Game Info: 9:00 pm EST Thu Jan 20, 2005
With three losses heading into conference play, Tennessee might have seemed vulnerable. So far, however, the Lady Vols haven't had much trouble with their SEC opponents.
The seventh-ranked Lady Vols (12-3, 2-0) try for their fifth straight victory as they visit Auburn on Thursday night.
Tennessee beat No. 17 Vanderbilt 79-65 on Sunday for its 36th consecutive SEC win. The Vols have not lost a conference game since Feb. 2, 2002, when they fell on the road to the Commodores.
Reserve Shanna Zolman led Tennessee with 20 points and Alexis Hornbuckle added 16 off the bench, all in the second half. The Vols were coming off a 72-54 win over Arkansas in their SEC opener last Thursday.
``I thought our depth would be key,'' said Pat Summitt, who needs 16 victories to become the winningest coach in NCAA history. ``If our players play well, I want to keep a team's rhythm and let them play. I felt like we could compete with their bench and we might be able to wear them down by rotating.''
The Lady Vols trailed Vanderbilt by as many as 15 in the first half, but buckled down after Summitt went to a zone defense to capitalize on her team's size advantage.
``We were sluggish and let them have their way on offense and defense,'' Zolman said. ``We were confused defensively as to what we were playing. Some of us were in man, some of us were in zone. We were able to pull it back together, close the gap and move on from there.''
Tennessee shot 48.3 percent against the nation's third-best defense, which came in holding opponents to 36.3 percent.
Auburn (9-7, 0-3) is coming off its fifth straight loss, Sunday's 71-56 defeat to No. 21 Georgia. The losing streak is the Tigers' longest since they dropped seven in a row in 2002.
Center Marita Payne, who came in leading the nation with 4.4 blocks per game, matched her school record with 10. The junior from Melbourne, Australia also led Auburn with 11 points and six rebounds, falling four short of the first triple-double in school history.
``She's an exceptional shot-blocker, but she always plays a quiet game,'' coach Nell Fortner said. ``She is not a physical player. She had a good game, but I am greedy. I want the triple double, and I want the win.''
Tennessee leads the series with Auburn 26-8 and has not lost to the Tigers since March 2, 1997, in the SEC tournament. The Vols have not lost at Auburn since Jan. 19, 1991.