Friday, March 31, 2006

CP3 Added to Final USA Basketball Women's National TeamSpring Training Roster

Former Lady Vol Kara Lawson also on roster

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Basketball has added University of Tennessee redshirt freshman Candace Parker (Naperville, Ill.), a member of the gold medal winning 2004 USA Junior World Championship Qualifying Team, to the roster for the 2006 USA Women's Senior National Team's final spring training session, April 1-12. Parker joins former Lady Vol All-American Kara Lawson on the squad. The training will begin in Boston April 1-4, where the U.S. will prepare for the April 7-12 Opals World Challenge, featuring Australia, China and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), in Cairns and Canberra, Australia.

"I'm glad to be able to add Candace to this training camp roster," said USA head Coach Anne Donovan. "She, along with the other collegiate players, will give a different look to this team for our final training session. It will be really good for me, my staff and the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee to get a look at these young players competing against the top teams we'll face in Australia."

As a member of the 2004 USA Junior World Championship Qualifying Team that rolled to a 5-0 record en route to the gold medal, Parker started all five games and averaged team highs of 16.6 ppg, 4.8 apg and 2.4 bpg, while also posting USA second bests of 8.8 rpg and 3.4 spg in just under 20 minutes of action per contest. Additionally, Parker dunked three times during the tournament.

"Being selected to this team and having the chance to play in Australia is a tremendous honor," said Parker en route to Boston. "USA Basketball has provided me with some great basketball experiences and this is an opportunity I couldn't pass up."

During her first year at Tennessee as a redshirt freshman in 2005-06, Parker aided the Lady Vols to a 31-5 record, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament crown and a spot in the NCAA Elite Eight. She started all 36 games for UT and led the squad in scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg), while adding a third best 2.9 apg. She was listed as one of 30 mid-season finalists for the 2006 Naismith Player of the Year Award and one of 18 finalists for the 2006 John R. Wooden Award, was named as the 2006 SEC Freshman of the Year, the 2006 SEC Tournament MVP, 2006 All-SEC first team by conference coaches and All-SEC second team by the Associated Press and was also selected a 2006 Kodak/WBCA All-Region 3 and a Kodak/WBCA All-America finalist. She was also named to the 2006 NCAA Cleveland Regional All-Tournament Team.

"I'm very excited for Candace to have the opportunity to compete with and against some of the very best players in woemn's basketball. This international experience will give her the opportunity to grow and expand her game," said Tennessee Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt.

Parker joins four other collegiate All-Americans, including Louisiana State University's Seimone Augustus (Baton Rouge, La.) and Sylvia Fowles (Miami, Fla.), Ohio State University's Jessica Davenport (Columbus, Ohio) and Rutgers University's (N.J.) Cappie Pondexter (Chicago, Ill.), who will train alongside Olympic gold medalists and WNBA standouts during this final spring training session.

Olympic gold medalists Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), Ruth Riley (Detroit Shock), Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) will provide the veteran leadership for a squad that will feature young WNBA talent in Alana Beard (Washington Mystics), Shameka Christon (New York Liberty), Kristin Haynie (Sacramento Monarchs) and former Lady Vol All-American Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs).

In addition to the 12-member squad that will compete in Australia, three-time Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) will practice during the team's Boston training camp. Due to prior commitments, she is unable to compete in Australia.

Due to the timing of the 2006 WNBA Draft, Donovan and USA assistant coach Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun will arrive in Australia after the team's first game. Because of that, USA assistant coach Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.) will act as the team's head coach for the first game in Australia. USA athletes involved in the Final Four and/or the 2005 WNBA Draft will join the squad in Australia.

USA Basketball will announce the final 12-member 2006 USA World Championship Team by the end of June.

The U.S. will gather in Boston for four practices before departing for Australia, beginning with an April 1 training session that gets underway at 10:00 a.m. (all times local) at Harvard University's Malkin Athletic Center. The USA's final three practices will be held at Boston College's Conti Arena and will begin on April 2 at 12:00 p.m., at 10:30 a.m. on April 3, and the final practice in Boston will tip-off at 9:00 a.m. on April 4.

In addition to team training, several players will speak to young athletes at NCAA YES Clinics, participate in a clinic at the NCAA Hoop City, and the U.S. team will host area youths during the April 2 practice, followed by an autograph session.

The Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge tips-off in Cairns with the U.S. opening with China on April 7 and facing Australia on April 8. The tournament then moves to Canberra, where the Americans will play China again on April 10, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) on April 11, and the Opals World Challenge concludes with the second USA-Australia clash on April 12.

USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team

This marks USA Basketball's third of three spring training camps, which will see 2006 USA World Championship Team hopefuls go against top national and professional club teams from around the globe to help determine the 12-member roster for the 2006 USA Women's World Championship Team. The USA has previously posted an overall 6-0 record over top professionals during two training camps in Europe, March 2-9 and March 18-24.

The USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee, chaired by Rene Brown, the WNBA's Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, selected the athletes for the three spring training camps. The spring training will give the coaching staff and USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee a chance to evaluate a variety of candidates competing for the 12 roster positions on the 2006 USA World Championship Team.

