Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tennessee 66, Mississippi 39

During Pat Summitt’s Hall of Fame coaching career, Tennessee has won 1,064 games in just about every way possible.

Now the Lady Vols can add an indoor rain delay to the list.

No. 4 Tennessee was awarded a 66-39 victory at Mississippi when strong storms sent water spilling onto the floor with 5:24 left in Thursday night’s game.

“When you have a wet floor, we’re not going to play on it,” Summitt said. “We’ve got to protect our student-athletes.”

Players were running downcourt on a fast break when Mississippi’s Kenyotta Jenkins crashed to the floor in the middle of the water and play was halted. The delay lasted about 20 minutes before the game was canceled.

Brian Russell, an assistant director of event operations at Ole Miss, said high winds during the storms caused rain to fly sideways through air vents in the roof.

Russell said the game officials called to get approval from the Southeastern Conference before calling the game.

Summitt and Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner met at midcourt, and both agreed the game should be canceled.

“I’m just glad nobody got hurt,” Summitt said. “Now I hope we can get home.”

Even before the rain delay, there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome.

The Lady Vols (27-2, 15-0) jumped to a 31-7 lead in the first 12 minutes and need one more victory to complete an undefeated conference season for the first time since 2007 and the ninth time overall in the history of the vaunted program.

Glory Johnson led the Lady Vols with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Vicki Baugh scored 12 points and Alicia Manning added 11.

One of Johnson’s few bad moments came when she missed a dunk attempt in the second half. Johnson had the height, but the ball slipped out of her hand as she arrived at the rim. Manning grabbed the offensive rebound and scored.

“I just lost it,” Johnson said laughing. “I thought I was going to have it. But my teammates had my back with the putback. So I’ll pretend we just wanted to get a few offensive rebounds.”

Soon afterward, the rain started to fall through the roof at Tad Smith Coliseum. A big trash can and several towels were placed on the court to try and soak up the damage, but the rain continued to leak onto the court. Severe weather was widespread through Mississippi on Thursday night, with several thunderstorms and tornado warnings.

Players and fans spent the delay dancing to songs blaring over the sound system, and it quickly became apparent that the dripping water wasn’t going to stop soon.

“I would probably have ordered it a little sooner if I had thought it would have helped us out a little,” Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said. “It’s strange. It’s bizarre. But things happen.”

Tennessee outrebounded Ole Miss 43-15 and shot 52.1 percent (25 of 48) from the field.

Ole Miss (10-17, 3-12) pulled to 49-35 with 15:05 remaining in the second half, but Tennessee responded with an 8-0 run.

Valencia McFarland had 14 points for the Rebels, who have lost six straight. Ole Miss shot just 31.1 percent (14 of 45) from the field.

“Tennessee is better than we are,” Ladner said. “Against a team like Tennessee, you have to score with them. We had some good looks and just didn’t hit shots.”

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