"It was definitely a big win for us," Hornbuckle said. "Going 0-3 against Duke the past three years was no fun so we wanted to come here our senior year and just make a difference."
Two freshmen also were difference-makers for No. 2 Tennessee (18-1).
Post player Vicki Baugh scored nine points – seven came in the first half when the Lady Vols needed paint points – and Bjorklund added 13 points, including a dagger to the "Cameron Crazies" late in the second half with the shot clock expiring, or so she thought.
The shot – lofted sideways from somewhere on Tobacco Road – swished through the net to put Tennessee up 59-54, with 5:26 left in the game.
The Duke band and the "Crazies" were counting down the shot clock, except it had about seven seconds left when they got to one.
"I was wondering why they were counting down," Bjorklund said.
A crowd will do it to help the home team by giving an accurate count. A crowd doing it for a road player hopes to rattle her. It backfired, and the shot made ESPN's SportsCenter's Top 10 plays of the day with the anchor noting that Bjorklund got the last laugh, though she did need her teammates to later explain what happened.
"They said five, four, three, and I'm looking at the shot clock and I'm looking at Angie and she's starting to dribble faster, and I'm like, ‘Oh, God,' Parker said. "But it went in. We had to tell her in the locker room that the shot clock was more than it was, and she was like, ‘Oh.' She still didn't know."
The Crazies, who had angered Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt with their sustained and relentless taunts of Hornbuckle two years ago over a high school shoplifting charge, were relatively tame in content Monday. They were loud and boisterous but limited the Wal-Mart chants, which had no effect this time on Hornbuckle.
The refrain was loud when Hornbuckle went to the free throw line, but this time she stuck all four attempts. She finished the game with six points – four came from the stripe – five rebounds, two assists and five steals. The takeaways moved her into second place all-time at Tennessee with 312 career steals – Tamika Catchings is now third with 311 – and just 21 short of tying Bridgette Gordon, who holds the school record with 333.
"With Alexis now as a senior and having been in this environment I think she knew what to expect going in," Summitt said. "I think it wasn't so much about the fans, it was more about our team and what she had to bring to her team, and even when she wasn't shooting well she got to the free throw line.
"I told her at halftime you've got to get to the paint, and she responded and got to the free-throw line and stepped up and made some big defensive plays for us as well."
After Hornbuckle made her first free throw she blew a kiss in the direction of the crowd. Who was that for?
"The whole Duke student section," Hornbuckle said. "I was just showing love. Nothing out of disrespect. When they heckle you so much – I'm a lighthearted person; I like to keep the game fun – and I was just, you know I love you, too. That's all it was."
The game, however, clearly meant a lot to both sides. Duke (15-5) wanted to protect a 24-game home winning streak, the longest in the country, and 27 straight wins over non-conference foes. Tennessee wanted a win against a team that had beaten the Lady Vols three straight times.
The teams were knotted at 33 points at the break after Duke had led by as much as seven. Tennessee managed to get a nine-point lead, 45-36, within the first four minutes of the second half, but the Blue Devils managed to tie the game four times – Tennessee never lost the lead – with none more important than Abby Waner's 3-pointer from way behind the line to draw Duke even, 54-54, with 47 seconds left.
Hornbuckle ran into a well-placed screen and Waner lofted the shot over the outstretched arm of Parker.
"That's a big-time shot from a big-time player who was excited and wanting to take it," Duke Coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Parker responded for Tennessee with a short jumper under the basket after fighting for position and finding herself guarded, for the first time, by a single Blue Devil. That was a surprise.
"To be honest with you, yes," Parker said. "I turned to face to see if there was a double, and they didn't come."
Chante Black was left alone on Parker – she was supposed to be the help defender, not the primary one – and Parker banked in the shot to give Tennessee a 66-64 lead with 22 seconds left.
"I think that just happened by accident," McCallie said. "We were always trying to double on Parker. I have to look at the film to see where, I believe it was Joy (Cheek), where she went. She was looking at 55 (Nicky Anosike) there. That was a difficulty for us and that was very unfortunate."
When Black found herself alone on Parker, she said she thought, "God, don't let her score."
"But she did," Black said. "Usually there is a double team coming, and it wasn't there. That's just one thing we have to work on, just making sure we execute all the way down to the last second. It wasn't my man. I wasn't really expecting to switch off. It didn't work as planned."
Tennessee called timeout after Waner's tying shot and set up a play to get the ball to Parker. There wasn't a second option, at least not a planned one.
"Not really," Summitt said. "She didn't have a choice. She had to get the ball. We were going to her. Obviously if she's double or triple teamed I think our players would have instinctively looked to make plays and going in a different direction but when Candace is working hard for the ball it's hard to keep it out of her hands. You would have to double team her early, and they didn't do that."
Parker had 17 points and 12 rebounds with most of her production coming in the second half. At the break she was 2-9 from the field with three turnovers. She had three more miscues in the second half.
