PHILADELPHIA — Cappie Pondexter turned and screamed at Alexis Hornbuckle. Shanna Zolman reared and stared down the Rutgers bench.
It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't flashy, but there was no lack of emotion in top-seeded Tennessee's 59-49 win over third-seeded Rutgers last night. The Lady Vols will play Michigan State in the Final Four in Indianapolis on Sunday — UT's fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four.
Neither team shot the ball well, and the two teams combined to commit 35 turnovers. UT made only 13 field goals.
''It's fun to get revenge,'' Zolman said of Rutgers' 65-51 win over UT on Dec. 29.
''It's fun to play, and no matter what kind of game just know that we can win it.''
Zolman led Tennessee with 16 points, while Pondexter — the regional MVP — led Rutgers with 25.
Essence Carson brought Rutgers (28-7) to 49-47 with a pair of free throws with 1:08 left in the game. UT (30-4) struggled to get the ball inbounds, but Zolman was eventually fouled and made both free throws.
The Lady Vols made 12-of-12 free throws to end the game. They finished 29-of-35 from the free-throw line.
''At times, our shots weren't exactly falling, and so we wanted to get to the line and get some freebies,'' Ely said. ''We did a really good job of connecting, especially in crunch time.''
With Tennessee holding on to a 41-39 lead, Zolman made a lay-up in transition and made a 3-pointer on the next trip to put the Lady Vols up by five. A pair of free throws by Ely put UT on top 49-41.
''I did not expect to give a farewell speech tonight,'' Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer said. ''Because I fully expected to win.''
Leading 30-24 at halftime, Tennessee allowed the Scarlet Knights to take a 33-31 lead in the second half before the Lady Vols made a field goal. Alexis Hornbuckle tied the game at 33, giving UT its first basket of the second half with 12:05 to go.
''I'm proud of this basketball team,'' Lady Vol Coach Pat Summitt said. ''And I'm very proud that they found a way to just really be tough down the stretch.''