ATHENS, Ga. — Candace Parker grabbed the spotlight in her final regular-season game. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was more interested in what the game could mean to Parker’s last postseason run.
Parker scored 30 points, including 13 straight for Tennessee early in the second half, and the No. 3 Lady Vols beat No. 22 Georgia 72-63 on Sunday night.
Summitt said the win should help protect her team’s No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Tennessee is the defending national champion.
“I talked to our team about trying to close out this game so we could keep a No. 1 seed, and I thought that was important to get this road game,” Summitt said.
Georgia coach Andy Landers said his defensive plan was to try to shut down Tennessee’s other scorers while containing Parker. The result was more one-on-one defense than Parker expected.
“It was pretty much one-on-one all night,” said Parker. “Yeah, I was surprised.”
Parker had a scoring high for a Southeastern Conference game this season and finished four points below her career high. She made 13 of 24 shots and had nine rebounds.
“She’s the best player in the nation for a reason,” said Georgia’s Tasha Humphrey.
When Parker is facing man defense, Summitt wants the ball in her hands.
“Obviously our focus was on getting Candace the ball because when she establishes the low-block presence, we’re a different basketball team,” Summitt said.
“I thought she was very consistent and worked hard to get herself open, and the team got her the ball. We made that a point of emphasis.”
Landers said Parker scored more than he would have liked, but he called Lady Vols senior guard Shannon Bobbitt “the deal-breaker” for her two 3-pointers and her drives to the basket.
Bobbitt scored 15 points for Tennessee (27-2 overall, 13-1 SEC), which closed the regular season with five straight wins. The Lady Vols have seven straight wins over Georgia, including a two-game sweep this season.
“The idea was we play each player a certain way,” Landers said. “Where we broke down on that was Bobbitt going to the basket. Bobbitt hurt us in a lot of ways. She broke our plan.”
Bobbitt scored 13 points in the second half as the Lady Vols recovered from a 29-26 halftime deficit.
“I liked what she was doing as far as pushing tempo, but I told her you’ve got to hunt 3s, you’ve got to hunt your shots,” Summitt said of the 5-foot-2 Bobbitt. “… I definitely challenged her to step up and be much more aggressive.”
Georgia (21-8, 8-6) fell to fifth in the SEC, forcing the Lady Bulldogs to play a first-round game against Alabama on Thursday night in the SEC tournament in Nashville. Georgia would have earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament by beating Tennessee.
Landers said he didn’t talk to his players about the SEC tournament implications.
“We’re not sitting around and thinking about that when you’ve got a chance to beat the No. 3 ranked team in the country,” Landers said.
Christy Marshall led Georgia with 15 points. Humphrey had 13 and Megan Darrah added 10.
After Nicky Anosike opened the second half with an inside basket, Parker took over by scoring 13 straight Tennessee points.
Parker had 25 of Tennessee’s first 41 points before Bobbitt’s first 3-pointer ended Parker’s run of monopolizing the Lady Vols’ points.
Georgia led 29-26 at halftime and remained close through the first 10 minutes of the second half, when there were four ties. Bobbitt had two 3-pointers and a three-point play in a 15-5 run that gave Tennessee a 56-44 lead.
Tennessee’s biggest lead was 13 points at 60-47, but Georgia answered with a 12-4 run, capped by Humphrey’s 3-pointer with 3:29 left, to cut the lead to 64-59.