Following the 2006 WNBA season, the USA will regroup in late August for a final training camp before heading to Brazil to defend its World Championship title at the 15th FIBA World Championship, slated to be played Sept. 12-23 in Sao Paulo.

Donovan will be assisted at the 2006 FIBA World Championship by Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault, and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.).

2006 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Roster - Opals World Challenge

Seimone Augustus F 6-1 170 04/30/84 n/a Louisiana State Baton Rouge, LA
Alana Beard G 5-11 160 05/14/82 Washington Duke Shreveport, LA
Swin Cash F 6-2 162 09/22/79 Detroit Connecticut McKeesport, PA
Shameka Christon G/F 6-1 170 02/15/82 New York Arkansas Hot Springs, AR
Jessica Davenport C 6-5 191 06/24/85 n/a Ohio State Columbus, OH
Sylvia Fowles C 6-5 200 10/06/85 n/a Louisiana State Miami, FL
Kristin Haynie G 5-8 147 06/17/83 Sacramento Michigan State Mason, MI
Kara Lawson G 5-8 160 02/14/81 Sacramento Tennessee Alexandria, VA
Candace Parker F 6-4 172 04/19/86 n/a Tennessee Naperville, Ill.
Cappie Pondexter G 5-9 160 01/07/83 n/a Rutgers Chicago, IL
Ruth Riley C 6-4 204 08/28/79 Detroit Notre Dame Macy, IN
Katie Smith G 5-11 181 06/04/74 Detroit Ohio State Logan, OH
*Sheryl Swoopes F 6-0 145 03/25/71 Houston Texas Tech Brownfield, TX
Tina Thompson F 6-2 178 02/10/75 Houston Southern Cal Los Angeles, CA
* Due to prior commitments, Swoopes will train with the USA Basketball team in Boston, but will not compete in Australia

Head Coach: Anne Donovan, Seattle Storm
Assistant Coach: Mike Thibault, Connecticut Sun
Assistant Coach: Gail Goestenkors, Duke University (N.C.)
Assistant Coach: Dawn Staley, Temple University (Pa.)

2006 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team's Boston Training & Media Availability Schedule

April 1 11:00 a.m. Practice Harvard University - Malkin Athletic Center
April 2 12:00 p.m. Practice Boston College - Conti Forum
April 3 10:30 a.m. Practice Boston College - Conti Forum
April 4 9:00 a.m. Practice Boston College - Conti Forum

Opals World Challenge

Cairns Convention Centre / Cairns, Australia
April 6 TBD Practice
April 7 6:00 p.m. USA vs. China 8:00 p.m. Australia vs. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)
April 8 5:00 p.m. China vs. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) 7:00 p.m. USA vs. Australia
Australia Institute of Sport Arena / Canberra, Australia
April 10 10:30 a.m. USA vs. China 12:30 p.m. Australia vs. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)
April 11 6:00 p.m. USA vs. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) 8:00p.m. Australia vs. China
April 12 6:00 p.m. China vs. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) 8:00 p.m. USA vs. Australia

NOTE: Schedule subject to change. All times local, times not listed are TBD. Following this weekend's USA daylight-saving time change, Australia will be +14 from EDT.

Tennessee Contingent Travels to Boston for Final Four Events

Possibly six Lady Vols will be involved in various events

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Although the Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team won't be making the trip to Boston for the 2006 Final Four, there will still be an Orange presence in "Beantown."

Seniors Tye'sha Fluker and Shanna Zolman will be participating in a number of WNBA events leading up to the 2006 WNBA Draft on Wed., April 5 in Boston. Additionally, Zolman will be participating in the WBCA's Night of Stars" college all-star game on Sat., April 1.

Tennessee rookie Candace Parker may be traveling to Boston as well. Parker is a finalist for the 10-player Kodak/WBCA All-American Team. The press conference for that event is on Sat., April 1.

Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt and former Lady Vol All-Americans and Final Four MVP's Bridgette Gordon and Chamique Holdsclaw will be on hand as well. They are all being honored as the coach and members of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship 25th Anniversary Team.

In February 2006, the NCAA named five players and one coach to the Division I Women's Basketball 25th Anniversary Team. Honored are five players who combined to win 11 national championships during their respective careers and the winningest coach in the history of men's or women's basketball.

The 25th Anniversary Team consists of Bridgette Gordon, who helped lead Tennessee to championships in 1987 and 1989; Chamique Holdsclaw, who led the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers to championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998; Cheryl Miller, who led the University of Southern California to team titles in 1983 and 1984; Diana Taurasi, the University of Connecticut guard who led the Huskies to three consecutive championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004; and Sheryl Swoopes, who led Texas Tech University to the national title in 1993.

Selected as the coach of the team is the legendary Pat Summitt, who has led Tennessee to six national championship titles and 16 Women's Final Four appearances during her illustrious career. Summitt, who owns a 913-177 (.835) overall record, is the all-time leader in every NCAA tournament coaching record with a 92-19 (.830) slate in 111 NCAA contests. She holds every record including titles, appearances, games, wins and winning percentage. She has led Tennessee to 25 consecutive tournament appearances.

