With the game out of reach early for Ole Miss, Summitt went to her bench early and often, and the results were uneven.
"We just were not as tough off the bench," Summitt told Mickey Dearstone on the post-game show of the Lady Vol Radio Network.
No. 2 Tennessee (19-1, 6-0) was led by three players in double figures – Shannon Bobbitt with 14 points, Candace Parker with 13 and Alex Fuller with 11. Parker moved past Mary Ostrowski (1,729 points) and into eighth place in the record books with 1,737 career points. Next up is seventh place held by Tanya Haave with 1,771 points.
Ole Miss ((8-11, 2-4) was led by Shawn Goff with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The only other player to get close to double figures was Bianca Thomas with nine points off the bench.
The Lady Vols set the tone in the first half with an assortment of blocks and steals that determined the eventual outcome long before the game was officially over.
"We have talked about other team's defense and Tennessee's pressure," Ole Miss Coach Renee Ladner said. "We spent a lot of time working on the pressure defense and knowing that Tennessee is going to score in transition. It is what it is. I didn't want the tipoff and the first bucket to be our only highlight. It is just who Tennessee is. We are not quite where we need to be yet."
Ole Miss secured the ball on the tipoff, and Goff scored the first bucket. After that it was pretty much all Lady Vols. Tennessee led by double digits in less than five minutes and went on a 17-2 run in the game's first nine minutes. Parker took a seat soon thereafter, and Fuller came on in relief.
Fuller ended up with 11 points – she was a perfect 2-2 from behind the arc – six boards, two assists, two blocks and a steal, but Summitt wanted to see her, and freshman Vicki Baugh, look to score more often. Baugh had two points on free throws and a team-high nine rebounds.
"We need them to step up and make shots," Summitt told Dearstone.
Summitt had watched film recently with Bobbitt to encourage her to push tempo. She said her next tape sessions would be with Baugh and Fuller. That's a good sign for both – a film session with the head coach usually results in production, and it also means she is sending a clear signal that she needs those players on the court.
Dearstone's player of the game was Bobbitt – her points came in the second half – for her overall stats of 6-10 from the field plus two 3-pointers.
Bobbitt said it was the starters' job to get off to a great start. The fact the bench played a lot of minutes – Bobbitt played the most of any starter at 28 minutes; every other starter was at 25 minutes or less – was a play for the future. The team plays three games this week.
"We're here to win a national championship so we're not going to let that bother us," Bobbitt said.
Summitt added, "I liked the fact we got good quality time for our players off the bench. … We've just got to get our bench more efficient."
"They should be riding a high," Summitt told Dearstone.
Summitt has always said that her players must pack their boards and defense on the road. The Lady Vols had 11 steals – Alexis Hornbuckle had four and now has 316 for her career; with 18 more she will be UT's all-time leader – and eight blocks.
"They are very athletic," Ladner said. "If you get past their first line of defense, they have another line. They are blocking a lot of shots and making you force contested shots. Their pressure alone is very hard to deal with, especially if you are young or small. They are an outstanding team that just doesn't have any weaknesses."
The Lady Vols prevailed on the boards, 48-40. Summitt had emphasized the defensive glass and Tennessee won that battle, 32-19. On the defensive end, Baugh had eight boards, Parker grabbed six and Hornbuckle and Nicky Anosike added four each.
"Well, I think this: How many teams in women's basketball shoot over 50 percent? Very few," Summitt had said after the win over Duke. "I don't know that stat offhand but typically you can count them on one hand. What you have to do is make defensive rebounding a priority. To me that's where you take away the edge.
"Take Duke, they're a great rebounding team, and I just really felt like we had to take away a lot of their second-chance opportunities."
Tennessee didn't allow Duke any second-chance points. Ole Miss got 12 points to 20 for Tennessee off the offensive glass. Goff had nine offensive boards for Ole Miss.
"What I liked is that our kids fought," Ladner said. "I thought the last 10 minutes, Shawn Goff flipped a switch. I thought our pressure defense came back. With about 10 minutes on the clock, we were down by 25 and I thought maybe some pressure defense might turn some things around.
"There are just moments where our kids forget who we as a team are. I thought in that 10-minute run that we played Lady Rebel basketball against a team like Tennessee. That is what I hope to take away from this one."
Summitt got what she needed for this game – rest for her starters and plenty of game film for sessions with the substitutes. She was pleased with the starters' overall intensity coming off the Monday win.
"We were very pleased," Summitt said. "I think they responded. When your team takes that kind of ownership, that's a good sign. We are going to have to keep getting better. We're a good basketball team, but we are not where we need to be for postseason play.
"I think the fact that we have, in recent games, been more committed to intense play is good. When we went to our bench in the second half they certainly lost some intensity. We just have to be a 40-minute team."
Summitt was able to get plenty of minutes for the bench. Sydney Smallbone had some stints at point guard in her 20 minutes of play. She had five points, four assists and a steal. Baugh showed her ability to get on the boards, but a film session with Summitt will be a good learning experience for the freshman at this point in the season. She had four fouls in 20 minutes.
"With Vicki I see right now she is very aggressive, more aggressively defensively," Summitt said. "What I'm trying to get her to do defensively is not take herself out of the game with fouls because she is so aggressive. I love that. I don't want to change that.
"On the offensive end she looks to pass first. I want her to look to score first. … I want her to have a scorer's mentality because she can score. She's a very unselfish, giving teammate but there's going to be a game in postseason where somebody is going to get in foul trouble and she's going to have to step in and make big plays for us. I envision that."
Thursday's game was "Think Pink" recognition night for the WBCA's campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer awareness. The Rebels wore pink warmups and the Lady Vols coaching staff had pink shirts. Parker and Fuller wore pink ribbons in their hair.