"They're a very athletic team, tall, big," Parker said. "So, when they send the double team it's hard to throw over it. I learned that in the first half and again in the second half. Obviously I'm not proud of my turnovers but I think once we understood how they were going to guard, I think we moved the ball and it didn't get stuck in anybody's hands."
Baugh bailed out the post players in the first half with eight minutes of solid play in relief of Nicky Anosike, who had two fouls.
"Angie and I were just sitting here talking about how Vicki came in and just played her butt off," Parker said. She did what we needed her to do, whether it be get a bucket or keep a ball alive or grab a rebound or make a defensive stop; she really helped us."
Parker also gave a shout-out to the player sitting next to her at the post-game press conference.
"Angie is that steady player that's going to come in and hit a shot when the defense slumps off her or make a nice one, two pull-up," Parker said. "She had a tough defensive assignment tonight, and she did a great job. I'm really proud of our freshmen."
With Hornbuckle all over Waner – she was 2-8 overall and 1-6 from behind the arc after lighting up Tennessee last season for 21 first-half points – the freshman drew the assignment of Wanisha Smith. The Duke guard got 12 points on 4-13 shooting, and Bjorklund made her either work to get open looks or put the ball on the floor.
Bjorklund showed no signs of freshman jitters at Cameron. Her first three-point attempt went in and out, rattled around and fell through the basket. She had eight points by halftime and ended up crossing the 200-point plateau of her short career.
"I did enjoy it," Bjorklund said. "The upperclassmen kind of gave us a little hint of what it's going to be like, but they said you've just got to go in and play in it to really know what it's going to be like. I liked it.
"At times it was tough, but we had tight huddles and we were on the same page a lot of the time and so that helped a lot. It was a fun environment."
Duke also got solid play from its freshman point guard, Jasmine Thomas, who scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers. Freshman post player Krystal Thomas scored just two points, but played well defensively in relief in short minutes.
"I liked the energy that Krystal gave off the bench," McCallie said. "Jas is getting more experienced every time she hits the floor."
McCallie wasn't pleased that Bjorklund got loose.
"I thought she hit some shots for them that I would have not liked her to hit," McCallie said. "Having 13 points as a freshman against us we're not going to be very happy with that when we look at it on film."
Bjorklund diversified her offensive attack by putting the ball on the floor and hitting two short jumpers.
"She has done a better job of really being more aggressive off the dribble," Summitt said. "I thought in this game she created some shots. It wasn't necessarily that the offense created for her, but she was really looking to score, especially late in the second half.
"I think that speaks to her maturity. She's a very confident shooter, but I think the lack of consistency at times I think now she knows her role on our team. She's a scorer, and she's got to take shots and she's got to make shots."
Both coaches came out of this game with talking points about ways to get better. Tennessee won despite shooting 40 percent and turning the ball over 23 times.
The Lady Vols looked to the rebounding numbers as the reason why. They won the battle of the boards, 40-29, and held Duke to zero second-chance points, a rather eye-popping stat since the Blue Devils pride themselves on offensive glass work. Tennessee got 21 second-chance points.
"I think the most glaring statistic that will bother us a lot from this game is the second-chance points and the boards and what Tennessee created off the boards," McCallie said. "The fact that it was a one-possession ball game despite that shows the potential opportunity that we have as a team to become a special team.
"So this one stings and there are some great lessons for us but the basketball gods said ‘No, not tonight, not if you're going to rebound like that. Not going to happen for you.' "
Summitt can look at the negative stats for her team – shooting percentage and sloppy ball security – and conclude that her team persevered through some adversity.
"It said we found a way to win," Summitt said. "And that's what great teams do. That's what our team needs to understand. The head coach would feel a lot better if it wasn't that close. Probably enjoy the game a little more.
"But just knowing that this team has played a tough schedule and they've been able to open up (run away with) a lot of games. But we're going to have some games where we're going to have to battle and fight hard throughout. This was a great example of that. I like their toughness and their togetherness."
Duke got some tough interior play from Black, who had 13 points but only two boards.
"The stat sheet doesn't lie," Black said. "When I was out there I felt that I wasn't rebounding as well as I should have."
Tennessee did a better job in the second half of limiting Black's touches deep in the post.
"Well, we really challenged Candace to step up her defense," Summitt said. "I didn't think she played her as tough (in the first half) and she got a lot of touches. And Chante, she's a great post player and when she gets position inside she's going to be a very efficient player.
"But I thought the difference was when we really stepped up in the second half defending their high-low action and also taking away direct passes on the low block. We started to front more on the low block and deny the middle."
The Blue Devils also let the ball squirt loose with 17 turnovers for the game – nine in the first half. Both teams recorded 12 steals.
Duke played mostly man defense instead of its matchup zone and was successful in pushing Tennessee away from the basket, especially in the first half.