An expert panel consisting of administrators, former coaches, representatives from the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and members of the media used historical data and results from the online public voting to make its decision based on each individual's achievements during NCAA championship competition.

"The 2006 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship will be a special one as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the NCAA women's basketball championship," said Sue Donohoe, vice president for NCAA Division I women's basketball. "It will be a time to recognize those who have paved the way for this great game as well as to celebrate those who will lead us into the future."

Here's a closer look at the student-athletes and coach that were named to the NCAA Division I Basketball 25th Anniversary Team:

Bridgette Gordon, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1986-1989)
Mideast Regional Most Outstanding Player (1987)
Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team (1987)
East Regional All-Tournament Team (1988)
East Regional Most Outstanding Player (1989)
Women's Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1989)
NCAA Team Finishes: Women's Final Four - tied 3rd (1986, 1988); Champion (1987, 1989)

Chamique Holdsclaw, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1996-1999)
East Regional All-Tournament Team (1996, 1999)
Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team (1996)
Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player (1997)
Women's Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1997, 1998)
Mideast Regional Most Outstanding Player (1998)
NCAA Team Finishes: Champion (1996, 1997, 1998); Regional Final (1999)

Cheryl Miller, University of Southern California (1983-1986)
West Regional All-Tournament Team (1983, 1984)
Women's Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1983, 1984)
West Regional Most Outstanding Player (1986)
Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team (1986)
NCAA Team Finishes: Champion (1983, 1984); Regional Semifinal (1985), Women's Final Four Runner up (1986)

Diana Taurasi, University of Connecticut (2001-2004)
East Regional Most Outstanding Player (2001, 2003, 2004)
Mideast Regional All-Tournament Team (2002)
Women's Final Four Most Outstanding Player (2003, 2004)
NCAA Team Finishes: Women's Final Four - tied 3rd (2001); Champion (2002, 2003, 2004)

Sheryl Swoopes, Texas Tech University (1992-1993)
West Regional All-Tournament Team (1992)
West Regional Most Outstanding Player (1993)
Women's Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1993)
NCAA Team Finishes: Regional Semifinal (1992); Champion (1993)

Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee, Coach (1974-present)
Six NCAA Championships (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998)
16 Women's Final Four Appearances (1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005)
21 Regional Final Appearances
25 Regional Appearances
All-time leader in every NCAA tournament coaching record - titles, appearances, games, wins and winning percentage
First coach to lead team to three straight NCAA titles (1996, 1997, 1998)
Only coach to have appeared in all 25 tournaments

In 1981, the NCAA began sponsoring women's championships, which has opened the door to increased athletic and academic opportunities for female student-athletes. Today, the NCAA sponsors 44 women's championships in 20 sports, providing more than 150,000 women with an opportunity to compete for national titles each year.


Saturday, April 1, 2006

9:45-10:30 a.m. Kodak/ WBCA All-American Team Announcement
Tennessee freshman Candace Parker is a nominee for the All-America Team. Announced in Boston, 10 players will be selected to the team.
Location: Westin Copley Place (Essex Center)

6:30 p.m. WBCA College All-Star Challenge
WNBA stars will serve as Honorary Co-Captains in an exhibition game featuring 20 of the top senior college All-Stars of the year who are not participating in the Women's Final Four. Shanna Zolman will represent the University of Tennessee.
Location: Matthews Arena, Northeastern University

Sunday, April 2, 2006

NCAA Women's National Semifinals Game 2 - Halftime
Presentation of 25th Anniversary Team - including Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and former Lady Vol All-Americans and previous Final Four MVP's Bridgette Gordon and Chamique Holdsclaw.
Location: TD Banknorth Garden

Monday, April 3, 2006

10:15 a.m. 2006 WNBA Pre-Draft Camp
The WNBA Pre-Draft Camp will offer WNBA coaches and general managers an opportunity to evaluate the skills of approximately 40 top prospects from the current collegiate senior class including Tennessee's Tye'sha Fluker and Shanna Zolman. The players will participate in on-court sessions scheduled for the morning, afternoon and evening.
Location: Emmanuel College

5 p.m. 25th Anniversary Celebration
Dinner honoring the 25th Anniversary Team - including Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and former Lady Vol All-Americans and previous Final Four MVP's Bridgette Gordon and Chamique Holdsclaw.
Location: Boston Opera House

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

1:00 p.m. 2006 WNBA Draft
For the first time in history, the 2006 WNBA Draft will take place the day following the NCAA Women's Division I Championship game. Top prospects from across the nation will be in attendance for the Draft. Tennessee seniors Tye'sha Fluker and Shanna Zolman will be in attendance.
Location: Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Women's Game Is in Need Of Parity

Not only was it a good thing Tennessee and Connecticut lost in the region finals of the women's NCAA tournament Tuesday night, it was necessary.

Don't get me wrong, Connecticut has had the most successful program in the country the past few years, winning three of the last four NCAA championships. Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is the single most significant person in the history of women's basketball. And the most important player in the game, very likely, is Candace Parker of Tennessee, as charismatic a young woman as you'll ever meet. Parker is a marketing dream -- if she played tennis, she'd be Maria Sharapova; and if she played golf, she'd be Michelle Wie.

