Lady Vols run away from Vandy

When Shannon Bobbitt watched game film with Pat Summitt the point guard said she saw clips of her moving as "slow as a turtle." That's rather hard to believe, but with Bobbitt back at warp speed Sunday the Lady Vols scored 29 points off turnovers to take out Vanderbilt, 79-63, in a clash of conference and state rivals.

Coach Pat Summitt convened a film session with Shannon Bobbitt on Saturday after practice to look at Tennessee's performance in the somnambulistic win over Kentucky earlier this week.

"When I watched film with Pat we were looking at my up-tempo, my energy, pushing the ball," Bobbitt said. "During the Kentucky game I felt like I was going fast, but obviously I was going slow like a turtle. Today I pushed tempo and brought a lot of energy."

No. 2 Tennessee (16-1, 4-0) brought energy from the opening tip and used its full-court pressure to force Vanderbilt into 24 turnovers and jump out to a quick lead that it never surrendered.

"I think anytime we open up and extend our defense – and this team they like to press; we're a team that wants to press – that allows us to set the tempo of the game but it also forces us to come and play hard on the defensive end of the floor and stay aggressive," Summitt said.

"It carries over to our offense, and that really helped us get some transition opportunities going. This team wants to do it, and I like that. We got 29 points off turnovers today. To me that speaks volumes. This team is good in the open court and for the most part very efficient. Shannon and Lex they do a nice job of pushing tempo and distributing the ball. I anticipate that this is going to be a pressing team, and we're going to press every game – now how much depends on how the game is going and how effective we are with our press."

Vanderbilt (13-6, 2-2) surrendered the ball 14 times in the first half, and Tennessee got 17 of its 37 first-half points from Commodore miscues.

"I think the tough part was points off turnovers," Vandy Coach Melanie Balcomb said. "They scored 29 points off our turnovers and then 18 points or so off our fouls. So some of their points I think we gave them. I think we struggled against their defense, and I think, defensively, we didn't pressure the basketball enough and dictate enough, which is what they did to us."

The Lady Vols were led by Candace Parker with 19 points and 12 boards, but it was the way she set the tone that Summitt lauded after the game.

"I think Candace has picked up her intensity at both ends of the court," Summitt said. "Just challenging her to not take possessions off. She had a presence at both ends of the floor while she was on the court. When she plays hard, it elevates our intensity whether it's on the defensive end or the offensive end. She brought a lot of intensity and energy.

"When you get that from your best player, it has a powerful impact and I mean that in a very good way."

Tennessee had three other players in double figures. Bobbitt scored 14 points and Alexis Hornbuckle and Alex Fuller each added 10. Fuller was back after missing practice and one game last week to rest her sore knees.

"It's definitely good to see Alex," Summitt said. "Once she relaxed – I think she went in a little tight initially offensively – she got in her shooting groove."

The Lady Vols once again shot well – 46.9 percent in the first half, 53.8 percent in the second half and 50 percent for the game.

The exception was freshman Angie Bjorklund, who shot three times – all behind the arc and all misses. The misses don't bother Summitt, but the low number of attempts does.

"That's going to be the first thing I look for on tape, and I'm probably going to watch it with her (Monday)," Summitt said. "She is playing too many minutes not to be hunting shots. She's got to be looking for them all the time. That's what shooters have to do. That's the reason she is in our lineup. If we wanted to go with a defensive lineup, you look at the way Alberta's playing right now, Angie better find her some shots."

Alberta Auguste could be moving into the starting lineup anyway, at least for the Arkansas game. Summitt said on her post-game radio show that Hornbuckle is out for this Thursday's game by decision of the medical staff.

Debby Jennings, the chief of media relations, said Hornbuckle would undergo a diagnostic procedure this week. The nature of the test was not disclosed for medical privacy reasons. Hornbuckle has missed some practice time since the first of the month with lower back pain. She is expected to miss just one game.

Auguste played 21 minutes against Vanderbilt and scored six points. Her primary benefit for Tennessee is her ability to lock down defensively, but she has shown an ability of late to hit jumpers and get to the rim.

"Alberta played very well," Summitt said. "She makes our defense so much better, but when she can play off the dribble and get to the paint, and she's shooting the pull-up pretty well this year (she can contribute offensively).

"I like her coming off the bench for that reason whether you're taking Shannon out or whether you're taking Alexis out. We don't miss a beat with our defense, and right now she's bringing some offensive play as well."

