Nashvile, Tenn. Pat Summitt preferred to focus on beating Vanderbilt. For her Tennessee players, helping the NCAA's winningest coach get her 900th victory was a lasting memory.
"No one in the whole world except the 10 of us that are left can say they've played for a coach who's won 900 games," sophomore Nicky Anosike said. "I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Shanna Zolman led five Lady Vols in double figures with 16 points, and top-ranked Tennessee rallied from its biggest deficit this season in beating No. 19 Vanderbilt, 80-68, Thursday night, giving Summitt her 900th victory in her first shot at the milestone.
On the occasion, Summitt, who ran her record to 900-172 in 32 seasons at Tennessee, remembered when she started coaching when the Lady Vols traveled by vans instead of buses and planes.
"Yours truly right here drove the van. If we took two vans, one was the luggage, the other was the players. Typically, they didn't like to ride with me. I usually drove the luggage, especially if we got beat," Summitt said.
Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb could only compliment Summitt.
"It's people like her why you grow up wanting to be a coach and get to this level," Balcomb said.
Tennessee (18-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) had never gone through a first half without leading at least once until this game, and the Lady Vols trailed by 14 late in the half.
But the crowd of 13,127 with lots of Tennessee orange got to serenade Summitt by chanting "9-0-0" in the final minute as the Lady Vols won for the 10th straight time in the series.
Summitt got to celebrate with her mother, Hazel, two of her three brothers and an assortment of extended family, friends and college buddies even if this victory lacked the cake and balloons she was given when she won No. 800 at home in January 2003.
Candace Parker said the Lady Vols had talked about how special it would be to help the coach win No. 900.
"During the shootaround, I asked (Summitt) how many bus rides and road trips. I said, 'That has to be some kind of record.' I mean it's special," Parker said.
Vanderbilt (13-5, 2-2) looked ready to get its first victory against the Lady Vols since Feb. 2, 2002. As well as the Commodores shot, they couldn't stop Tennessee from turning their turnovers into 25 points.
Alexis Hornbuckle had 15 points for Tennessee with Parker adding 14. Sidney Spencer and Anosike each had 10. The Lady Vols outshot Vandy 54 percent (31-of-56) to 46 percent (27-of-58).
Caroline Williams led Vanderbilt with 21 points, including 5-of-8 from three-point range. Dee Davis added 20 points.
The Lady Vols, who trailed 33-19 in the first half, didn't take their first lead until 45-44 with 14:53 left on a pair of fast-break layups by Hornbuckle coming off a Parker block, then an Anosike steal.