KNOXVILLE — On the final day of a week honoring Pat Summitt, the Tennessee women's basketball team paid tribute to its former coach by continuing a tradition she had started.
Bashaara Graves had 21 points and eight rebounds as one of five Tennessee players to score in double figures Sunday as the ninth-ranked Lady Vols won 96-69 for their 39th consecutive victory over the Crimson Tide.
"They wanted to play this in honor of Pat," said Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, who played for Summitt and worked as an assistant on her staff for 27 seasons. "Hopefully Pat saw what she has built this program on, and that's hard work with a foundation of defense and rebounding."
Alabama hasn't beaten the Lady Vols since an 85-66 victory in the 1984 SEC tournament. Tennessee leads the all-time series 46-2 and never has lost to the Tide during the regular season.
Sunday was the last day of the SEC's "We Back Pat" week to support Summitt's foundation and its fight against Alzheimer's disease. During the game, Summitt received checks totaling $32,145 toward her foundation from Sam's Club, the SEC women's basketball officials and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Warlick and each of her assistants wore orange "We Back Pat" T-shirts under their blazers for the game. Before the game, the coaches and players crossed the width of the court to hug Summitt, who was seated in the front row at midcourt. The team watched videos honoring Summitt before taking the floor.
Summitt, 60, stepped down as Tennessee's coach last April after winning 1,098 games and eight national titles in 38 seasons. She was diagnosed in 2011 with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Summitt remains on staff as head coach emeritus, attends just about every practice and watches each home game from the stands.
"It was really emotional for all of us, to have a coach who's made such an impact on everybody's lives, including ours," Tennessee guard Meighan Simmons said. "It was a really emotional time, just to give her a hug, to feel her and to let her know, 'Coach, I appreciate you. We love you.' It was one of those things. She just told every single one of us, 'Let's go. Let's get ready.' We were able to refocus very well after that."
Simmons scored 16 points as the Lady Vols (15-3, 6-0) earned their eighth straight win overall. Isabelle Harrison, Jasmine Jones and Taber Spani each added 14 points.
Daisha Simmons scored 19 points, Kaneisha Horn added 14 points and Shafontaye Myers had 12 points for Alabama (11-7, 1-4). Horn also had 10 rebounds.
"I think Holly's done a great job stepping into her role, especially stepping into Pat's footsteps," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "She's done a great job and has them playing at a very high level."
Tennessee's 39-game winning streak over Alabama is tied for the second-longest active streak in any conference rivalry. Stanford has beaten Pac-12 rival Washington State 53 straight times. UCSB has 39 straight wins over Cal State Fullerton in the Big West.
Daisha Simmons scored 12 points in the first seven minutes of the game. Tennessee took the lead for good at 20-18 on Harrison's layup with 10:20 left in the first half, but Alabama was within five points until the Lady Vols closed the half on a 14-5 run to take a 49-35 lead into the intermission.
The Lady Vols shot 62.9 percent (22-of-35) in the first half, when Harrison and Graves were a combined 10-of-10 with 23 points after shooting a combined 3-of-15 Thursday in a 75-66 victory at Auburn.
Graves ended up shooting 9-of-11, while Harrison was 4-of-7 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Tennessee's inside strength made up for the fact it shot just 1-of-11 from 3-point range.
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