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Tennessee Closes 8th Unbeaten SEC Season

Tennessee dominated the Southeastern Conference, and coach Pat Summitt believes the second-ranked Lady Vols should be rewarded with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Candace Parker had 21 points and 14 rebounds in Tennessee's 73-53 win over No. 12 Vanderbilt in the final regular-season game on Sunday.

The Lady Vols (27-2, 14-0) already wrapped up the league title and finished undefeated in the SEC for the eighth time.

"If we don't get a one seed now, I don't know what I'll do," Summitt said. "Last year we put ourselves in position. We lost two games that were costly, but right now regardless of what happens _ although we want to continue playing the way we've been playing _ we'll see how much it means to them to continue to win and win in this league when we get to SECs."

Summitt was mad last year after the Lady Vols won the SEC tournament and got a No. 2 seed. But they had lost three league games in the regular season.

The Commodores (24-5, 10-4) continue to struggle against their in-state rivals, losing for the 13th straight time despite enjoying their best season so far under coach Melanie Balcomb.

Shannon Bobbitt added 14 points, and Sidney Spencer had 10 for the Lady Vols after being honored at Senior Day.

Carla Thomas led the Commodores with 23 points.

Tennessee clinched its 14th SEC title after beating LSU on Feb. 19. It was the first for the Lady Vols since 2004.

Vanderbilt came into the game as the best 3-point shooting team in the nation and the second-best overall from the field. The Commodores were vying for a chance to finish second in the SEC and a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.

"I thought our defense would be a key and it was," Summitt said. "Their inside game did a lot of good things. Thomas I thought was terrific today, but in terms of the balanced attack, I thought we were able to do what we wanted to do."

The Lady Vols led most of the game but took over defensively in the second half. The Commodores, averaging 50.7 percent from the field, were held to a season-low 32.7 percent on 18-of-55 shooting.

Balcomb said Tennessee's defense Sunday was the best she had seen the Lady Vols play against Vanderbilt.

"They pressured the ball better than they had, took us out farther and took us out of our timing more than they had in the past," she said.

Vanderbilt used a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 42-38 with 14:41 left. During the spurt, Tennessee was frustrated. Summitt walked onto the court to argue a foul called on Parker, and Nicky Anosike was whistled for a technical after picking up her third foul.

Spencer ended the drought for Tennessee with a 3 and sparked a 13-1 run. Parker converted a three-point play, and Bobbitt followed with one of her own. Then Parker grabbed a rebound and was fouled, prompting her to raise her arms at the crowd for more cheers. She made both free throws to put the Lady Vols up 55-39 with 12:17 left. Vanderbilt could not mount another rally.

"When they closed the gap and hit a couple of shots, we just came right back at them," Parker said. "We made big plays, and I think that's huge."

Parker missed on a dunk attempt with 2:41 left after a steal by Bobbitt.

Before the game, Tennessee seniors Spencer, Dominique Redding and Elizabeth Curry were recognized along with Vanderbilt's seniors Dee Davis, Caroline Williams and Thomas.

The Commodore seniors have never beaten Tennessee. Williams, the best 3-point shooter in country at 50.3 percent, was held to seven points and one 3-pointer.

Vanderbilt, shooting 43.9 percent from 3-point range, was only 4-of-16 beyond the arc.

"We have three seniors that want it really bad, and sometimes that's a lot harder than just going out and playing," Balcomb said. "It's so mental in a rivalry between two teams that want to beat each other so badly."

The fouls started to mount for both teams in the second alf. There were 17 total fouls called in the first eight minutes after halftime.

Tennessee finished 25-of-37 from the foul line while Vanderbilt was 13-of-20 with a total of 45 fouls called in the game.