Thursday, December 20, 2007

(1) Tennessee 82, UCLA 70

LOS ANGELES -- Coach Pat Summitt knows her Tennessee Lady Volunteers are going to get the opposition's best shot in every game they play.

She wouldn't have it any other way.

All-American Candace Parker and her Tennessee teammates came alive after a sluggish first half, and the top-ranked Lady Vols overcame a season-high 23 turnovers to beat UCLA 82-70 on Wednesday night.

"I'm going to need a shower when I get back to my room," Summitt said with a chuckle. "It was hot in here."

The game was played before an announced crowd of 4,003 at Pauley Pavilion. The UCLA women drew a combined total of 2,909 fans in their previous three home games.

"This is the first time we've been in this kind of environment," Summitt said. "It was good preparation."

Next stop for the Lady Vols is No. 5 Stanford on Saturday night.

UCLA trailed by only one point early in the second half before nine points by Parker and eight by Angie Bjorklund triggered a 27-7 run that gave the defending national champion Lady Vols a 62-43 lead with 10:20 to play.

The Bruins scored seven straight points to cut Tennessee's lead to 75-66 with 3:08 remaining, but that's as close as they would get.

"We didn't have the energy early," Summitt said. "We regrouped at halftime. Probably one of the biggest adjustments was to go inside, get paint points."

Tennessee has won seven national championships, and Summitt, now in her 34th season as its coach, has a 957-180 career record. Her 957 wins are the most in Division I by any coach.

Parker scored 13 of her 17 points after halftime and also had five rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and two steals.

Shannon Bobbitt added 16 points; Alexis Hornbuckle had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists; Bjorklund scored 12 points, and freshman Vicki Baugh matched her career high with 11 for the Lady Volunteers (10-0).

Baugh didn't play after colliding with UCLA's Regina Rogers with 14:15 to play.

"She took a pretty hard blow to her nose," Summitt said. "Hopefully she'll be OK. She did a lot of good things for us."

Lindsey Pluimer, the only senior on the UCLA roster, led the Bruins (4-6) with 16 points. Darxia Morris added 12 points and Moniquee Alexander scored a career-high 11.

"They're rated No. 1 in the country for a reason," UCLA coach Kathy Olivier said. "I thought we did a great job for about 30 minutes of the game.

"Overall, I thought we did a great job defensively. We forced the No. 1 team to commit 23 turnovers."

Four of those were committed by Parker, who acknowledged she wasn't at her best.

"We came out with a win, that was the point of it," she said. "In the first half, I got frustrated. In the second half, I just played. I think that was the best thing."

Tennessee was the first No. 1 team to play the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion since Virginia beat the Bruins 77-55 on Dec. 28, 1991.

The Lady Vols needed to score the last five points of the first half for a 32-31 lead. They outrebounded the Bruins 20-11, but shot just 41.2 percent to 60 percent for UCLA. Parker had only four points and one rebound in the half.

Tennessee finished with a 38-27 rebounding advantage and shot 50 percent for the game to UCLA's 47.5 percent.

"We're too up-and-down," Olivier said. "I think it's a young thing."

The Bruins have six freshmen on their roster including Morris and Nina Earl, who scored nine points.

The Lady Vols were the second highly ranked team to meet UCLA this season -- the Bruins blew a 16-point second-half lead before losing 79-75 to No. 4 Maryland on Nov. 25 at Pauley Pavilion.

The Lady Vols, who have already beaten five ranked teams including No. 3 North Carolina and No. 9 Oklahoma, play their next four games against Top 25 schools starting with Stanford.

Tennessee follows that up with games at No. 15 DePaul (9-0) on Jan. 2 and at No. 17 Notre Dame (9-1) three days later before returning home to face No. 16 Auburn (10-1) on Jan. 10 to begin its Southeastern Conference schedule.

The Lady Vols play six more ranked teams after that including No. 6 Rutgers, No. 8 LSU and No. 7 Georgia.

The Lady Vols lead their series with UCLA 16-1, with the Bruins' only win a 65-62 triumph on Jan. 3, 1981 in Knoxville.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 junior averaging 21.8 points and 8.7 rebounds, is expected to be the first overall selection in the WNBA draft next spring by the Los Angeles Sparks, who won the rights to the top pick in a lottery Oct. 23.

If Parker makes herself available, as expected, she would be the first woman ever to leave college early for the draft and would team with Lisa Leslie to give the Sparks a potent 1-2 punch.

Parker said she hasn't made a decision on her future.

"Nothing's promised. I live day-to-day," Parker said. "If I'm blessed enough to go to the WNBA, so be it. I think winning another championship would solidify my legacy, our team's legacy."

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