Nonetheless, it's best for women's college basketball that the Final Four be conducted without Tennessee and U-Conn. for the first time since 1999. If this game is going to grow in popularity, it will have to ride without training wheels, which is what the Volunteers and Huskies have been, together or separately, for the past 20 years. Any sport entirely dependent on one or two teams is going to be limited in its mass appeal.

The Final Four, to be played in Boston on Sunday night, isn't going to suffer from a lack of story lines. The first semifinal, Maryland vs. North Carolina, is irresistible. North Carolina may have already avenged its only loss by beating Maryland in the ACC tournament a few weeks ago. But Maryland's overtime victory in Chapel Hill on a three-pointer as time expired gives the matchup just the kind of history that gives a third game a sense of theater.

In the other semifinal, we get to see two of the five best players in women's college basketball, LSU's Seimone Augustus and Duke's Monique Currie. And they'll be leading teams that in recent years have gotten to the Final Four but haven't been able to win. No doubt, Summitt and U-Conn.'s Geno Auriemma are on the Mount Rushmore of women's hoops coaches, but LSU's Pokey Chapman and Duke Coach G (Okay, make me spell Gail Goestenkors; does Duke not hire any coaches named Smith or Jones?) are among the best.

The ratings may decline a bit, but so what? If the goal of women's college basketball is to simply hold onto the audience it has, then the tournament should aspire only to Tennessee vs. Connecticut. But the game ought to be more ambitious than that.

John Wooden and UCLA certainly set the bar for the men's game. But the most popular games ever didn't involve UCLA. It came in 1979, Magic and Michigan State vs. Bird and Indiana State. The second-most watched game is Georgetown vs. Villanova, 1985. Interest grows as the talent spreads.

My friend Kara Lawson played for Summitt at Tennessee and went to three Final Fours. Now she plays for the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA. She's an ESPN analyst for this NCAA tournament. She also works in the studio as an analyst on Sacramento Kings games. Lawson loves her school, but she also loves her sport enough to know it can't grow if every Final Four boils down to U-Conn. and Tennessee.

"I played with the seniors at Tennessee," she said on the phone last night. "Of course, I wanted Tennessee to win. . . . But if you're asking me whether I think it might have been good for the game to have somebody other than Tennessee and U-Conn. . . . yes, I think it is.

"If we're looking for the game to have a wider attraction, you must have other programs be successful and you must have big-time kids play at other programs."

While three ACC schools in the Final Four might be a little too geographically concentrated, the turnaround of the Maryland program certainly helps the tournament.

Lawson points out that six of Maryland's top seven scorers are underclassmen. Two of the Terrapins' best players are freshmen, Marissa Coleman (St. John's) and Kristi Toliver.

Folks who feel this year's men's NCAA tournament is one of the best point to the depth of the field, the No. 12 seeds that appear to be nearly as talented as No. 5 seeds. They point to the upsets in the men's game, like George Mason beating Michigan State, North Carolina and U-Conn.

Lawson grew up in Northern Virginia and stopped the talk of women's basketball for a moment to say: "How great is George Mason? West Springfield is only about 10 minutes from campus. I'm so excited about what Mason is doing. . . . But if you look at the women's game, we've got three number one seeds and a number two in the Final Four. We finally had a number one seed, Ohio State, out early . . . and that's the first time since 1998. The number 12 and number 13 seeds are a lot better. I don't know how often we're going to see a double-digit seed [George Mason is number 11] advance all the way to the Final Four in the women's tournament. . . . For that matter, I don't know how often it's going to happen on the men's side.

"Would having something like that help women's basketball? Probably, yes, because in the consumer's eyes it would legitimize us more. Unpredictability can have that effect."

Great performances, whether they come from Tennessee's Parker dunking twice in a game or Connecticut's Barbara Turner admirably trying to play on cramping legs, need to come from every corner of the country if the women's tournament is going to have a truly national feel and be something more than an invitational, where the same few teams get together year after year to decide the championship. Summitt and Auriemma are the pillars on which women's college basketball has rested for years. It's time for everybody else to do some of the heavy lifting.

At end of first season, Parker already looking at second

Tennessee star expects to assume leadership role

Candace Parker ended her first college season visibly frustrated Tuesday as she committed her seventh and eighth turnovers during the final minute of the Cleveland Regional Championship.

The self-titled woman of a million faces began expressing a few of them as time expired and No. 1 North Carolina, instead of her own Tennessee Lady Volunteers, celebrated its trip to next week's Final Four in Boston.

That scenario didn't exactly portray an NCAA tournament dream come true for Parker, the redshirt freshman recruited by legendary coach Pat Summitt (college basketball's all-time winningest coach) to help win championships.

"I definitely have grown up from this first season," said Parker in the locker room at Quicken Loans Arena, moments after scoring a game-high 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the 75-63 loss. "I'm gonna try to take a lot of the things that (senior teammates Shanna Zolman and Tye'sha Fluker) taught me, because I'm really gonna have to step up into a leadership role next year. I feel like I'm jumping from a freshman to a junior next year."

