KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Pat Summitt could sympathize with South Carolina's big deficit early. The Lady Vols were down 19-0 in their loss to top-ranked Duke last week. The difference was, the Gamecocks never got back into the game against the Lady Vols.
No. 3 Tennessee raced out to a big lead and clamped down on defense, going ahead 16-0 en route to a 72-36 win over the Gamecocks on Thursday night.
"We've seen it. It's not something you want to live through very often if you're a coach," Summitt said of the early surge. "The more you miss the more difficult sometimes it becomes for a team. We were in the same position with Duke. I didn't know if we'd ever score."
Against Duke, Tennessee (20-2, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) eventually tied the game but lost 74-70.
Candace Parker and Shannon Bobbitt each scored 13 points for the Lady Vols, who built a big lead in the first half and expanded it in the second half. The Gamecocks (13-10, 3-5) had trouble scoring and holding onto the ball.
"You all watched it. That's probably the poorest display of basketball I've seen from our team as far as poise and execution," South Carolina coach Susan Walvius said. "This was a situation where everything that could go wrong did go wrong for us."
She said getting off to a slow start affected her team's poise.
"When we get out of the gates early, we can roll with anybody," Walvius said. "We got tighter and tighter and went five different directions."
Alberta Auguste added 10 points and Parker had 12 rebounds for the Lady Vols, who shot 37.9 percent (22-of-58) from the field.
Melanie Johnson and Ilona Burgrova led South Carolina with eight points apiece.
The Gamecocks' total tied for the third-lowest in their history. They have lost by more than 35 points only six other times.
South Carolina didn't get on the board until Johnson scored with 10:12 remaining in the first half.
Tennessee led 37-11 at halftime. South Carolina had the fewest first-half points against the Lady Vols by an SEC team.
"One our weaknesses was playing defense for 40 minutes, so we talked about it as a team," Bobbitt said. "I think we did a great job in the first half."
The Gamecocks had a season-high 34 turnovers and scored their fewest points this year. They dropped to 0-16 all-time in Knoxville.
Tennessee's lead went past 30 with 12:35 remaining, and the game became sloppy with turnovers and fouls.
The Lady Vols built on their lead after South Carolina's first basket and scored the final six points of the first half .
The Gamecocks missed their first six shots and had nine turnovers — four on steals by Tennessee — before their first basket.
They finished the first half with 18 turnovers and were 5-of-17 from the field.
Officials called 43 fouls and Tennessee went 22-of-29 at the foul line. South Carolina was 6-of-13.
South Carolina point guard Lea Fabbri played for the first time since spraining her right ankle Jan. 14 against Alabama. After missing four games because of the injury, she came off the bench in the first half.
Parker was honored before the game for becoming the fastest Lady Vol to reach 1,000 career points. She got there in 56 games, one faster than Chamique Holdsclaw. Parker reached the mark in Tennessee's previous game at Alabama.
At halftime, a new Wheaties box was unveiled bearing the photo of Summitt, the first female coach to be so honored.