February 19, 2004

No. 3 Tennessee 88, Florida 79

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- This season, Tennessee isn't the kind of team that bursts through the Southeastern Conference winning by 20 or 30 points.

The results are still the same, however, even when the games are tougher.

The third-ranked Lady Vols pulled out another close game Thursday night against Florida to extend their regular-season SEC winning streak to 31.

Shanna Zolman scored 23 points and Shyra Ely and Tasha Butts added 18 apiece, and a 14-0 run in the second half helped Tennessee hold off Florida 88-79.

The Lady Vols (22-2, 11-0) have had an overtime victory over Auburn and overcome deficits of 14 at Georgia and six at Vanderbilt to keep their streak alive. They had beaten Florida by an average of 21 points in the previous 33 meetings.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt laughed when assistant Holly Warlick recently suggested the team needed a blowout to get on track.

``It's not going to happen,'' Summitt said. ``That's just the nature of the business right now. We're coaching a team that executes when they have to and finds a way to win.''

The Gators (16-8, 6-5) led for most of the first half and the beginning of the second before Tennessee's big run.

Vanessa Hayden led Florida with 19 points, and Tashia Morehead and Sarah Lowe added 18 apiece.

Florida led by three points at halftime and was ahead 41-37 shortly after the break. Then, Tennessee went on its decisive spurt.

The Gators cut the deficit to one point twice afterward and got as close as 76-74 with 2:41 remaining. The Lady Vols pulled away after Butts got a steal and scored a layup, and they were 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the final 1:39.

Tye'sha Fluker added 10 points for Tennessee, which posted its 53rd straight SEC home win despite being outrebounded 39-34.

The Lady Vols have had a series of close calls since losing point guard Loree Moore last month for the season with a torn left knee ligament. Tennessee also was playing without Brittany Jackson, who was helping fill in for Moore. Jackson sprained a ligament in her left knee in practice on Wednesday.

The missing players didn't change the strategy of Florida coach Carolyn Peck, a former assistant to Summitt.

``We did everything we wanted to do,'' Peck said. ``I'm proud of this team. They didn't back down. That's the fun part of battling in the SEC.''

The one thing Peck didn't like was the disparity at the foul line. Tennessee was 32-of-38 while the Gators were 18-of-23.

Hayden played only seven minutes of the second half because of fouls, and Peck declined to talk much about the officiating.

``Not without getting in trouble,'' she said. ``It was a physical game. I continued to plead (with the officials) to let the kids play.''

At times, Florida dominated inside with Hayden and Morehead while Tennessee's offense was sluggish.

The Gators led by as many as nine points in the first half and were ahead at the beginning of the second until the big run put the Lady Vols ahead for the first time since 4:39 remained in the first half.

Both Butts and Zolman hit 3-pointers in the spurt, and Ashley Robinson capped it by making two free throws that put Tennessee ahead 51-41 with 14:18 to go.

The Lady Vols had an easier time keeping Florida at bay with Hayden sitting on the bench. She scored 13 points in the first half but picked up her second and third fouls in the first minute after the break.

``That was vital for us,'' Ely said about Hayden's fouls. ``She was getting a lot of touches.''

Even with the Gators' inside scorer off the court, Tennessee couldn't pull away for long. Florida rallied from its scoreless stretch and chipped the Lady Vols' lead down to a point after Morehead drove the baseline and scored.

Morehead was fouled on the play and fell hard on Tennessee's Courtney McDaniel under the basket. Tishona Gregory replaced Morehead at the foul line and completed the three-point play that cut it to 56-55.

Afterward, Zolman hit a 3 and Sidney Spencer had a putback, but the Gators weren't finished.

Lowe and Bernice Mosby, who had 11 points, hit back-to-back 3s for Florida that trimmed it to a point again with 9:38 left.

The Lady Vols put together a 9-0 run late in the first half to briefly take the lead at 21-19, but Florida regained the advantage and pushed it to five points with 25 seconds left before halftime.


LSU coach Gunter out for season for medical reasons

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- LSU women's basketball coach Sue Gunter will miss the rest of the games because of lung problems and acute bronchitis.

Gunter will continue to participate in film sessions and practices at her own discretion for the 15th-ranked Lady Tigers.

``How she feels varies from day to day, which is typical of this condition,'' said her physician, Dr. James Osterberger.

Gunter is not expected to be on the bench for the post season either, athletic director Skip Bertman said Thursday night, when Vanderbilt upset the Lady Tigers 61-55.

``It's serious in the sense it's an upper respiratory infection,'' Bertman said. ``It's not a heart problem or cancer as many people have speculated.''

Gunter was not getting the oxygen she needed, especially when she got excited, Bertman said. So, although she will continue with her other work, she will remain away from games.

``She's still working, she's just not on the bench,'' Bertman said.

Longtime assistant coach Dana ``Pokey'' Chatman will serve as acting head coach in Gunter's absence.

``I think it's the best thing for her,'' guard Temeka Johnson said. ``Of course we would love to have Coach Gunter on the bench, but she's with us regardless.''

The players, who have now played 10 games without Gunter, said they have confidence in the assistant coaches and felt Gunter should take the time needed to recover.

``We want whatever's best for Coach and if Coach needs to sit out then that's what she needs to do,'' guard Seimone Augustus said. ``We want to see her at 100 percent. We don't want her to rush back if she doesn't need to be back.''

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