February 27, 2004

(2) Tennessee 93, Arkansas 71

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- If second-ranked Tennessee can play with a short bench the way it did Thursday night, it should do well in the NCAA tournament.

Injuries depleted the Lady Volunteers to eight healthy players, but five of them scored in double figures in an easy 93-71 victory at Arkansas. Tasha Butts led the way with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Shyra Ely added 17 points.

``I was more tired in the first half than I was in the second half,'' said Ely, who played a team-high 33 minutes. ``I got my second wind after halftime. That first half, I was winded. I think everybody was.''

Tennessee (24-2, 13-0 Southeastern Conference) was tired because it scored the second-most first-half points of the season while taking a 47-21 lead. The Lady Volunteers made nine of 14 shots to open the game and their first five 3-pointers, burying Arkansas (16-10, 5-8) before it ever had a chance to get in the game.

``I just thought they could have turned around and thrown it up backwards and it would have went in,'' said Shameka Christon, who led Arkansas with 25 points. ``They're a great team and you can't just focus on one player.''

Sidney Spencer added 13 points for Tennessee, Ashley Robinson had 12 and LaToya Davis 11. Ely, Robinson and some easy layups by Butts led the way for 40 points in the paint for the Lady Volunteers, who opened up the 3-point shooting.

``I think we shoot the ball a lot better from the 3 when we go inside,'' Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. ``You go inside and it opens up the outside. (Arkansas) was looking to help on the post defense, which opened up the outside game.''

Although Tennessee won the regular-season title Sunday at Mississippi, the Lady Vols didn't falter against the Razorbacks. They never allowed Arkansas within 20 points after halftime.

Tennessee beat Arkansas by a combined 61 points this season, falling a little short of its 39-point victory (83-44) in Knoxville on Jan. 8.

A quick start helped Tennessee reverse a recent trend of trailing at halftime of its past three victories. The Lady Volunteers came out hot, building a 10-point lead seven minutes into the game, and they led 39-18 after Spencer hit a 3-pointer with 4:52 left in the half.

``I thought we played well in the first half because of our defense,'' Summitt said. ``I thought our defense got us going. We got some transition looks and we just played together.''

Spencer entered the game with just four 3-pointers in 23 attempts, but hit her first three shots from long range and was one of three Tennessee players with 11 points at halftime.

The Lady Volunteers shot 51.7 percent in the half, making their first five 3-pointers. Both Butts and Spencer made three of four 3-pointers in the half. Tennessee maintained the hot shooting in the second half, finishing at 58.2 percent (32 of 55).

Meanwhile, Arkansas had problems. Christon scored the Razorbacks' first 10 points, but made four of 13 shots and the rest of the team was 3-of-20 in the first half.

Christon will leave school ranked in the top 10 in five categories, including second in scoring with 1,898 through Thursday night.

Arkansas shot 31.9 percent (23 of 72) for the game, including just nine of 32 on 3-pointers.

Shanna Harmon added 14 points for Arkansas.

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