Tennessee swipes win from Georgia, 58-55

"We've got to rebound like none other." Those were Tennessee senior Shanna Zolman's words before Thursday's game against Georgia. By the end of Tennessee's 58-55 win, they sounded prophetic.

Shanna Zolman was thrust into the point guard position because of the loss of sophomore Alexis Hornbuckle to a broken right wrist. Her baptism came before some of the quickest guards in women's college basketball. They targeted Zolman – and freshman forward Candace Parker quickly filled in to help – but they were not able to break her.

Zolman had five turnovers, but she also had 18 points, including two key free throws in the final seconds to ice the Lady Vols' win in Athens. Tennessee (23-3, 9-2) had a lot to prove Thursday, and the team proved it was up to the task with the win over Georgia (17-7, 7-4).

Everything was against Tennessee – Hornbuckle was back home in Knoxville after surgery to repair her broken right wrist - and Bulldog All-American Tasha Humphrey had been anticipating the rematch in Georgia since Tennessee ran to a 94-85 win in Knoxville in January.

But Tennessee never unveiled its trademark man-to-man defense and smothered Georgia with a variety of zone looks. Humphrey was held to 10 points on 2-12 shooting with five points coming from the charity stripe.

Zolman knew going into the game that the loss of Hornbuckle would be difficult to overcome.

"Lex brought so much because of her speed, her quickness and her long, lanky arms and her athleticism – not only defensively but also on the boards, both ends," Zolman said earlier this week. "That's something collectively we have to be able to do to make up for she's given to us. … In our zone we've got to be smart, be able to cover the right spots on the floor and be able to double down on the weak side and go get the rebounds. We've got to rebound like none other. We've got to pick up the pace even more so. We're not giving up at all."

Tennessee won the battle on the boards in whopping fashion, 42-27.

Parker, who was the Player of the Game for the Lady Vols Radio Network, told broadcaster Mickey Dearstone, "Coach has been right. Defense and rebounding does win games."

Coach Pat Summitt, who cajoled and willed her young team to believe in itself, said on her post-game radio show, "I thought it was a game in which we developed a lot of character from beginning to end."

There were a lot of characters that contributed. Sophomore center Nicky Anosike moved into 16th place on the all-time Lady Vol career blocks list with 66 after recording three in the game. As a team Tennessee had 10 rejected shots with five of those coming from Parker. Zolman hit all of UT's four three-pointers – and she had five defensive rebounds – and she has now made at least one in 25 of 26 games this season. With 62 treys Zolman moves into a tie for fourth place in the Lady Vol record books for three-pointers per season.

Parker played on a sprained left ankle – she got it retaped in the first half – and tallied 19 points and 14 rebounds. After the game she cited the board play of senior Tye'sha Fluker, who grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds.

The 58 points scored by the Lady Vols were the fewest in a conference game this season, but it was enough to win, even with Hornbuckle back home.

"I hope she was watching, and I hope she was proud," Summitt said to Dearstone.

There's no doubt.

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