"It is definitely one of the best," Hornbuckle said of Duke's defense. "They're so active. They're long like Candace. They're big. You're going in for a shot, you've got Chante Black there. That's going to alter your shot a little bit. They recover well. They, along with North Carolina, are the toughest defenses we've played against."
Hornbuckle determined that Tennessee's defense, while stout when it had to be, needed some work.
"We had a lot more breakdowns defensively than we wanted," Hornbuckle said. "I think we did well when we knew we had to have a stop, but as a whole I don't think that was the best defensive performance we've had."
Tennessee clearly isn't peaking. The Lady Vols also are not that healthy. Hornbuckle, who was sick last week, barely had her voice. Parker, who missed a day of practice last week because of illness, coughed throughout most of the press conference.
Summitt was satisfied with the road win, but she expects considerably more from her team.
"I think this team is working a lot harder, and they're more committed to our scouting report defense," Summitt said. "I blame myself. I didn't work them hard enough early enough, but that won't happen between now and postseason or during postseason. We're going to be ready."
This game had a postseason vibe with a matchup of top 10 teams and a few subplots beforehand. Summitt had said she would consider ending the series if her players were taunted again on a personal level.
"My comment was in reference to attacking players," Summitt said. "They can ride me all they want to."
The students did, but it was considerably tame in content. They chanted, "We're unruly," when Summitt walked on the floor and again during the game. They chanted her name as "Patricia" and they objected to her green shirt under her suit as confusing.
"Good, I'll wear it next time I come back," Summitt said.
That sent a clear signal that Summitt wanted the series to continue. Hornbuckle was still targeted, but there were no plastic Wal-Mart bags, the chants were low in number, and the senior guard was clearly not bothered.
Shannon Bobbitt, who one small group of students initially mistook for Hornbuckle before the game, was called "hobbit." Chants of "Shelden's better" and "Pay your rent" were directed at Parker. It was all mild stuff, and the Lady Vols laughed about it.
Shelden Williams, a former Duke star known as "The Landlord," is Parker's fiancé.
When Parker was asked about the chant after the game, Hornbuckle started laughing.
"Oh, you're laughing? That's funny?" Parker said in mock indignation. "I didn't really hear it. I think Bird (Alberta Auguste) said something to me to lighten the moment."
So, who's better?
"I guess he is better," Parker said. "We're at Duke so I'll just say that. He's bigger."
Parker ended the game as the offensive star – Anosike was the defensive stalwart by fighting for a rebound when Duke was trying to tie with a bucket in the paint and getting a jump ball that gave possession to Tennessee with 4.1 seconds left – but the game was won as a team.
Bobbitt had 13 points and matched Bjorklund behind the arc with three 3-pointers. She moved past Tasha Butts and Jody Adams (103 three-pointers each) and is now in ninth place in the UT record books with 104. She also reached the 500-point plateau.
Alex Fuller had two points and two rebounds with some solid first-half minutes. Auguste had four points and three rebounds and played solid defense. She fell down pursuing Waner on a late switch but recovered and challenged a three-pointer that would have put Duke up with 9 seconds left. Joy Cheek got the offensive board, but Anosike tied up the ball before she could get a shot.
Hornbuckle and Parker led the huddles and both came up big when the team needed them.
"I think the leadership with Alexis and Candace tonight was big," Summitt said. "Alexis wasn't shooting the ball well, but she did other things. She did not let her offense affect her game, and I think that's just because of her maturity and she know she has the responsibility of leading. Candace is the same way.
"Obviously, they've been in a lot of big games and they understand their roles. And we've got young players that we're relying on that they really have been very focused on helping those players just with their confidence, in huddles and keeping the positive talk. Shannon mentioned that after the game that things were very positive because we knew that we had to stick together."
Parker hit one free throw at the end for the final margin. She was fouled on the in-bound play after Anosike's tie-up. Her first attempt rolled across the basket and out, but the second one swished. Waner heaved a long shot that drew iron but missed.
Hornbuckle pounded her chest as the clock expired and let out a roar. She had said before the game that she wanted a win over Duke on her college resume. She also needed to replace the memory of her last time at Cameron.
"I try to do the intangibles, get my hands on balls, keep the ball alive, keep my team positive, but in a way I feel like I redeemed myself," Hornbuckle said.
Summitt didn't notice any of the chants and seemed content with the crowd.
"I didn't hear anything tonight because I don't hear anything anyway," Summitt said. "The main thing is I want to protect these student-athletes. They are students, and they're athletes and they're representing the university. Get on the coach all you want to, but let's don't harass players."
As Summitt spoke she placed a hand on Hornbuckle's shoulder, which brought a big smile from the senior guard and a big nod from the freshman Bjorklund.
"It means a lot to have that respect from your coach and to know that she's looking after you not only on the court as a player but that's her mother figure stepping in," Hornbuckle said. "We're kind of like her kids. We're all a family.
"I know that she's going to have my back regardless of what's going on."