That was a timely performance from the substitutes – and coach Pat Summitt went to Fuller early in the first half – considering the fact Tennessee (19-2, 6-0) was playing its third game this week, and Alabama (10-12, 0-7) was playing for the first time in a week.
The Crimson Tide, trailing at halftime, 32-23, made a game of it in the second half and cut Tennessee's lead to four with less than 17 minutes to play, but the Lady Vols went on a run and quickly built a double-digit lead that they never surrendered. The 29-point margin was the largest on the road for Tennessee this season.
Shannon Bobbitt, who hit three three-pointers in each half, had a big say in the runaway victory before 4,601 people at Coleman Coliseum. It was Tennessee 32nd consecutive win over the Crimson Tide.
"I guess I was feeling good, and it was needed," Bobbitt said on CSS after the televised game. "They trust me, and I thank them for that. … I was just open and I took the shot."
It was that simple approach that Summitt had been seeking from Bobbitt – aggressive on offense and defense.
"I thought Shannon set the tone for how we were going to play," Summitt said post-game on CSS. "When she brings that it elevates our level of play."
Spencer was the other starter in double figures with 10 points. Candace Parker had nine points – ending her streak of 33 games in double digits – but snared a team-high eight rebounds. Alexis Hornbuckle had six points and also added a game-high six assists. She was credited with one steal – she deflected several balls – and now has at least one in 57 straight games.
One of Hornbuckle's assists was highlight reel worthy. She swooped in for an offensive board but her momentum carried her towards the baseline. Before falling out of bounds she hooked a pass over her head to Redding, who converted the layup.
All in all Summitt will take the win and head home for two games at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols take on South Carolina on Thursday and then host Georgia in a "Rivalry Week" matchup on Monday, Feb. 5.
Summitt said on her post-game radio show with Mickey Dearstone that the team "did some good things early," hit a lull and then dialed up the defensive intensity.
"We just lost our intensity, and we had to pick it back up," Summitt said.
Meanwhile, Alabama, which had been playing better of late and had given LSU a game last Sunday until the second half, got points from Navonda Moore with 25 and another solid game from freshman center Talisha Chandler, who had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds plus five assists, two steals and only two turnovers.
"I thought that we played pretty well for the most part," coach Stephany Smith said on Alabama's team Web site, rolltide.com. "We executed the things we wanted to, offensively and defensively, for 30 minutes, but in the middle of resting a few players before a media timeout, it went from a four-point game to a 12-point game, and we had a hard time rebounding from that."
Once again Alabama out-rebounded Tennessee, 37-32. But Alabama once again turned over the ball – 30 times to 15 for Tennessee – and allowed the Lady Vols to score in bunches and put the game out of reach.
"Turnovers have been a key point all season long," Smith said on rolltide.com. "Tennessee had scored 12 of its 32 points in the first half from our turnovers and only 12 in its half-court offense. Some of that was their pressure, but most times it was just us throwing the ball away."
Parker may have finished with just nine points – like Spencer she struggled from the field and was doubled throughout the game with one defender in front and another in back – but she did get points number 999, 1,000 on two free throws for her first points of the game – rather fitting considering her recent struggles from the stripe – and is now the fastest Lady Vol in history to hit the mark, doing it one game faster than Chamique Holdsclaw (57) and two games faster than Tamika Catchings (58).
Tennessee shot 45.3 percent for the game and 40.9 percent from behind the arc (9-22).
After the teams played for the first time in Knoxville – a 72-36 win for Tennessee – Smith was asked about Bobbitt and how the Lady Vols' guard play had changed from last season when Hornbuckle and then Shanna Zolman had to play point because of a transfer and then injury.
In the first Alabama game Bobbitt was 2-4 behind the arc with eight points. She came into this game averaging 7.1 points per game.
"It's funny, because it's mostly if you're going to talk about Shanna vs. Bobbitt," Smith said after the Jan. 3 game in Knoxville. "If you just swap those two players out, you wouldn't think that with this just being a one-player rotation that would be that great of a difference.
"But they are as opposite as two players can be. Shanna Zolman, just such a great shooter, and Bobbitt, not that's she not a good shooter, but she's really explosive off the dribble. It appears as if it changed a lot of Tennessee's speed and athleticism and quickness. Don't get me wrong, they are still a good three-point shooting team, very good basketball team but a lot more attacking the basket, a lot more around the rim."
Bobbitt changed that script Sunday, although her other two points did come off a mid-court steal and a layup. She was 6-10 from beyond the three-point line and hit several while safely tucked in the left corner, where Alabama either let her get open or didn't see her.
"I think they can't find me half the time on the court," the 5'2 Bobbitt said with a laugh after being named player of the game by Dearstone. "Sometimes my teammates can't find me."