KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Candace Parker was discouraged after an uncharacteristic poor-shooting performance in the first half.
With a little encouragement from her coach and teammates she went right back to the basket in the second half and finished with 23 points, leading No. 1 Tennessee to a 76-56 victory over Chattanooga in its season opener Sunday."It was tough. Sometimes, you're going to have a lid on the bucket," Parker said of going 1-of-8 from the floor in the first half. "In the first half, there were shots that I'm used to making that were not falling."
She hit eight of 10 shots in the second half, and the defending national champions won their season opener for the eighth straight year and improved to 31-3 in openers under coach Pat Summitt.
Parker maintained the intensity on defense, too, finishing with five steals.
Freshman Vicki Baugh added 11 points, and freshman Angie Bjorklund became only the 11th Lady Vol to start the first game of her career. She finished with eight points. Nicky Anosike had 10 rebounds and nine points.Summitt called the game a good reminder of how opponents will be prepared for the defending champions."Winning a national championship provides even more motivation for the other team. We face that every game, because we are Tennessee, and because they want the chance to beat the defending national champions. They want to prove their worth," Summitt said."It's not going to be easy for us, because we don't schedule easy games. Chattanooga spread us out as much as anyone will this season, except for maybe Stanford," she added.Tennessee scored the first five points and never trailed. Chattanooga (1-1) didn't score until Laura Hall's 3 with 16:26 to go and trailed 32-28 at halftime.Chattanooga went to the NCAA tournament last season as the Southern Conference tournament champion. Coach Wes Moore said his goal was to come in, stay close and have a chance at the end.He thought his Lady Mocs did that with the exception of a few runs by Tennessee, a team he predicted will get better as the season goes on."I know this wasn't one of their better days, but you're talking about defending national champions, the consensus No. 1 in the country, they have pretty much everyone else intact and added some talented freshmen," Moore said."They still have to do it on the court, but they have an opportunity to repeat and if they do that then they'd have to be considered one of the best teams ever," Moore said.Chattanooga stayed close by hitting 8-of-22 from 3-point range.But the Lady Vols forced Chattanooga into 32 turnovers, and Parker hit 8-of-10 in the second half as Tennessee padded the lead."With their defense and their press, they get after people," Hall said. "Coach Moore told us a few days ago that's what they do. They get a layup, get in the press, get a steal and get a 3 and that's what happened today."Hall led Chattanooga with 15 points, and Shanara Hollinquest added 13.