KNOXVILLE — On "We Back Pat" day Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee honored its legendary coach Pat Summitt with a complete 96-69 victory over Alabama. The No. 9 Lady Vols (15-3) have won eight games in a row and are a perfect 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
Tennessee scored it most points in an SEC game since trouncing Alabama, 110-45 on Jan. 6, 2011.
The Lady Vols have won 39 consecutive games in the series with Alabama, tying the second-longest active streak in the NCAA. Only Stanford has beaten Washington State more times in a row, 53.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick knew emotions would run high for the game.
"We talked about that and showed a couple of films before the game of people honoring Pat and just what this game meant to her and to our team, so I thought they were prepared,” Warlick said. “We wanted to play this in honor of Pat and hopefully she saw what she has built this program on, and that's hard work and a foundation of defense and rebounding.
“That's a lot of what we talked about. We talked about Pat's sacrifices and what she's meant to everyone. We used it to honor her and not to be worried, we just wanted to make sure we represented UT and Pat in the nature we needed to."
Freshman Bashaara Graves scored 19 points to lead the Lady Vols. It marked the 15th time in 18 college games she scored in double-figures. Graves also grabbed a team-best eight rebounds as the Lady Vols outrebounded the Crimson Tide, 50-38. UT also outscored Bama, 50-32, in the paint.
"I think it's just me making an effort,” Graves said of her recent strong play. “It's a new year. It's my new year's resolution to be a better basketball player and make sure I'm playing as hard as I can for the team. Not just for me or the coaches. I've been trying to support my team."
Five Lady Vols scored in double-figures for the fourth time this season. Junior Meighan Simmons had 16, while sophomore Isabelle Harrison, senior Taber Spani and freshman Jasmine Jones all scored 14 points. It was a career-high for Jones. Sophomore Ariel Massengale added eight points and handed out six assists.
Tennessee shot a 54.3 from the floor, just shy of a season-best 56.8 vs. Rice, back on Nov. 15.
Alabama (11-7, 1-4 SEC) was led by Daisha Simmons, who scored 19 points.
The coaching staff and players greeted Summitt before the game as she sat in her normal seat at mid-court across the from the team benches. The Pat Summitt Foundation has continued to raise awareness in the fight against Alzheimer's and Sunday's game concluded a week of "We Back Pat" games in the SEC. Several presentations and donations were made to the Pat Summitt Foundation throughout the afternoon.
Summitt was named the team's Head Coach Emeritus on April The Lady Vols return to action on Thursday night, traveling to Vanderbilt for a 9 p.m. ET tip-off. That game will air on SportSouth and ESPN3 and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.
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