Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Summitt breaks NCAA win record with No. 880

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Moments after becoming the winningest coach in NCAA history, Pat Summitt focused on her ultimate goal: getting Tennessee its seventh national title.

Summitt broke Dean Smith's career victory record Tuesday night, getting No. 880 in the Lady Vols' 75-54 win over Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

``First and foremost, we're going to the Sweet 16,'' Summitt said. ``Obviously, to be in the company with Coach Smith, to think about all the people that were a part of these wins, I never thought I'd live this long.''

Summitt tied Smith with an easy win over Western Carolina in the first round Sunday night, and passed the former North Carolina men's coach with another convincing victory.

``First of all, I'm excited this basketball team is headed to Philadelphia and appreciate the fact that we managed to get it done tonight,'' Summitt said. ``We played in spurts at times, but did enough to advance.''

The 52-year-old Summitt improved to 880-171 in 31 years at Tennessee, while Smith was 879-254 when he retired in 1997 after 36 years with the Tar Heels.

Summitt was concerned the record chase would be a distraction during tournament time.

``I appreciate all the recognition women's basketball has received because of this,'' she said. ``I think the game has obviously had a lot of plugs, as well as this program.

``But I just want to keep my focus on this team, and that's all I could think about today.''

After the game, NCAA officials presented the game ball and a plaque to Summitt. The university announced that the court at Thompson-Boling Arena will be named ``The Summitt,'' in honor of the coach who now stands above the rest in NCAA basketball.

``It really touches me,'' she said. ``I never even thought about anything like that ever. I don't think there could have been a better gift in terms of the feeling that I had and how much I love this university.''

Ninth-seeded Purdue (17-13) tried its best to stall Summitt's chase, hanging tough with the top-seeded Lady Vols (28-4) in the first half.

But Tennessee's defense was too much for Purdue in the second half. The Boilermakers didn't have a field goal in the first 6:35 of the second half, while the Lady Vols pushed their lead to 20 with a 19-6 run.

``Congratulations to Coach Summitt,'' Purdue coach Kristy Curry said. ``I'm really happy for her, and I'm proud of my team for how they fought and battled.''

Tye'sha Fluker tied a career high with 18 points and had 10 rebounds. Shyra Ely added 16 points, Shanna Zolman 15 and Nicky Anosike 11.

Sharika Webb had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Katie Gearlds added 13 for the Boilermakers, who made only four field goals in the second half.

In the first game Tuesday in Knoxville, LSU, the top overall seed in the tournament, cruised past ninth-seeded Arizona 76-43.

The Lady Tigers (31-2) will face 13th-seeded Liberty in the Chattanooga Regional semifinals Saturday. Liberty upset fifth-seeded DePaul 88-79 on Tuesday night in College Park, Md.

Temeka Johnson scored all 14 of her points in the first half and had 10 assists. Seimone Augustus added 18 points and Scholanda Hoston had 12 for LSU, who are trying to reach the Final Four for a second straight season. The Lady Tigers are in the final 16 for the ninth time.

Dee-Dee Wheeler led the ninth-seeded Wildcats (20-12) with 13 points, and Shawntinice Polk had 10. Danielle Adefeso added 12 rebounds. Arizona had only four assists.

But the most excitement was saved for the nightcap.

Summitt took over the women's program at Tennessee in 1974 at age 22 when there were no scholarships and she had to wash the uniforms and drive the team van. The Lady Vols nickname didn't even exist.

A mere 53 fans watched Summitt win her first game, a 69-32 victory over Middle Tennessee on Jan. 10, 1975.

Thousands of orange-clad supporters came to see Summitt reach 880 on Tuesday, creating an atmosphere even more electric than usual.

``This basketball team is on a mission, so stick with us!'' she said to the crowd after the game.

Among those in attendance were Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer, former Lady Vols assistant Mickie DeMoss, former Lady Vols guard Kara Lawson and former men's basketball coach Buzz Peterson, who was fired last week after four seasons.

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