Wednesday, November 21, 2007

(1) Tennessee 67, (16) West Virginia 49

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Candace Parker made sure Tennessee teammate Alexis Hornbuckle's homecoming was a success.

Parker scored a season-high 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the top-ranked Lady Vols to a 67-49 win over No. 16 West Virginia on Wednesday night.

Hornbuckle added 12 points in her first game at the Charleston Civic Center since winning four state championships there.

Tennessee (4-0) held a 50-35 rebounding advantage against what coach Pat Summitt called the most physical opponent the Lady Vols have faced. Tennessee beat a ranked team for the third time in six days, including No. 21 Texas on Sunday and No. 10 Oklahoma last Thursday.

"I'm very pleased with the defensive intensity on the boards tonight," Summitt said. "Candace has really played well at both ends of the floor. I'm really proud of where she's taken her game."

The Mountaineers (3-1) had averaged 83 points in their first three games but were held to their lowest output of the season, shot 31 percent from the floor and couldn't figure out Tennessee's taller frontcourt.

"They exposed some of our weaknesses," said West Virginia coach Mike Carey, who fell to 7-32 against ranked opponents. "They interrupted the passing lanes."

Olayinka Sanni led West Virginia with 16 points before fouling out with 6:27 remaining.

Parker scored seven points in a two-minute stretch of the second half and the Lady Vols extended an 11-point halftime lead to 57-39 with eight minutes remaining.

"There's no doubt in my mind she's the best player in the country," Carey said. "She gives you a lot of problems. I'd like to have about three of (her)."

Hornbuckle had gone to the bench one point shy of 1,000 for her career and pleaded with Summitt to put her back in.

"I said, 'Coach, I wanted to get my 1,000th point at home," Hornbuckle said. "She was gracious enough to allow me to do that and I appreciate that."

Hornbuckle's lay-up with 5:25 left gave Tennessee its largest lead, 63-43.

Summitt had arranged the game for Hornbuckle, a three-time West Virginia player of the year. Before the game Hornbuckle received the loudest ovation from the crowd of 10,677, the largest to ever watch a women's basketball game in the state.

"I'd rather that five people be here and we won," Carey said.

The Lady Vols led for all but the game's first two minutes. Parker scored 12 early points, mostly from close range, West Virginia had trouble finishing layups and Tennessee jumped ahead 22-9 midway through the first half.

"We knew our front line could really punish them inside," Parker said. "That was our focal point. We wanted to establish points in the paint."

Tennessee then went scoreless over a four-minute span and Chakhia Cole and Sanni each had two baskets to bring West Virginia within 24-20 with 5:21 left until halftime. The Mountaineers got no closer.

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