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Lady Vols cruise to 34th consecutive victory vs. Tide

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- After leading scorer Shekinna Stricklen went down with a scary-looking knee injury, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt knew her bench needed a good workout.

They got it as the Lady Vols (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) beat Alabama 80-61 on Thursday night.

"I think they picked it up when they had to," Summitt said of her bench players. "That's why you have a team."

Stricklen, who leads the team with an average 13.6 points per game, landed hard on her right knee with 10:39 left before halftime and returned to the sideline on crutches after the break.

Team trainer Jenny Moshak said the freshman's kneecap slipped out of place but no tendon was torn. Stricklen will go through rehab while trainers monitor swelling in the knee before a decision is made as to whether she'll play against Duke (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) on Monday.

"All I can tell you is that we dodged a bullet," Summitt said.

The Lady Vols (18-6, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) are already down one point guard with Cait McMahan choosing to end her career because of recurring knee injuries and had been relying on freshman Briana Bass and Stricklen to run the point. In Stricklen's absence, freshman Alicia Manning filled in.

"Shekinna going down was a big hit for us," Manning said. "I knew I had to step up my game. Coach just told me to go in and run the offense, pass and cut."

Tennessee now holds a 41-2 lead in the series with Alabama and grabbed its 34th straight win over the Crimson Tide. Alabama hasn't beaten the Lady Vols since a victory in the first round of the 1984 Southeastern Conference tournament.

Tennessee led by 11 at halftime and then used a 14-0 run to pull away. The Lady Vols finished with a 51-30 rebounding advantage and had 20 second-chance points.

The Crimson Tide (12-13, 0-10) is in last place in the SEC and has lost 10 straight.

Alex Fuller led the Lady Vols with 18 points, Angie Bjorklund added 13, Sydney Smallbone had 11 and Alicia Manning scored 10.

The Lady Vols scored the first seven points of the game before Alabama found its shot and went on an 8-2 run. Ericka Russell scored six points in the run that pulled the Crimson Tide to 9-8.

Alabama, which averages 38 percent shooting from the field, made 50 percent in the first half off the shooting of Dedrea Magee, who finished with 21 points, and Varisia Raffington, who had 19.

"We don't have that inside presence yet, so our perimeter players get a lot of shots. Fortunately, tonight a couple of them made a lot of shots," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said.

Tennessee also shot better than its 41-percent average, slowly building on its lead with 45 percent shooting and entering halftime with a 41-30 lead.

The Lady Vols shot 9-for-25 from behind the arc, their most 3-point baskets of the season, and had a season-high 26 assists.

Alabama's shooting slowed after halftime, and the Tide couldn't keep up with Tennessee. Smallbone hit a 3-pointer to cap the Lady Vols' 14-0 run for a 62-37 lead -- their biggest of the game.

"I look at it as Tennessee is always going to be Tennessee," Magee said. "They always have a good program and a good team."