Parker scores season-high 34 points to lead top-ranked Tennessee over Middle Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—When the top-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers needed her, Candace Parker took over.
Parker scored a season-high 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to help Tennessee beat Middle Tennssee 84-61 on Thursday night. She set a school record with 21 free-throw attempts and tied a Lady Vols mark by making 17 as three Blue Raiders fouled out trying to contain her.
“We knew that we had a size advantage coming into this game,” Parker said. “They’re a feisty team and like to press. We wanted to get paint points tonight and I thought we did a good job.”
Tennessee’s lead was down to five points with less than 7 minutes to play after Middle Tennessee (3-5) made two free throws. Parker scored eight of the next 11 points to stretch the Lady Vols’ advantage to 72-55 with about 5 minutes left. MTSU got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Amber Holt, MTSU’s leading scorer at 21.9 points, had 20 in the second half to keep Middle Tennessee in the game until Parker and the Lady Vols took over. Holt finished with a team-high 28 points and five assists.
“She’s a competitor,” said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt of Holt. “She’s tough to guard. She was very efficient, going 8-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line. She only had one turnover and that says something about her game.”
Holt got no help as the Blue Raiders shot just 36 percent from the field.
“I thought we had some good looks early and didn’t knock those shots down and then we did knock shots down and got back into the game,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell said. “That’s when Parker took over. She’s a great player and got the job done.”
Still, Parker wasn’t alone in leading the Lady Vols to their ninth straight win over Middle Tennessee. Alexis Hornbuckle chipped in 17 points and Alex Fuller had 16 points and seven rebounds. Nicky Anosike contributed nine points and eight boards for Tennessee, which out-rebounded MTSU 47-26.
The Lady Vols (8-0) dressed only nine players after freshman center Kelley Cain underwent season-ending knee surgery on Tuesday. They then lost starting point guard Shannon Bobbitt, who suffered a forehead laceration with 9:06 to play and didn’t return. Tennessee was already missing guard Cait McMahan, who’s rehabilitating her right knee after surgery in June and is expected to sit out the season.
“She had more than a couple (stitches),” Summitt said of Bobbitt. “She’ll be fine. She’s a little dizzy. She has a gash and I’m sure she’ll have a headache.”
The Lady Vols will face Gonzaga at home Sunday.