Tennessee did have some defensive breakdowns by letting the ball get inside too easily on occasion and not finding Vandy's Christina Wirth on the perimeter. Wirth led Vanderbilt with 24 points and was 6-10 from behind the arc.

"Obviously we couldn't find her," Summitt said. "I don't know why. I think she is a great offensive player. She's got the composure. She's got the stroke. She was the one player that I said has to be a priority for us. She took advantage of us not matching up. We had some miscommunication, but give her credit and give Vanderbilt credit. Because they did a great job of finding her and getting her touches."

Hornbuckle said the team knew it was supposed to switch off screens, but the command to do so didn't always happen quickly enough.

"Christina Wirth got open multiple times – lack of communication, breakdowns," Hornbuckle said. "We may talk, but we may not react on demand. If I tell (a teammate) to switch she might hear me say switch, but it may take a second to process. I think at times we were talking out there, but it wasn't quite clicking with everyone at that point in time."

That was a gracious way of saying some players didn't pay enough attention to the scouting report on defense.

"I think my teammates just did a great job of finding me," Wirth said. "People penetrating and (the defense) having to switch over and help a little bit opened me up. The coaches have just been encouraging me, ‘Look for your shot,' and my teammates as well. When I'm open, they find me. I think that most of that is due to people penetrating and the defense collapsing and then kicking it out."

Wirth had 10 points at the break, and Balcomb moved her to the perimeter in the second half to allow Wirth some more good looks at the basket.

"Tina was aggressive from the start, and I was really proud of the way she looked for her shots confidently," Balcomb said. "Everybody needed to do that. We even played her in the second half at the guard spot and tried to get her looks and play a bigger lineup to try and match up with their size a little bit. We just moved her out to the perimeter since she was hot from three, and we were successful doing that."

Vandy also got 10 points from Hannah Tuomi, one of two freshmen in the starting lineup. The other was point guard Jence Rhoads, who had four turnovers in the first half and six assists in the second half.

"I think Jence Rhoads did a good job," Balcomb said. "She played for 36 minutes and only had four turnovers, and I think she had them all in the first half. To be honest with you, to come in here, get pressed the entire game as a freshman – my two guard is a sophomore, my other guard is a junior, we don't have a lot of upperclassmen, so it's not like she's got a supporting cast of experience around her – and to have six assists and four turnovers, I thought Jence handled it well."

Tuomi, a 6'0 forward, also got 11 rebounds with seven on the offensive end while battling inside against a taller Tennessee team.

"I think Hannah came to fight," Balcomb said. "She comes to fight every single day in practice, and that's how she's earned herself a starting spot. It's not about understanding or doing things correctly, she's trying to do everything we teach.

"She's got a great attitude, she's got great work ethic and good things happen to people like that. You have to earn it; it doesn't just happen. But what she's done every day in practice, I know what I'm going to get from her, so I'm not surprised. She's certainly undersized in a very tough atmosphere and was not afraid."

A crowd of 19,666 nearly filled Thompson-Boling Arena – it was the largest crowd to watch a women's college basketball game this season, besting the 19,123 for the Connecticut vs. Louisville game in Kentucky on Jan. 12 – and each one had an orange shaker left on the seats by the UT marketing department.

The Tennessee-North Carolina game drew 16,845 on Dec. 2, but the Lady Vols-Commodore game represents an in-state and longstanding rivalry. This was the 56th meeting between the two schools in a series that began in 1976.

"To be honest with you, I was surprised," Balcomb said of the record number showing up to see Tennessee-Vandy, before adding with a laugh, "They must not have been watching us on film.

I think a lot of fans – and I shouldn't say this because Tennessee is our rival – at Tennessee because they are women's basketball fans, they've lost in the SEC Tournament, and the fans stay and they've supported us. I've had 1,000 people tell me positive things and say, ‘If Tennessee's not playing, we root for you because you're in-state and we respect you guys.'

"To look up and see the 19,000 people there, I did feel good. It did make me feel like we've got some respect that we've probably earned in the last five years."

Balcomb drew the conference's three toughest teams to open SEC play in LSU, Georgia and Tennessee and with a win over Mississippi State got through it with a 2-2 record. Balcomb said she pumped up the non-conference slate by choice but was a little surprised when the conference schedule was released.

"This is the youngest team that I've had since I've been at Vanderbilt and I was concerned by our preseason schedule because I had upgraded and played a lot of good teams with the seniors that we had last year and then they (the teams) all returned so I had a tough preseason schedule," Balcomb said. "I think we weathered that pretty well beating Duke and Iowa State. We only had one bad loss and the others were two ranked teams.

