Thursday, January 18, 2007

(4) Tennessee 73, Mississippi St. 44

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt never hoped for a game without Candace Parker, but she and the No. 4 Lady Vols found it wasn't too bad.

Sidney Spencer scored 18 points and Shannon Bobbitt added 13 in Tennessee's 73-44 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday night.

Summitt said Parker had a respiratory illness, and the team doctor advised her not to play. She sat on the bench with her teammates wearing her warm-up suit during the game.

Parker was averaging 19.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. The sophomore had not missed a game since redshirting two years ago as a rookie because of a knee injury.

"I haven't been looking forward to a game without Parker," Summitt said. "It's not a bad thing for this team because obviously she's carried a tremendous load for us on the offensive end, and I think it really challenges other people to step up. We saw that from a number of players."

Alex Fuller, who started in place of Parker, and Alexis Hornbuckle each had 12 points for Tennessee (17-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference).

Nicky Anosike added 10 rebounds for the Lady Vols, who outrebounded Mississippi State 45-30.

Marneshia Richard led Mississippi State (10-8, 1-3) with 14 points.

Imesia Jackson, the Lady Bulldogs' leading scorer at 11.8 points a game, was held to seven.

The game was ugly early, and the Lady Vols looked like they missed their leading scorer and rebounder until the second half when they put the game away.

"We did a lot of good things in the second half," Summitt said. "It did take a while to get going, however."

The players didn't think Parker's absence was hard to overcome.

"It was an adjustment, but it didn't take any time at all," Hornbuckle said. "We missed her scoring because that's 15 or 20-plus points a night given and people had to step up and I think our team handled it."

The Lady Bulldogs scrapped, but were unable to earn their first victory over Tennessee. They dropped to 0-26 in the series.

Mississippi State was missing two players because of injury -- Robin Porter and Miayorka Johnson -- and do not have any seniors.

"I think it's pretty simple. Rebounding and turnovers make a big difference," Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning said. "For us to come out and scrap and have some flexibility and adjust to that adversity, I was very, very proud of them."

Richard said the game plan and attitude of her team didn't change with Parker not playing.

"Tennessee is Tennessee. We've got to go out there and play as a team no matter who's out there on the floor," she said.

The Lady Bulldogs got as close as 12 after halftime before Tennessee found a groove during a 10-0 run midway through the second half.

Hornbuckle had a steal and layup between 3-pointers by Bobbitt, the last giving the Lady Vols a 55-32 lead.

After Tennessee jumped out to a 14-4 lead early, Mississippi State went on a run to tie it at 15. The Lady Vols responded with a 7-0 run. During the spurt, Jackson had to go to the bench after picking up a third foul.

Mississippi State got within three afterward, but Tennessee scored the last 11 points of the first half and was up 33-19 at the break.

Parker looked antsy to get into the game. After the Lady Bulldogs cut Tennessee's lead to 22-17, she moved from her seat in the middle of the bench to the chair Summitt left to direct the team from the sideline. Parker moved back to her seat after a timeout.

Fuller, who redshirted the same season as Parker, left the game with 1:55 to go after appearing to hurt her left leg, but Summitt said after the game it was a back spasm and she would be OK.

Tennessee hopes to be at full strength Monday, when top-ranked Duke comes to town.

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