No wonder Parker's already thinking about next season. As her high school career at Naperville Central proved, four years go by quickly and championships are fewer and farther between than many realize.

Parker did not win the Class AA state title until her junior and senior years at Central, and Tennessee, for example, advanced to the three previous Final Fours without ever winning it all.

If anything's become clear this season, it's that Parker will be the keystone to Tennessee's future success.

"She's a very good talent, I mean, a very tremendous talent," said Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James, who watched the regional finals from a skybox on his home court. "She does a lot for that Lady Volunteers team, and I bet they're happy that she's back from her injury. And I know that they're happy that they have her, that she's on their side."

James, who watched Parker's historical NCAA tournament dunk live on television, said he's been following Parker's career since high school when she defeated several males to win the 2004 McDonald's All-America Games' Powerade Jam Fest. He thinks he knows what makes the 6-foot-4-inch Parker so good.

"I think just her love for the game, her talent," he said. "She's shown all aspects of her game this year, and for years to come I think they've got a bright future."

Summitt feels the same way, going as far as saying her team's "wheels fell off" when "her best go-to player" left Tuesday's game with two fouls early in the first half. That reaction should come as no surprise in lieu of Parker's many accolades, which include Second-Team All-American, Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and Cleveland Region All-Tournament team honors.

"Without Candace on our team, we would miss a lot of points and rebounds," Summitt said. "She's just a great, great player and teammate."

Parker ended the season averaging 17.3 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.4 blocks, and she averaged even more points, assists and blocks in the four NCAA tournament games.

As long as Parker continues to be an inside-outside threat, especially given her current playing size, teams will always struggle to defend the girl that can also dunk. Parker not only brings energy with her above-the-rim play, but she becomes a scouting enigma because of her ability to play all five positions.

Charlotte Smith, an assistant coach at North Carolina and the second woman ever to dunk in an NCAA game back in 1994, said she likes Parker because she's not a one-dimensional, back-to-the-basket post player like many of today's bigger female players.

"I'm just a firm believer that every player should have the ability to be able to handle the ball and shoot the outside shot, so I just love to see players that are well-rounded and have worked on every aspect of the game," Smith said. "I just think her future's very promising, because she's definitely loaded with talent right now and still somewhat raw."

Parker and the Lady Vols have a long way to go before attempting a return to Cleveland, the site of next year's Final Four. That's for sure. But when and if they do, one can be certain that Parker will be leading the way, a million faces and all.

In the books

Candace Parker's Freshman Season

• Second-Team All-American

• Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year

• Cleveland Region All-Tournament team

• SEC Tournament MVP

• Paradise Jam All-Tournament MVP

• First female to dunk in the NCAA tournament

• One of 18 Wooden Award finalists

• One of 30 Naismith Award finalists

• V Foundation Comeback Player of the Year Nominee

Season Average (per game)

Points Rebounds Assists Blocks
17.3 8.3 2.9 2.4
NCAA Tournament Average (per game)
Points Rebounds Assists Blocks
22.5 6.3 3.0 3.8

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

(1) North Carolina 75, (2) Tennessee 63

CLEVELAND -- Ivory Latta flexed her muscles at LeBron James, shook hands with Pat Summitt and helped North Carolina drop mighty Tennessee out of the NCAA tournament.

She's fearless. She's fast. She's feisty.

And, she is Final Four-bound.

The littlest Tar Heel, making every big play down the stretch, put top-seeded North Carolina in its first Final Four since winning the 1994 national championship with a 75-63 win over Tennessee in the Cleveland Regional on Tuesday night.

After complaining that their road to Boston was way too tough, the Tar Heels are packing their bags for another road trip.

"We're the No. 1 team in the nation," said Latta, "and tonight we showed it."

The 5-foot-6 (with heels on, maybe) Latta finished with 20 points, nine assists and four steals in 40 minutes for the Tar Heels (33-1), who will play Maryland in this weekend's Final Four.

The Terrapins were the only team to beat North Carolina, edging the Tar Heels by three points in overtime on Feb. 9.

Latta scored nine of her team's final 11 points, drilling a crucial 3-pointer with 3:27 left and picking up the assist on the other basket as North Carolina finally put away the Lady Vols (31-5).

With the Tar Heels up 64-58 and the 30-second shot clock winding down, Latta stepped back and drilled her 3-pointer from the top of the key.

"Coach told me to get the ball and back it out," Latta said. "They were just standing there. It was a dagger. I'm just glad I made it."

On North Carolina's next trip, Latta drove the lane and threaded a pass to Erlana Larkins for a layup to make it 69-60. After freshman Candace Parker's basket, Latta then made six straight free throws in the final 56.1 seconds and the Tar Heels improved to just 2-12 all-time against Tennessee, which was seeking its 17th trip to the Final Four.

The Lady Vols trailed from the outset, fell behind by 16 points in the first half and got within five before running out of gas.

"You don't win a basketball game in the first half, but you certainly can lose one," said Summitt, Tennessee's Hall of Fame coach. "We just dug too deep of a hole. We were just trying to get back into the game and they just answered everything. A lot of those plays were huge."

Following the game, Latta introduced herself to Summitt.

"Hey, Ivory," Summitt told the ACC's player of the year. "You did a great job."