"I feel like in the end we're confident going into conference because we had played a very good preseason schedule. I chose that. I have control over that. But the conference schedule I don't have control over and it's never spit out all three of the top teams in order like that to me. At the same time to be 2-2 out of that stretch, I thought we played really well other than one half against LSU coming in here."

With that in mind Balcomb expected a better performance out of her team to start the game. Tennessee jumped out to an 8-0 lead and led 37-24 at halftime.

The Lady Vols closed the first half with a flurry of offense and defense. Fuller nailed a three-pointer, and Parker poked the ball away from behind after Vandy in-bounded by chasing the player across center court. Hornbuckle corralled the loose ball and lofted the ball in with an acrobatic two-handed move.

"I don't think it was the press so much as it didn't allow us to get into our offense and allow us to do what we needed to do," Balcomb said. "We didn't take advantage when we did beat the press. When we got ahead (of the press) they got a lot of deflections from behind and allowed us to get out of our offense and get out of our flow."

Tennessee continued to build on the lead in the second half even with its defensive breakdowns. After Fuller hit an eight-footer on an assist from Bjorklund – she had four for the game – Tennessee was ahead 60-38 with 7:36 to go.

"I was a little disappointed by how flat we came out," Balcomb said. "I have to obviously give Tennessee credit because they didn't come out flat, and they had a lot to do with that. But at the same time I think I had pretty high expectations coming in here because my players had earned that from me and I was looking forward to it, but to be 2-2 in that stretch and know that we have things that we can use to build our confidence and not tear it down is a positive right now."

Tennessee was inspired by its own tepid performance against Kentucky. The Lady Vols came out of Kentucky with a 65-40 win but waited until rather late in the second half to really separate themselves from the Wildcats.

"I don't know what was wrong with us on Thursday," Hornbuckle said. "We came out really, really flat and we never really quite recovered from that. We had a good crowd today and we wanted to give the fans a fun game."

Hornbuckle put on the usual show of hustle and effort and wowed the crowd with several athletic moves. Hornbuckle hit the first three-pointer she attempted in the first half – Fuller hit the other two on an afternoon when the Lady Vols were 3-14 as a team behind the arc – and after getting a fast break started on a steal went up and under Liz Sherwood, Vandy's 6'4 center, for the finish. There was a lot of contact – both with the body and arm by Sherwood – but no call.

Bobbitt took advantage of a Hornbuckle block to gather the loose ball and stick the short jumper. Bobbitt had her own highlight moment in the first half by slipping behind Chanel Chisholm, swiping the ball and scooting down court, where she was fouled.

Bobbitt also was solid defensively. Tennessee turned the ball over 19 times, but Vandy only managed six points off Lady Vol miscues.

"That's definitely my job to get back on defense," said Bobbitt, who only accounted for one of those turnovers. "I thank my teammates for also getting back on defense."

Parker went into the record book with a three-point play in the first half with a putback and the free throw. The points gave her 1,683 for her career and moved her into 10th place all-time at Tennessee. She made the Top 10 in just 89 games. The other nine players ahead of her played at least 125 games for the Lady Vols.

Parker followed that record-setting play with a steal off the Vandy in-bounds play and a layup, which forced Balcomb to call timeout with the Lady Vols leading 28-18 in the first half.

"We want to put teams away early," Bobbitt said. "We're an athletic team so why not press the whole game? We may get tired and have a couple of breakdowns here and there, but we're good for it."

That last line was delivered with Bobbitt's trademark grin, which can even bring a smile to Summitt's face. But Summitt wasn't happy in the second half when freshman Vicki Baugh allowed an entry pass from the high post without any pressure on the ball.

Baugh did do well on the offensive end. She had nine points and five rebounds – SEC career highs – and four assists, also an SEC high for the freshman forward.

"I thought she did a good job except for her defense," said Summitt, who was waiting for Baugh after the high-low breakdown at the next timeout. "As I told her, I was pretty tough on her, but I just said, ‘We have to have you. You're a great basketball player,' except I didn't say it quite that way. But she understood what I meant.

"We've got to take away the high-low. If we didn't learn anything else from our loss at Stanford that should be something that every game they understand has to be a priority, because if you take away on the help you get direct feeds to the paint. That can be so detrimental. It was costly for us (Sunday), but obviously we had enough of a lead. That's where we've got to have no-touch defense in the high post."

