Parker helped off court in Tennessee's defeat of Mississippi St.

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- With Candace Parker's status in doubt, fans listening to Tennessee's 87-69 win over Mississippi State on the radio Monday night had a few extra minutes of worry while waiting to hear Pat Summitt's postgame interview.

The coach of the second-ranked Lady Vols delayed her appearance for an update on the two-time All-America center. Parker crashed to the floor late in the game with a knee injury, putting Tennessee's national championship repeat hopes in doubt for about 15 minutes.

The news was worth waiting for, however. An evaluation found Parker's previously injured knee ligaments hyperextended but sound.

"Phew," Summitt said as she hurriedly headed for the interview. "We dodged a bullet."

Two, in fact.

First the Lady Vols had to rally past the scrappy Lady Bulldogs, who have never beaten Tennessee but led 40-33 at halftime. It was the first time the defending national champions have trailed at halftime since March 3 against LSU in the SEC tournament, a stretch of 27 games.

Then they had 15 nervous minutes to wait after Parker fell under the basket clutching her left knee with 3:09 left while chasing a loose ball.

Trainer Jenny Moshak immediately iced Parker's knee and the Mississippi State team physician checked it over after the Lady Vols clinched their 11th straight win.

She will be listed as day to day going into Monday's game against No. 7 Rutgers.

Parker finished with a season-low 11 points. Her previous low this season was 13.

The 6-foot-4 junior has had two surgeries on the same knee. She had a torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired during her senior season in high school and had a second surgery her freshman year to resurface the bones, Moshak said.

Parker was not made available for interviews after the game.

Alexis Hornbuckle and Shannon Bobbitt scored 16 points each and the Lady Vols won despite one of their poorest overall performances of the season.

Tennessee (21-1, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) was held without a point for more than 8 minutes midway through the first half as Parker and the Lady Vols struggled to find a rhythm against the collapsing defense of Mississippi State (14-9, 2-6).

It took a 17-4 run out of halftime to erase Mississippi State's seven-point lead and it wasn't until a 12-2 run fueled by a pair of 3-pointers from Bobbitt during a 1:06 span midway through the second half that Tennessee put the game away.

"I kept pushing the tempo," Bobbitt said. "We were down but we did not get down on ourselves. We knew we were going to come back and win."

Alexis Rack had a career-high 32 points off the bench for the Bulldogs, who have never beaten Tennessee in 27 tries. Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning is now 0-for-32 against Pat Summitt.

It looked as if Mississippi State might finally break through in the most lopsided streak in the Southeastern Conference midway through the first half.

Each time Parker received the ball in the low post, she was immediately surrounded by two or three Mississippi State players.

"It has to be a team effort. If she is getting close to the rim, you have to double her," Fanning said.

It didn't work at first. The Lady Vols built a quick 13-point lead as Parker passed out of the defense and her teammates made three 3-pointers in the first 3:47 for a 17-4 lead. But the shots stopped dropping after Angie Borkland made the team's fifth 3-pointer on Parker's sixth assist to make it 24-11 with 12:52 remaining in the half.

Parker left the game soon after for a rest and Mississippi State put together a charge.

The Bulldogs held Tennessee without a field goal for 9:50 and without a point for 8:04 during a 23-3 run that gave them a 34-27 lead with 3:31 left till halftime.

"I thought our defense was water," Summitt said of the stretch. "They went right through it."

Tennessee was 0-for-12 during the run and had six turnovers as well. The Lady Vols hit just 34.4 percent of their shots in the first half, but rallied to make 57.9 percent in the second half as they pulled away.

"I'll take that any night," Summitt said.

It was a physical game and along with Parker's injury Alberta Auguste (shoulder) and Borklund (nose) suffered minor injuries as well.

Though Parker didn't shoot well, missing six of seven shots in the first half and nine in the game, Summitt said the Lady Vols' troubles were elsewhere. Mississippi State's bench outscored Tennessee's 44-23 with only Auguste making any impact with 12 points.

Summitt decided late in the first half to keep her starters on the floor because the reserves were offering nothing.

"It's unacceptable from our bench and they're going to have to learn," Summitt said. "Obviously I was sending them a pretty strong message. We can't win in the postseason without strong play from our bench."