Moments later, Latta was still reeling from their encounter.

"I just shook her hand and I'm still shaking," she said. "That was pretty cool."

Camille Little added 17 points and La'Tangela Atkinson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who lost to eventual NCAA champion Baylor in a regional final last year.

When the tournament pairings were announced, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell lamented her team's plight. She didn't like that her top-ranked team had to play its second-round game against Vanderbilt on the Commodores' home floor or being stuck in the same bracket with the second-seeded Lady Vols.

She's all smiles now.

"I knew Tennessee would come at us," she said. "I knew they would make a run, but our kids are tough."

None more than Latta.

With the ball in her hands counting down the final seconds, Latta slapped hands with Atkinson, screamed "Yeah" and pointed toward James, the Cavaliers' superstar who was sitting in a luxury suite. The two first met at high school All-Star game in Cleveland a few years back.

"We flexed at each other," Latta said. "I have the bigger arms. I was so glad he was here."

Parker led the Lady Vols with 20 points and nine rebounds, but had eight turnovers against Carolina's swarming defense. Sidney Spencer added 13 points and Shanna Zolman 11 for Tennessee, which will head home instead of to their fifth Final Four in a row.

"It seemed like every time we came at them they answered," Parker said. "Every time we were almost over the hump they seemed to come back with a run or a steal or a 3. We just needed a better first half and that would have solved everything because in the second half we competed with them."

North Carolina's trapping defense harassed, disrupted and stripped Tennessee of any offensive flow in the first half. At times, the Lady Vols looked confused and Summitt's face turned as orange as her blouse during a heated timeout.

"Yeah, I knew they were rattled," Latta said. "They were yelling at each other. That's how we play, and that's how we're going to keep playing."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Final problems

Candace Parker is a can- do-anything 6-4 red shirt freshman for Tennessee. So multidimensional is she that the Volunteers' roster in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight game notes lists her as a F-C-G -- forward-center-guard.

Ivory Latta is -- supposedly -- a 5-6 point guard for North Carolina, the driving force behind the Tar Heels' frantic transition game and trapping defense.

Although completely different, the two women's basketball players are fantastically talented and perfect examples of the size and quickness that are the strong suits of Tennessee and North Carolina.

The question is: Which of the two is harder to defend?

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, the NCAA's all-time winningest coach, thought for a minute and then smiled.

"I think the ideal would be to have two players like that on your team," she said. "Wouldn't that be fun?"

Well, yes. The problem is one plays for Tennessee and one plays for North Carolina. Whichever team solves that tricky matchup likely will win tonight's NCAA Tournament regional final at The Q and advance to the Final Four on Sunday in Boston.

"I think quickness in the open floor is a big, big challenge for us," Summitt said, referring to Latta, who probably will be guarded by 6-4 Nicky Anosike to start the game. "Latta's a tough player to defend because of her explosiveness. She's constantly on the move, does a great job of pushing tempo. We just have to play the best defense that we can.

"We understand that we have to take control of the basketball so that we're not on our heels all the time," Summitt said.

"I like the opportunity for us to set our defense in the half court instead of being in a chase scene all day. . . . I'm not opposed to us running the basketball. We've been pushing the tempo. We're not going to change that. You can run at people or run with them. I'd much prefer to run at them."

Said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, who probably will start with Camille Little on Parker: "Candace taking that ball inside, she's tough, now, especially if you let her go to the right. . . . Candace Parker is a great player, but she's not the entire Tennessee team. They've got a lot of great players on their team. A lot of what they do goes through her. But they have a lot of talent on that team.

"You've just got to have a good game plan against them, give them some different looks. We've got several players who take pride in their defense. We'll see how the game starts and see as far as different players guarding her and giving her some different looks. Our overall game plan will be for the Tennessee team and not just Candace Parker."

While the coaches were diplomatic, former Connecticut star Rebecca Lobo did not hesitate when asked which matchup she thought would be tougher.

"You can get a 6-5 guy to come into practice and simulate Candace and what she can do," said Lobo, who is working the game for ESPN. "It would be very difficult to get a 5-foot-nothing guy to simulate what Ivory can do. They're both phenomenal players, but I don't know how you'd simulate what Ivory can do."

Latta refused to take the bait and giggled when asked whether she or Parker presented the tougher defensive assignment.

Parker said the game would be bigger than either player.

"I don't think it's for me to judge," she said. "We're both tough matchups, but it's not about Ivory or me. It's about our teams and who has the tougher team matchup. Who's going to have the one-two punch? Who's going to have the third scoring threat? I think that's going to be key.

"Who's going to make stops? Who's going to make runs? That's going to be the key. I don't think it will be in any one player's hands."

Four things I think about ....

1. Tennessee has a number of shot blockers guarding the hoop and will need to protect the paint. In the semifinal vs. Purdue, North Caro lina scored 50 of its 70 points in the paint, thanks to 6-1 Erlana Larkins, 6-2 Camille Little and 6-3 LaToya Pringle. The top priority for Tennessee should be keeping Larkins off the block and off the boards.

