TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- This was one win that didn't come close to making Pat Summitt happy.
No. 5 Tennessee was outrebounded and hard-pressed to put away the Southeastern Conference's last-place team Thursday night before holding on for a 74-67 victory. The performance left the Lady Vols coach fuming at her team late in the game and not much calmer afterward.
"I'm very disappointed in the way we came out and played this game," Summitt said. "It was a lack of awareness and defensive intensity. We had no sense of urgency. Rebounding is heart and competitive desire.
"We disrespected the game of basketball tonight."
Or maybe the Lady Vols (24-2, 12-1) just disrespected Alabama (10-16, 2-11), which hasn't beaten them since 1984.
Alyssia Brewer had 20 points and 10 rebounds to help league-leading Tennessee claim its eighth consecutive win, if not in coach-pleasing fashion.
Alabama, which opened with an entirely new starting five, closed to within 54-49 midway through the second half.
Then, Tennessee finally kicked into gear with 10 straight points en route to a 67-51 lead on Alicia Manning's basket with 6:13 left. The Lady Vols missed five straight free throws at that point and made just 11 of 24 attempts from the line to help keep it close.
"We were horrendous from the free-throw line," Summitt said. "They're going to have to invest in that. It wasn't as much what they did, it's what we didn't do. It was just a lack of commitment on defense."
Brewer's one offensive shortcoming in the game: 6-for-12 shooting on free throws.
Shekinna Stricklen had 14 points and Angie Bjorklund added 13 for Tennessee, which forced 24 turnovers.
Tide freshman Celiscia Farmer had a career-high 21 points in her first start on 10-of-15 shooting. She came in averaging just 4.9 points a game but wound up being the team's only double-figure scorer.
Forward Tierney Jenkins was held to two points, 10 below her season average.
It was the closest meeting between these teams since Tennessee's 67-63 win in 1998. Some of the missteps late in the game left Summitt either glaring at her team, hands on hips, or screaming loud enough at one point that her voice resonated through Coleman Coliseum.
"Are you going to guard anybody?" she yelled at her players as they walked toward the bench for a timeout with the lead shrinking.
Lady Vols center Kelly Cain missed the game, staying in Knoxville because the marketing/logistics major didn't want to miss more classes.
Without her, Tennessee was outrebounded 45-33 after coming into the game leading the league in rebounding margin. Stanford is the only other team to outrebound the Lady Vols this season.
"When we're missing someone, everyone has to step up," Bjorklund said. "Yeah, Cain's a huge inside force and that's hard for us but that's not an excuse. We should have been ready to come and work a lot harder than we did."
Alabama had lost five of its last six games and was coming off a 29-point defeat at Georgia. Tennessee had dominated Florida 83-44 but couldn't put together a similar performance.
Alabama coach Wendell Hudson shook up his lineup with a new starting five because of recent practice effort from his players, and it worked.
"We're going to play the people who play hard," Hudson said. "That was the group that was playing the hardest in practice."
As for his team's performance, he said, "We did not back up. We took the fight to them."
Tennessee finally scored 10 straight points to go up 33-23 late in the first half. But Alabama rallied, then the Lady Vols missed two shots in the final seconds for a 37-31 halftime edge.
They started out shooting just 4 for 13 before warming up.
"We just came out flat," Bjorklund said. "We didn't get off to a good start and let one thing lead to another and it kind of sucked the life out of us. It's just having more of a sense of urgency to start the game.
"If we could put together 40 minutes, everybody coming together, you'd be looking at an entirely different team."