place. I thought Tennessee played extremely well. We've got a young basketball team – opportunity for them to learn defense and rebounding win games and win championships.
"Certainly Pat has been teaching that and instilling that in her players for a long time. I know she's getting her team ready to compete for a championship."
When Summitt was asked if her team was "tournament ready," she smiled and said, "Not yet, not yet," but she had to feel better after this game.
Before the game, she said she wanted freshman guard Alexis Hornbuckle to limit her turnovers. Hornbuckle had zero. As a team, Tennessee only had nine.
"I wasn't in the game concentrating please don't get this turnover, because when I do that, that's usually when you get about three," Hornbuckle said. "I was just trying to play well and take care of the ball and keep the ball moving. I asked Loree how many turnovers did I have. She said zero. I said, ‘Yes!' "
Summitt also wanted to see some improvement from the play of freshman center Sybil Dosty, and since Shyra Ely has returned to the power forward spot, she wanted another solid player at small forward in Sidney Spencer and Dominique Redding.
Dosty played nine minutes and had seven points, three rebounds and an assist. Spencer played 17 minutes and had nine points on 4-5 shooting (her one miss was a hurried shot as the shot clock was expiring), six rebounds and an assist. Redding also played 17 minutes and had nine points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist. None of the three had a turnover.
"We got a lot of players minutes," Summitt said. "I thought Dosty had some quality play for her minutes. It was good to get Dominique and Sidney the amount of time that they got. Going into it that's what we wanted to do. Also, we wanted to be a little more efficient in our half-court offense. I thought we were. We didn't close out the game shooting the ball as well as I would have liked, but with that said it was valuable for us in terms of the players that got to play and what we saw."
Tennessee shot 46.9 percent for the game, including 50 percent from behind the arc. Better shooting usually starts with getting the ball inside, Summitt said, so she was particularly pleased with that aspect of the game.
"We had nine post feeds at halftime, and I'm sure we more than doubled that for the game," Summitt said. "I do want us playing from the inside-out and getting the post touches. I thought our post people for the most part had good composure and kicked it out when they needed to. Didn't always make their shots, but when you can get the ball in there you open up a lot of aspects of our offensive play, whether it's kicking it out for an open shooter or post to post or getting reversal. We had some good decisions once we got the ball inside."
Other areas of emphasis were ball reversal on offense, the lack of which had caused the offense to stall in past games, and better ball-handling to cut down on giveaways.
"That's an improvement, Summitt said. "That's been a place where I think we've been a little sloppy. I think the quick ball movement eliminates a lot of indecision on the part of players, when we hold the ball – and in the past we've held the ball – and we look, and we think instead of just make a quick read and reverse the basketball. Looking at the Vanderbilt game, 39 possessions in the half-court, 16 of those we never reversed the ball. So this team they do learn from that. We watched tape. They realized we got the ball stuck on one side of the floor entirely too much and played three on five. Now we can break down the defense with good ball movement and ball reversal."
Zolman said the team had watched enough tape to know what it had been doing wrong and didn't want a repeat of the mistakes made in the previous game against South Carolina, nor in the last one just played against Vandy.
"It was extremely motivating," Zolman said. "We watched all of the game film from our scouting report and just being able to see – not only going over their stuff again – but what we did wrong that made it a close game down the stretch. I think our start, both the first and second half, that leads to the intensity you have the rest of the game. If you start off strong that's going to usually lead off to a sharp game in all."
In the first five minutes of play, Tennessee had a 16-8 lead with five assists and three steals. The second half wasn't nearly as efficient as Tennessee only scored six points in the first five minutes of play, but the defense was still solid as South Carolina only managed four points. Tennessee did open up the second half by feeding the post.
"We had a lot of focuses this game," Zolman said. "And that was one of them, being able to get the ball inside and have an inside-outside game and being able to reverse it because we also broke down from our last South Carolina game as to how many times we reversed the ball on a possession compared to how many times we didn't. We reversed it more times than not, but it was pretty close – just being able to look at our possessions when we do reverse the ball of how well we look offensively and how smooth we look."
Tennessee led 42-21 at the half and was playing so well that Summitt changed the starters to open the second half just because she wanted to look at another combination inside. Ely replaced freshman Nicky Anosike inside.
