3:00 PM ET, February 26, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee doesn't seem so dominant anymore.The No. 5 Lady Vols lost at home to an unranked team for the second time in school history and first time in 22 years, falling 95-93 to Florida in overtime Sunday.On top of that, Tennessee lost to two unranked teams in one season for the first time since the women's rankings started in 1976. Its first loss to an unranked team this year came at Kentucky, 66-63 on Jan. 26.Tennessee's strange regular season ended with a stinging loss on senior day and left coach Pat Summitt still harping on defense, the signature of her 32-year career."We're Tennessee. It's not like anyone is going to feel sorry for us," Summitt said. "We have yet to buy into defense. We have to bring that every possession."The Lady Vols (25-4, 11-3 Southeastern Conference) had never lost to an unranked team in Thompson-Boling Arena, which opened in 1987. Unranked Cincinnati beat then-No. 12 Tennessee 72-69 on Nov. 26, 1984, in the university's old arena.It was only the 16th loss for Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena. Florida won for the first time in Knoxville, becoming the second SEC team to win for the first time here. LSU did it in February, snapping Tennessee's 64-game home winning streak over SEC teams.Brittany Davis scored a career-high 29 points and Sha Brooks added 25 for the Gators (20-7, 8-6), who improved to 2-34 all-time against Tennessee. Sarah Lowe added 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists and no turnovers while playing the entire 45 minutes. Danielle Santos and Dalila Eshe each scored 13 points for Florida.The Gators reached 20 wins for the first time under coach Carolyn Peck, a former Tennessee assistant."Teams come in and see Tennessee on the jersey and fold. The game is over before it even starts," Lowe said. "It's a matter of coming out and giving it everything you've got, and that's what we did."Florida used a full-court press that forced most of Tennessee's season-high 28 turnovers and further exposed the loss of point guard Alexis Hornbuckle. Without a true backup, the Lady Vols have struggled to replace Hornbuckle, who broke her right wrist earlier this month and is out for the season."Another valuable lesson was handed to us. Our defense and ball-handling killed us," Summitt said.Tennessee's Shanna Zolman said the Lady Vols aren't playing consistently."What bothers me most is that we knew our defense would carry us," Zolman said. "One game, we'll play 40 minutes of defense, and 20 minutes in another, and in another. It's not a top priority. Until it's a top priority, who knows?"The Gators grabbed the lead early in the second half and didn't trail again until overtime. But that only lasted 15 seconds.Candace Parker converted a three-point play to put Tennessee ahead 87-84 with 3 minutes left in the extra period.Davis hit her only 3 of the game and then made the second of two free throws on the ensuing possession to give the lead back to Florida, and the Gators held on to win. After the buzzer, Peck and her players huddled at midcourt to celebrate."I know from being on the other side of being here, when Tennessee makes a run at you, most teams fold and go away," Peck said. "I thought our team did a good job of trying to maintain their composure."Parker posted career-highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds. Zolman and Tye'sha Fluker each scored 22, and Sidney Spencer added 11 points. Fluker also had 16 rebounds, and Zolman had 10 assists.Tennessee's only seniors -- Fluker and Zolman -- were honored before the game. Summitt presented flowers to Florida's four seniors -- Davis, Eshe, Lowe and Santos.Florida had a season-high 20 steals that caused big problems for Tennessee, especially after the Gators got the lead.Florida went up 51-50 on Brooks' 3 with 13:29 left in regulation, starting a 13-0 run. Santos capped it with a 3 over Parker's head that pushed the Gators' lead to 11.The Lady Vols got back in it with a 10-2 run to cut it to 65-64 with 6:46 left. Tennessee cut it to one three more times before Eshe made two free throws with 34.4 seconds left to push it to 81-76. Lady Vols fans started to leave, but they missed Zolman's best basket of the day.She hit a 3 with 8.4 seconds left to tie and it send it into overtime.
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