2. Guard pressure will be important. The Tar Heels didn't apply enough pressure to exploit Purdue's weaknesses on the perimeter. They have another opportunity with Tennessee, which is searching for ball handlers. On the flip side, Tennessee would be wise to keep Ivory Latta from middle penetration. They could sag off and hope that she has a repeat of her 0-for-4 3-point performance, but that's a gamble. She is a 42 percent shooter from long range and has hit 81 3s this year.

3. If Shanna Zolman can keep up her hot shooting and put up numbers like she did against Rutgers (10-of-14 field goals, five 3s, 29 points), then Tennessee is in business. If her numbers are down, Tennessee must have offensive production from Sidney Spencer.

4. The stars must be stars. Latta and Larkins (UNC) vs. Candace Parker and Zolman (UT). If one of the stars doesn't show up, her team will be heading home to prepare for next season.

Cinderella taking dance lessons

There are no George Masons in women's college basketball. At least not yet.

The men's side of the NCAA Tournament has true Cinderellas such as No. 11 seed and Final Four-bound George Mason, but the women's tournament seems to have perennial favorites in the title games. Tradition-strong programs such as Tennessee or Connecticut or LSU; talented favorites such as Stanford or Baylor or North Carolina.

Parity in women's basketball? It's not there yet.

"I don't know if I'll live to see it," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said Monday.

The reason, as Summitt sees it, is simple: "We are still playing catch-up to the men's game in overall talent pool," she said.

North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said she has seen a subtle shift during her 31 years as a coach in a leveling of the talented teams.

"It used to be you had the same four, six, eight teams in the Elite Eight every year," Hatchell said. "Every year, you're getting more teams."

In 2001, No. 5 seed Southwest Missouri State qualified for the Final Four behind the play of Jackie Stiles. While Summitt is not confident she still will be around when an 11th seed in the women's tournament makes its way to the Final Four, she has seen improvement.

"We don't have that yet in the women's game, but when you look at seventh-, eighth-, ninth-graders now, they are a lot better than they were even three years ago," Summitt said.

Friends and foes:

One has "the stare." The other simply says a name.

Summitt and Hatchell, coaches of the two teams in the Cleveland Regional final, have been friends since the two coached together at Tennessee at the start of Summitt's coaching career with the Volunteers. Hatchell was the junior varsity coach at Tennessee while Summitt coached the varsity.

They have gone separate ways but remained friends through it all. Each has been successful in more than 30 years of coaching, and each one has her own way of letting players know when they have made a mistake. Summitt has her legendary icy glare. Hatchell simply says the player's name loudly.

"I act like I don't hear," North Carolina forward Camille Little said.

Little feigned her reaction by looking around blankly.

"What's that noise?" she said.

Though both have different styles and different approaches to the game -- Hatchell is more free-wheeling in letting her players make choices and accept responsibility for outcomes, while Tennessee players universally say they acquiesce to Summitt's experience -- both have been successful. Summitt has six championships, Hatchell has one.

They have stayed such good friends that they try to have reunions such as the one last summer, when all four coaches of that first team reunited for non-basketball talk.

"When you've been at it this long, you make a lot of people mad, but we've managed to stay friends," Summitt said. "Certainly it's important for us to understand friendship is one thing and competition is something else."

The last time:

The only time the North Carolina women's basketball team won the NCAA Tournament, it did so in 1994, one year after the Tar Heels men's team won the tourney.

Maybe it was a one-time occurrence, but one fact to note: North Carolina's men's team won the tournament last year.

Anosike does Vols' dirty work

Credit Rutgers' Cappie Pondexter for scoring 22 points in the Scarlet Knights' 76-69 loss to Nicky Anosike's Tennessee Volunteers. But credit Anosike's quick feet and long arms with forcing Pondexter to take 20 shots, and miss 13, with five turnovers thrown in.

Anosike finished with just seven points, with three assists, two steals and two turnovers. But as coach Pat Summit would say of the New York native, "She's cut out of a very special cloth."

For Anosike, a 6-4 sophomore, the dirty work is her personal challenge. Few can match the offensive arsenal Pondexter brings to a game. But to Anosike, she was the garage that needed to be cleared, the basement that needed to be swept.

"I want to anchor our team on defense," she said. "It's my most favorite thing to do."

On most possessions, Anosike would lock in on the 5-8 Pondexter in the backcourt, then shadow her..

"I love it," Anosike said. "It's harder when you guard a guard. But I just had to make it easy on myself by not letting her catch the ball."

One Anosike post-up stopped a late Rutgers charge. Later, her assist to Parker from the high post had Summit jumping off the bench, clapping and screaming.

"I tell her all the time that what [she's] made out of is something unique to our basketball team," Summitt said. "She likes to be responsible for the dirty work."

UT-North Carolina rematch momentous

CLEVELAND -- The last time Tennessee met North Carolina in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament was a momentous season for the Lady Vols.

No. 1 ranked, unbeaten UT advanced to the 1998 Final Four with a 76-70 victory over the Tar Heels at the Mideast Regional in Nashville. The Lady Vols would go on to complete an unprecedented 39-0 season and win Pat Summitt a sixth national championship, the third in a row by the Chamique Holdsclaw-led team.