"I watched Nicky and Shyra play a lot together in the first half, and I wanted to watch Tye and Shyra play together in the second half," Summitt said. "We didn't start very strong. Tye was the only one that was scoring. We weren't really very inspired. But I don't know that I can blame our post game for that."
Anosike had eight points and four rebounds. Tye'sha Fluker opened the second half with four quick points and finished with six. Ely was the leading rebounder with nine and scored seven points. Tennessee shot well for the game, but the post players struggled at times and missed some open shots. But the game was won where Summitt wants it – on the boards (Tennessee had 36 to South Carolina's 30) and with defense. The Gamecocks shot 39.1 percent for the game, and as Walvius noted, had their running game shut down by Moore.
Simms, a sophomore guard playing for the first time in Knoxville, was a bright spot for South Carolina. Also, sophomore guard Stacy Booker set a career high with seven assists.
"It's not real easy," Simms said of playing in Thompson-Boling Arena. "You've got to come in focused and not pay attention to the crowd, not pay attention to all the negative stuff that can distract you … . We've just got to come in focused, and that's what I tried to do. I just tried to keep the team together."
Tennessee's senior point guard also was trying to keep her team together by demonstrating true floor leadership. By all accounts she succeeded.
"I guess just looking at Vandy game and coming into this game, I told myself that most importantly leadership was the main focus for me and making sure I had communication across the board with the people that were on the court with me as well as the coaching staff," Moore said. "It starts with defense. I'm one of the defensive stoppers. I feel like if I come in intense and all over the ball and get us going on that end it will just carry over to our transition game and get us going on offense. Those were my two main thoughts coming into the game and for the rest of the season and not so much worry about anything else.
"I think it was a mindset for us. We wanted to come in and make sure we did the little things that we've been trying to fix as far as transition defense and denying the middle of the floor. We did that across the board. I was really proud tonight of how everybody played defensively."
I'LL TUMBLE FOR YOU: Near the end of the game, Alexis Hornbuckle was bringing the ball up the court for Tennessee when she cut right and stopped. She was run over by a trailing South Carolina player. Hornbuckle ducked on contact – while maintaining her dribble – and the player flipped over her and tumbled to the floor.
"Usually if I'm going up and you see somebody trailing, I go into them so that they don't steal the ball from behind," Hornbuckle said. "I did not intend to flip the girl. I do apologize because it probably looked bad. I'm sorry; I didn't mean to flip her. I had to keep going. I couldn't check on her and say, ‘Are you OK' in the middle of the game."
The South Carolina player got up and appeared to be OK.
Another Gamecock player, Larissa Kulcsar, was injured in the second half when she and Sybil Dosty got tangled up going for a rebound. Both players hit the floor hard. Dosty was OK, but Kulcsar sustained a lower back contusion.
South Carolina was without two freshmen players for the game. Lakesha Tolliver and Melanie Johnson were suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules earlier in the day.
MURDERER'S ROW: That's what South Carolina was calling a three-game stretch of the SEC schedule in which the Gamecocks played at Georgia, hosted LSU and played at Tennessee.
"This stretch has been a really tough stretch for our team, and we've shown moments of brilliance, not a lot of moments of brilliance tonight, but we showed some really good minutes," coach Susan Walvius said. "It's a tough stretch. I don't wish that on anybody."
South Carolina remains winless in conference play and finishes the regular season by hosting Alabama and Kentucky and then playing at Ole Miss.
WRAPUP: The win gives Tennessee its 60th straight regular season SEC win at home. … Tennessee now has won at least 20 games for 29 consecutive seasons. The only teams not to do it were Summitt's first two in 1974-75 (16-8) and 1975-76 (16-11). … Freshman guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood remains day-to-day because of chronic pain in her left knee. She dressed out in uniform but was on crutches Thursday and kept an ice bag on her knee on the bench. … Tennessee returns to the practice court today to get ready for Sunday's game at Arkansas. Next Thursday's game against Mississippi State is the last home contest and will be senior night. Tennessee finishes the regular season Sunday, Feb. 27, at Alabama. … Senior Shyra Ely is 19 points shy of 1,500 for her career.