Vanderbilt shot 34.5 percent in the first half when Tennessee was determined to set the tone.

"Before the game we talked about our defensive pressure, our energy and intensity would be a major factor in today's game because Vandy is such a good team and they have good shooters," Hornbuckle said. "You have to get out on them and deny them the basketball. We made it a point of emphasis to come out here and try to get as many stops as possible."

The Commodores got loose in the second half and shot 50 percent to finish the game at 42.6 percent. No team has shot 50 percent or better against Tennessee for the game this season.

"Obviously, I thought our basketball team did a lot of good things today," Summitt said by way of opening statement. "Maybe our scouting report defense could get a little bit better. We let Wirth get a lot of touches, and a lot of open looks. Tuomi had a great second half effort.

"For the most part pleased with our intensity on the defensive end. We got better on the boards in the second half. We talked about that at halftime, and they responded. On our scouting report defense, we've got to be really efficient there. We had a lot lapses. Of course, we had some young players make some bad decisions and not really read as well on the defensive end. But good energy. I thought we had a lot energy as a basketball team."

Summitt got an assist from Larry Pratt, whose name is on the Pratt Pavilion practice facility. Pratt, the president and CEO of a private mortgage company in the D.C. area, was in town for the dedication of the facility and addressed the team.

Hornbuckle, who plays with reckless abandon every game, might not need the reminder but she took it to heart.

"I take it one day at a time," Hornbuckle said. "You never know what's going to happen whether it's on the court or off the court so every time I touch the court, it's something I love to do so I'm going to give 100 percent. Mr. Larry Pratt talked to us and he was talking about touching third base so I just try to play with no shortcuts."

Hornbuckle sometimes plays with no regard for her safety by diving for loose balls, deflecting balls to teammates and walking a tightrope under the basket after swooping in to take a rebound away from a taller player. She somehow nearly always comes up with the ball.

"I scare myself sometimes, but I recover for the most part," Hornbuckle said.

Parker expanded on Pratt's story and Hornbuckle nodded as Parker, a baseball fan, summed it up succinctly.

"This team lacked energy versus Kentucky, and we wanted to come out and give it our all like Lex said," Parker said. "Larry Pratt talked to us about not taking shortcuts and touching third base because sometimes people get to the third and they see the lights and they see the people and the crowd chanting their name and they forget to go home.

"That's what touching third base meant. He gave us inspiration for the game and challenged us to always touch third base."

In baseball parlance a runner rounding third and headed for home – a phrase also made famous by Chuck Berry and John Fogerty – is playing aggressively and with abandon in a good way. Parker certainly put that part of her game on display. She was energetic and demonstrative as evidenced by a chest bump with Auguste after Vandy had to take a timeout.

In the second half, Parker blocked Rhoads by basically reaching up and taking the ball away. It was recorded as a block – she had three for the game – but it could have just as well been a steal. She kept a rebound alive with two tips, fell down, tipped the ball off her shoe, grabbed it and passed to Nicky Anosike.

Hornbuckle got two of her four assists by finding Parker in the second half. One was a baseline drive from the left to a cutting Parker on the right. The other was a jump pass from the paint to Parker, who was just inside the three-point line.

Tennessee had 16 assists and 12 steals and prevailed on the boards, 39-33. Parker only needed to be on the floor for 12 minutes in the second half and finished the game with 29 minutes logged. Only Hornbuckle went over the 30-minute threshold at 32. Tennessee got production from four of its starters – Bjorklund can fix her shot situation and usually responds well to a film session with Summitt – and 27 points from the bench.

Balcomb said opponents are not able to key so much on Parker this season.

"I think, this year especially, what makes Candace a difficult matchup is her supporting cast is really good," Balcomb said. "It's not like you can just key on her, double, triple, (because) there's very few people you can leave. Her supporting cast can beat you.

"On a lot on good teams you can double and triple and pick people and not play (guard) people. Their starting lineup it's very difficult to leave any of those players this year. I think that's what's made her so good. You can't double and triple her as much as you have been able to in the past because of the respect for the other players."

The win over Vanderbilt was No. 50 for Tennessee in the series, which it now leads 50-6, and marks the first time the Lady Vols have recorded 50 victories over a single opponent.

"That means we've been playing this team for way long before our time," Hornbuckle said. "I didn't realize that, but I guess we've got to continue the streak and make it longer."

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