Thursday, January 03, 2008

(3) Tennessee 102, (15) DePaul 68

CHICAGO -- It wasn't exactly the homecoming that Candace Parker had envisioned.

Benched for the first half for missing curfew, Parker scored 17 points and third-ranked Tennessee beat No. 15 DePaul 102-68 on Wednesday night.

"I apologized to my teammates, my coaches, my family and friends and Chicago in general for not being able to play in the first half," Parker said. "Coach is very strict on discipline and I broke the rules so I suffered the consequences."

Parker, who grew up in nearby Naperville, didn't start for the first time in her career. She had close to 60 family and friends in attendance including both her grandmothers, who were seeing her play at the collegiate level for the first time.

It was easy to spot Parker's family. They were sitting right behind the Tennessee bench wearing shirts with her a photo of Parker when she was 3-years-old on the front. On the back was Parker's No. 3. Her mom had the word "Mama" above the number.

"I thought those were really cute," Parker said. "My mom totally surprised me."

Her fans had to wait until the second half to see her play.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was torn on not playing Parker.

"I wanted to start her," the Hall of Fame coach said. "With our rules we have to be consistent. I'm glad people got to see her play."

Even without their All-American, the Lady Vols were too much for DePaul, handing the Blue Demons their worst loss at McGrath Arena.

"Anybody that plays with Tennessee has to survive the Tennessee run. Without Candace we were down by 19," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said.

Alex Fuller scored a career-high 19 points and Nicky Anosike added 17 for the Lady Vols (11-1).

"I'm really proud of them," Summitt said. "Alex and Nicky did a fantastic job."

Deirdre Naughton, Allie Quigley and Natasha Williams each scored 13 for DePaul (11-2).

With the game tied at 27 with 7:17 left in the first half, Tennessee went on a 17-2 run over the next 5 minutes. The Lady Vols pounded the ball inside as Anosike and Fuller combined for eight of the points.

DePaul's Erin Cattell made a 3-pointer with 2:20 left to cut it to 44-32, and the teams traded baskets before Fuller scored the last seven points of the half for Tennessee to extend the lead to 19.

After Quigley hit a 3-pointer to start the second half, the Lady Vols scored the next seven points to put the game away. DePaul could get no closer than 21.

Fuller was 8-for-8 from the field in the first half as the Lady Vols shot 62.5 percent (20-for-32) from the field.

Parker started the second half to a rousing cheer from the crowd. After drawing two quick offensive fouls, she finally scored on a layup.

This game was a chance for the Blue Demons to see how they stacked up against one of the best teams in the country. DePaul was coming off its first loss of the season on Friday night when they lost to Texas in the Maggie Dixon Surf 'N Slam Classic.

The Blue Demons, who had matched their best start in school history, rebounded from that loss to rout Appalachian State in the second game of that tournament.

With only one day to prepare, DePaul was no match for Tennessee, which has won all 17 meetings with the Blue Demons. DePaul's 26-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents ended.

"We have to play like we're the No. 15 team in the country all the time," Bruno said.

Associate head coach Holly Warlick was back on the sidelines for Tennessee. She missed the team's West Coast trip after breaking her right ankle and developing a blood clot in the leg.

The Lady Vols, who were coming off their first loss of the season, scored over 100 points for the first time since last season. They fell in overtime to Stanford on Dec. 22.

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