Vols too good for West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It may go down as the night women's basketball was reborn in West Virginia but it was a painful birth for the Mountaineers.

Playing before a crowd of 10,677 fans in the Civic Center downtown in the state's capital, the No. 16 Mountaineers found out that they are not yet ready for prime time players as Tennessee's superior height, quickness and strength wore them down, 67-49.

"I'd rather rather play before five fans and win," said a disappointed WVU coach Mike Carey.

It was No. 1 and defending national champion Tennessee's fourth straight victory this season while WVU fell to 3-1.

As usual, Candace Parker was front and center ... and guard ... and forward.

In fact, she was the Tennessee junior was anything she wanted to be as she scored a season-high 29 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.

"She is the best player in the country," Carey said. "We've seen some pretty good players the past two years and she's the best."

In a way it was fitting for Parker, the first player to ever dunk in the NCAA Tournament and twice in the same game, was playing before a crowd that remembered Georgeann Wells, a Mountaineer who was the first woman to ever dunk in an college game.

Parker admitted after the game she had no idea who Wells was.

There were no dunks for Parker, but only because she didn't need to. Most of her work was done inside, however, off nifty passes or on offensive rebounds.

There proved to be only one moment during the game when the Volunteers seemed to be in peril, that coming late in the first half. Tennessee had used a pressure defense and dominance ont he boards to build a 24-12 lead but WVU found some offensive answers and ran off eight straight points in just under three minutes.

Suddenly, Tennessee was looking at a four-point lead and for help. While it normally comes from Parker, or Alexis Hornbuckle, who was playing in an arena in which she had won four straight West Virginia State Championships, this time it came from an unexpected source.

That would be freshman Angie Bjorklund from Spokane Valley, Wash. Bjorklund first hit a jumper with 5:01 to play in the half, then came up with the play of the game.

Seeing an opening on the baseline, she drove toward the basket but was cut off and seemingly about to be surrounded. Without so much as wasted movement, she made a magnificent behind-the-back pass to Parker, who hit a layup.

"Angie is a skilled player," Tennessee's Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt said. "Each game she is getting more comfortable. She has not played as well on the road as she has at home but there was enough orange here that she felt comfortable."

That there was so much orange in the stands bothered Carey. "I was very disappointed to see West Virginia natives wearing orange. I saw friends of mine at the game wearing orange. I'm proud of the state of West Virginia and I think they should be too," he said.

The lead had swelled from four points to eight and Tennessee was off and running on a run that would stretch its advantage to 15 points before a late rally by the Mountaineers to crawl back to 37-24 at the half.

Hornbuckle's return home was triumphant, scoring 12 points with eight rebounds and four assists. She also surpassed the 1,000 mark in career scoring.

"I knew I needed three points there in the second half. I made a layup and I thought how nice it would be to score 1,000 at home. Then I found myself on the bench. I won't lie. I was pouting. Coach was gracious enough to put me back in and let me get it," Hornbuckle said.

Tennessee's next game is at home against Louisiana Tech on Monday while WVU next plays American in the URI Invitational on Friday.

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