Updated at: 01/24/2013 9:37 PM
By TERESA M. WALKER
(AP) NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Taber Spani scored a career-high 24 points and Meighan Simmons added 23 as No. 9 Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 83-75 Thursday night for the Lady Vols’ ninth straight victory.
With No. 5 Kentucky losing to No. 18 South Carolina earlier in the night, Tennessee (16-3, 7-0) is the Southeastern Conference’s last undefeated team in league play.
The Lady Vols have won 11 straight SEC games dating back to last season and a loss here at Memorial Gym. They got a small measure of payback by beating Vanderbilt for the 25th time in 27 games in this series.
Bashaara Graves also had 16 points for Tennessee.
Vanderbilt (13-6, 3-3) lost for the first time at home this season and has lost three of four overall. The Commodores played without 6-foot-4 sophomore Clair Watkins, who tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in practice Wednesday.
Christina Foggie led Vandy with 22 points, Tiffany Clarke had 19 and Kady Schrann 14.
The Commodores managed to tie the score twice, the second time at 41 after scoring the first 12 points of the second half. The Lady Vols answered with an 11-2 spurt capped by a drive by Simmons with 12:45 to go, and Vanderbilt couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way. Tennessee hit 14 of 15 at the line in the final 3:49 to seal the victory.
The Commodores came in as the SEC’s second-best team beyond the arc, shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range. They shot 21.7 percent (5 of 23) and missed three 3s in the final minutes with a chance to make it a one-score game.
Tennessee had coach emeritus Pat Summitt sitting on the front row behind their bench right beside Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, and she watched the Lady Vols do what they usually do in Nashville. The Lady Vols now are 61-8 all-time against Vanderbilt in this in-state rivalry and 24-6 in Nashville.
The Lady Vols grabbed control from the start on a jumper by Isabelle Harrison, whose father Dennis played football for Vanderbilt in the 1970s. Vanderbilt managed to tie it up at 4 before Simmons hit a 3-pointer to put Tennessee ahead to stay. Simmons followed with another 3 and celebrated as she ran backward down the court signaling three with each hand.
Spani hit her first two 3s as well as the Lady Vols quickly pushed the lead to double digits. Even when something went wrong for the Lady Vols when Simmons missed a layup off the fast-break after moving the ball behind her back, Kamiko Williams was there to rebound the miss and put it back up for a bucket.
Tennessee led by as much as 15 with 1:50 left on Spani’s third 3 of the half, and the Lady Vols led 41-29 at halftime.
But Lister answered Spani’s 3 with her own before halftime, and Vanderbilt scored the first 12 points of the second half to tie it up for the second time at 41 on Lister’s 3 with 16:07 left. The Lady Vols missed their first six shots with Vanderbilt swatting away four of them.
Graves scored on a layup with 14:58 remaining to put Tennessee ahead to stay as the Lady Vols scored 11 of the next 13.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)