Wednesday, March 30, 2005

UT punches its ticket

PHILADELPHIA — Pat Summitt pulled out every analogy and metaphor she could for this game.

She made it out to be a boxing match. Then she made the reference to the movie Rocky — fitting since the game was played in the city in which it was filmed. Then she took it a step further, changing Rocky into Rocky Top.

Whatever she told her team, it was enough to get them motivated to hold off a Rutgers team that was stubborn enough to stay with the Lady Vols for 39 minutes.

Tennessee edged Rutgers 59-49 last night to earn the fourth spot in the Women's Final Four in Indianapolis.

''I was concerned that we were throwing the ball around and just not executing,'' said Summitt about the second-half struggles. ''When you struggle offensively, you have concerns that it will impact on how you play defense. I was encouraged by what they did defensively when they were struggling offensively.''

UT senior point guard Loree Moore was in foul trouble for most of the game, and it limited what the Lady Vols were able to do defensively against the speedy Rutgers guards.

She fouled out with 1:08 left in the game after giving up a turnover that led to a pair of free throws for Essence Carson. It brought the Scarlet Knights to 49-47.

''That aggressiveness kind of took me out of it,'' Moore said. ''That mind-set kind of separated me from my teammates. I wasn't playing smart enough for them.''

The guard duo of Cappie Pondexter and Matee Ajavon was almost too much for Tennessee to overcome. Pondexter, who averaged nearly 25 points a game in her four NCAA Tournament games, finished with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Ajavon added 12 and four assists.

With Rutgers picking up foul after foul early in the first half, Pondexter took it on her shoulders to turn around the team. She scored 16 of the Scarlet Knights' first 20 points. At one point, she was 5-of-6 from the floor, and the rest of the team was 1-of-9.

''It was just like every shot she put up, it was going in,'' Moore said. ''She was playing like it was her last game. She's very competitive. You don't really care how you win it. All we can do is learn from this and make sure when we get down to the Final Four and we face Michigan State that we don't make the same mistakes.''

Popular ticket: One of the first things UT men's coach Bruce Pearl wanted to know when he was hired this week was if he could come watch the Lady Vols. He did.

So did Philadelphia Eagles' receiver Terrell Owens. He sat behind Tennessee's bench and waved orange and white pompoms throughout the game.

No comments: