KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Shanna Zolman scored 21 points and freshman phenom Candace Parker added 18 points to lead No. 1 ranked Tennessee to an 83-59 win over Louisiana Tech before 11,529 fans at Thompson Boling Arena Thursday night.
Tech (5-3) led 10-9 on an Aarica Ray-Boyd three-pointer at the 16:16 mark of the first half before going the next 14:23 without a field goal. During that drought, Tennessee went on a 25-5 run to grab a 34-15 advantage.
The Lady Vols led 40-20 after a first half that saw Tech hit only 6-of-26 field goals and commit 15 turnovers which led to 19 points. UT shot 50 percent from the field in the first half thanks to the outside shooting of Zolman and the inside touch of Parker.
Despite Tech’s shooting woes, Tennessee led only 17-14 with seven minutes to play in the opening half.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy,” said Tech head coach Chris Long. “It was a tight game until we hit that dry spell. We just committed too many turnovers in the first half and the disappointing thing was most of them were unforced. If we don’t do that, it could have been a tight game at the half.”
Zolman hit 4-of-6 three-pointers and scored 16 points in the opening 20 minutes while Parker added 13 points in the first half.
Tech, which hit only 6-of-37 field goals in the second half of Tuesday’s win over Mississippi State, finally found some offensive rhythm in the second half. The Lady Techsters hits 14-of-26 field goals and 9-of-12 free throws in the final 20 minutes of play, scoring 39 second half points.
“I thought we executed offensively very well in the second half,” Long said. “Tennessee likes to get out and pressure you and I thought we could dribble penetrate and get inside. We were able to run our offense much better in the second half.”
Tech entered the game as a huge underdog. Not only were the undefeated Lady Vols ranked No. 1 in the country, but Tennessee had never lost a game in Thompson Boling Arena to an unranked team in 18 years.
Tennessee had also won its first three home games by an average margin of 43.3 points with the closest contest being a 102-61 dismantling of No. 16 ranked Texas.
Louisiana Tech also had to overcome what turned into a 29-hour trip from Ruston to Knoxville with the Lady Techsters not arriving until 1 p.m. today.
Ray-Boyd led Tech with 15 points while Tasha Williams added 13 points and Shan Moore 10 points. Tamika Kursh led Tech with a season-high 11 rebounds as Tennessee outrebounded the Techsters 40-35.
Tech returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Ole Miss at 7 p.m.