Monday, March 28, 2005

Volunteers reach regional final with easy victory

There was no grand celebration, court renaming or history making for Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt yesterday.

Just win No. 881 - and another step closer to playing in the Final Four.

The orange-clad fans inside Temple University's Liacouras Center for the Philadelphia Regional semifinal were happy to keep celebrating the success of Summitt, who broke Dean Smith's coaching record for wins in Division I basketball on Tuesday. The Volunteers' party will continue after a 75-59 win over Texas Tech.

Tennessee will play Rutgers, which advanced with a 64-58 victory over Ohio State in yesterday's other semifinal, for the regional title. The winner of that game, scheduled for tomorrow at the Liacouras Center, earns a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Tennessee (29-4), the region's top seed, stomped fourth-seeded Texas Tech (24-8) with a dominating inside game and by defensively disrupting Raiders guard Erin Grant.

"The team decided they wanted to play together at both ends," Summitt said. "This team is really fitting together in a way to allow them to be a better team defensively."

The Vols limited Texas Tech to just 32.8 percent shooting from the field (20 for 61), and they did not allow any player more than three field goals. The Vols, relying on the strong inside presence of senior forward Shyra Ely, shot 43.3 percent.

In the Vols' second-round win over Purdue last week, Ely kissed the floor after the game. Her lips never touched the Liacouras Center court, but she definitely embraced her game.

Ely muscled her way under the basket, scoring most of her game-high 23 points in the paint. She has never scored more points in the NCAA tournament.

The post play was crucial for the Vols, who made just 1 of 10 three-point attempts. (Texas Tech was 3 for 13.)

Ely also contributed seven rebounds and two assists.

Summitt credited Ely for "just finishing some tough, tough shots."

"Shyra was terrific in positioning," she said. "It made a big difference."

Ely has more motivation to survive another day of the tournament. The Indianapolis native wrote the words homeward bound on the back of her sneakers.

Ely said playing in the Final Four would be "icing on the cake to finish my career where I started."

The defensive hold Alexis Hornbuckle and Loree Moore put on Grant, who averaged two turnovers and seven assists during the regular season, also helped Tennessee. Yesterday, Grant committed six of the Raiders' 14 turnovers.

"They just pressured the ball like we knew they would," Grant said. "They tried to take away our passes to the wings and to our entry to the post."

"Their offense definitely runs through her," Hornbuckle, a freshman, said of Grant. "She takes care of the ball very well... . We had to keep pressure on her and not allow her to get the looks that she wanted."

Coach Marsha Sharp said she could not explain Texas Tech's cold play.

Just eight minutes into the game, the Raiders were already deep in the hole they were digging, trailing 16-6. The Vols never trailed, and the Raiders never looked as if they had a chance.

"We all failed today," she said, "because we didn't come with the right mentality to make the big plays early and it cost us."

Tennessee led by 40-26 at halftime.

"We had wide-open shots we should have knocked down," Grant said.

The Raiders did not help matters by connecting on only 8 of 14 free-throw attempts in the first half.

LaToya Davis led Texas Tech with 12 points and nine rebounds. Freshman guard Judith Smith came off the bench and chipped in 10 points.

Summitt said that although this year's national title chase might be the most wide open she has ever seen, the Vols figured they would be in the mix. Summitt has led Tennessee to 20 regional finals and 15 Final Four appearances. The Vols are chasing a seventh national championship.

"I think Coach said it best," Ely said, "that we're on a mission."

Tennessee 75, Texas Tech 59


Davis 3-6 6-8 12, Robertson 2-10 2-2 7, Greenwalt 3-7 0-1 6, Dabbs 3-10 3-5 9, Grant 3-7 2-2 9, Smith 3-9 3-4 10, Myrick 2-6 0-0 4, Griffin 1-6 0-1 2. Totals 20-61 16-23 59.


Hornbuckle 5-11 3-4 14, Ely 8-11 7-8 23, Anosike 2-5 7-7 11, Zolman 4-10 0-0 8, Moore 3-8 3-3 9, Redding 1-4 0-0 2, Jackson 0-6 2-4 2, Dosty 1-1 0-0 2, Fluker 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 26-60 22-26 75.

Halftime:Tennessee 40-26. Three-point goals: Texas Tech 3-13 (Grant 1-2, Smith 1-5, Robertson 1-6), Tennessee 1-10 (Hornbuckle 1-2, Jackson 0-2, Moore 0-3, Zolman 0-3). Fouled out: Myrick. Rebounds: Texas Tech 36 (Davis 9), Tennessee 46 (Anosike 11). Assists: Texas Tech 13 (Smith 6), Tennessee 13 (Hornbuckle, Zolman 3). Total fouls: Texas Tech 19, Tennessee 20.

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