Tennessee (15-1, 2-0) started out in scorching fashion and led Florida, 25-2, at the 12:19 mark of the first half. Gator forward Marshae Dotson finally got the Gators on the scoreboard with a short jumper. Parker scored with ease inside, she rebounded on the defensive end and went coast to coast unimpeded, and she also blocked the Gators' shot attempts inside.
Then, coach Pat Summitt went to the bench, and the Gators found easier paths to the basket. By halftime, Florida (6-11, 0-2) had managed a mini-comeback and trailed 44-26.
Summitt continued her mix of starters and substitutes in the second half, and Florida would inch closer and then Tennessee would pull away again. The most suspense in the second half was whether or not Hornbuckle would get a triple double.
When she reentered the game in the second half Hornbuckle needed two assists and a rebound. Alberta Auguste and Dominique Redding hit two shots on passes from Hornbuckle to get the assists, but the board never bounced her way.
"I was running around like crazy," Hornbuckle said on Mickey Dearstone's post-game radio show.
Hornbuckle still had plenty of highlights. One of her 10 assists came on a behind the back wrap-around pass to Parker on a fast break in the second half. She also had four steals, giving her at least one takeaway in 52 consecutive games. The assists and rebounds are SEC career highs, breaking Hornbuckle's previous conference marks of seven assists (Vanderbilt, March 3, 2005) and eight rebounds (Arkansas, Feb. 5, 2006).
It also was Hornbuckle's first career game with a double-double in points and assists, joining seven former Lady Vols with that distinction: Susan Clower (10 points, 10 assists; 1981 vs. N.C. State); Lea Henry (14, 10; 1980 vs. Valdosta State); Michelle Marciniak (10, 10; 1995 vs. Florida A&M); Dawn Marsh (11, 11; 1988 vs. Memphis State); Carla McGhee (12, 10; 1990 vs. South Carolina); Holly Warlick (10, 10; 1980 vs. Mississippi); and Shanna Zolman (22, 10; 2006 vs. Florida).
"The next step is just to get it," Hornbuckle said on the post-game show of a triple double. "All I can do is play basketball and hope it comes to me."
After the game Florida coach Carolyn Peck was pleased her young team showed some fight after getting in such a huge hole early.
"Tennessee came out with aggressive pressure, and we didn't handle it well," Peck said on Florida's website, www.gatorzone.com. "The run that we ended the half with really gave our players a lot of confidence, and it certainly showed in the second half. Sometimes against programs such as Tennessee, it's easy to get yourself into a hole early on, but the experience that our young squad got tonight will really pay off for us down the road."
Florida was led by Dotson with 20 points and five rebounds. Guard Depree Bowden added 16 points and nine boards. Guard Sha Brooks had eight points and four assists. The Gators were hurt by their 25 turnovers – Brooks had six and guard Kim Dye had five – and 13 steals by Tennessee. The Lady Vols edged Florida on the boards, 46-42.
Still, Tennessee has plenty to work on after this game – overall bench play and free throw shooting for starters. The Lady Vols shot an abysmal 41.7 percent from the stripe (5-12). Shannon Bobbitt was the bright shot – she swished both of her shots from the line. Bobbitt had to leave in the first half after getting leveled by running head first into a screen set by Sharielle Smith. She was taken to the locker room but was able to start the second half.
"I thought we played in spurts, and even though we had some good spurts, we didn't play to our capabilities. Nonetheless, it was a win on the road," Summitt said on gatorzone.com. "As a team, we need to get more disciplined when we extend the lead. This team could set the standard a little higher for 40 minutes each game. We need to learn to sustain those leads better."
Summitt said on the post-game radio show that the bench players focused too much on offense in their minutes on the floor instead of defense and rebounding. That approach allowed Florida to cut deep into the lead that the starters had forged.
Summitt did get a solid performance off the bench from Alex Fuller, who had seven points, eight rebounds – with seven coming on defense – one block and a steal. The boards tied a career high. Freshman guard Cait McMahan tied a career high with seven points.
Summitt called Anosike's defense "exceptional" and characterized Hornbuckle's play as "active."
But the dwindling lead unsettled Summitt – when Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood mentioned it could get to single digits, "that didn't help my blood pressure," she said – and Summitt, citing UConn's comeback last Saturday, "told them this cannot become who we are."
The team will return to Knoxville tonight and practice Friday afternoon. Tennessee then hits the road for a Sunday afternoon matchup with Georgia in Athens against a team that will be gunning for the Lady Vols after losing three times to them last season. Tennessee, which hasn't won the regular season SEC title in two years, wants to change that this year so the Georgia game looms large.
"Every team night in and night out wants to beat us, especially in the SEC," Spencer said. "We've won the past two years as far as the title goes in the tournament so we just have to learn – I think that's so great that that's been our theme this year is to take one game at a time – we have to bring it every night because any team is liable to beat us."