Taber Spani almost had the points to match her birthday. She settled for her second-highest score of the season in Tennessee's 81-55 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Spani, who turned 20 years old Thursday, finished with 18 points. The sophomore guard made seven of 12 shots from the field and hit two of four 3-pointers.
Her increased scoring was just what the Lady Vols needed in Angie Bjorklund's absence. Bjorklund, the school's all-time leader in 3-pointers, sat out the game with a foot injury.
"When you have a senior or captain go out, you have to step up," Spani said.
The timing of Spani's scoring was significant on another front. Her parents, Gary and Stacey Spani, were in town for the game.
"She has a really good skill set," UT coach Pat Summitt said. "She's not as athletic as some players but she works on her game.
"And she's gonna make big shots, because she has repetition."
Halfway Good: Mississippi State wasn't surprised at UT's halftime transformation. The Lady Bulldogs just couldn't do anything about it.
"Everybody was excited (after they led by two points at halftime)," guard Porsha Porter said. "But we knew they would come out and go hard at us.
"That's what they did."
The Lady Vols, who limited Mississippi State to 18 second-half points, have held four of their last five opponents to under 20 points in either the first or second half.
Florida managed only 15 first-half points in an 83-40 loss two weeks ago.
Clean Defense: The Lady Vols had a season-low seven fouls. That's 16 fewer than they had in their last loss, against Baylor on Dec. 14.
"They didn't make a lot of calls," Summitt said of the officials. "I'm not being negative about officiating. I thought they let a lot go.
"I kind of like it when they let them play. But I don't want anybody to get hurt."
Mississippi State was called for 19 fouls.
"All refs call different games," Spani said. "It was very physical tonight."
Baugh Out: Post player Vicki Baugh was held out of the game on the recommendation of Jenny Moshak, UT's associate athletic director for sports medicine.
"Jenny came to me and said she would prefer (Baugh) not play," Summitt said.
Baugh, who has missed 21 months of action because of injuries to her left knee, scored a season-high nine points last Sunday against Auburn.
Brewer Below Par: Alyssia Brewer, another player coming back from an injury (Achilles tendon), had four rebounds and two points in 11 minutes.
"She's not fully back," Summitt said. "I still think she has got to get her cardio where it needs to be.
"She does not have the speed from baseline to baseline of our other post players. . . . She was out for quite awhile."