In tonight's Cleveland Region title clash, tip at 7:04, Tennessee (31-4) has a chance to do what UNC could not do in 1998, unseat the tournament's top seed and bump the Tar Heels (32-1) from an all-but-conceded national title.

"Physically, they were imposing," Summitt said of coach Sylvia Hatchell's 1998 squad, but could just as well have been speaking of her own 2006 team. "I thought they were the most physical team we'd played all year long.

"Throughout the course of the game, our team finally had to step up and match the intensity and physical play because for at least 30 minutes, (the Tar Heels) had the upper hand. I remember their toughness and I see it in this team. Sylvia brings that out in all these kids."

For that reason, Summitt expects a similar contest in tonight's game that will send one team to Boston and the other home.

Hatchell, who was still recovering Monday from the shock of narrowly avoiding an upset by Purdue on Sunday afternoon, hasn't thought too much about going up against her close friend Summitt or Tennessee, but she knows the Lady Vols' size will be a factor.

"I told our team earlier this season that we would probably end up playing them at some point," Hatchell said. "I just didn't expect it this soon. I thought we'd be playing them in the Final Four, not a regional. They're very big."

Junior guard Ivory Latta, who scored the winning shot against Purdue and suffered a leg cramp that prevented her from celebrating the victory with her teammates, will be Tennessee's primary target defensively.

Summitt compares Latta to former LSU point guard Tameka Johnson but with more scoring punch.

"I think she's more offensive-minded and aggressive," Summitt said of the diminutive UNC point guard. "Tameka was good at getting other people involved and Latta does that too but she also has a scoring mentality."

The Lady Vols hope to slow Latta by putting defensive specialists Nicky Anosike and Alexis Hornbuckle on her. Both UT players are bigger than Latta and have been designated stoppers this season. Anosike was primarily responsible for holding Cappie Pondexter in check in the win over Rutgers on Sunday.

"We're going to try to contain her in every way possible," Tennessee senior Shanna Zolman said of the Tar Heels' leading scorer. "Nicky Anosike is our best defender and Lex is also a great defender and they're going to get the brunt of the work in doing that. But it's definitely going to be a team effort trying to defend her off the dribble and to keep her from doing the things she wants to do."

On the North Carolina side, matchups will be problematic as they have been for most of Tennessee's opponents this season, especially in the paint, where the Lady Vols can rotate Candace Parker and substitute Tye'sha Fluker, Anosike and Sybil Dosty. With forward Sidney Spencer at shooting guard and Parker starting at three, it's a physically imposing lineup.

"I don't care who I'm guarding," Latta says. "We just need to go out there and play basketball."

But Hatchell is a bit more focused on the Parker Effect.

"She's a great player. We're going to give her different looks. We may put two or three people on her at one time," she said.

"We've played against some great players this year, like (Monique) Currie at Duke. So we'll give her different looks. Whatever it takes."

Summitt believes Tennessee's edge will have to be in ball control and rebounding, areas that can keep North Carolina from turning the game into a track meet.

"You have to control the defensive boards if you want to win at this stage," Summitt said. "I'm concerned about ball control and being on the boards. That's a way you can control the tempo of a game."


Tennessee vs. North Carolina

Cleveland Region Championship

7:04 p.m., ESPN

NCAA invited Summitt's best friends

CLEVELAND -- North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell was among a group of three longtime friends who traveled to rendezvous with Pat Summitt last summer at her home in Blount County.

Little did the two coaches know that they'd be meeting again to decide who goes to the Final Four in Boston next weekend.

Having just defeated one of her closest personal friends in Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, Summitt now has to deal with Hatchell and her one-loss Tar Heels.

``Sylvia and I go back 32 years to when we were in grad school at Tennessee and she coached my junior varsity team,'' Summitt said. ``I value her as a dear friend in this profession. When you've been in it this long, you make a lot of people mad.''

Stringer suggested over the weekend that it was almost as though the NCAA was playing a cruel joke by putting three close friends, with teams capable of making the Final Four, in the same region. All three were also nominated for WBCA NCAA Coach of the Year, and Hatchell won it


COMMON SYMPTOMS: Summitt says she knows North Carolina and Tennessee have played many common opponents this season, including Connecticut, Vanderbilt, Old Dominion and Duke, but when she was looking over the schedules at the common results, she decided that wasn't the best approach to preparing for this game.

``I didn't want to look at that very long because Duke pretty much annihilated us on their court and North Carolina found a way to beat Duke,'' Summitt said. ``So I thought, I'm not going to get caught up in this.

``I just quit looking. I started getting indigestion and decided it wasn't worth it.''


FEELING BLUE: North Carolina has won only a single game in 13 meetings with Tennessee, but this year's Tar Heels have won 32 games, the second greatest number of victories in school history. Only the 1994 national championship team won more.


TURTLE FEAR: UNC's only loss this season was an ACC contest with then-No. 6 Maryland, 98-95, in overtime. The Tar Heels defeated the Terps the second-time around, 91-80, when Maryland was ranked even higher, at No. 4.


REMEMBER WHEN?: Tennessee's task tonight is to upset the No. 1 team in the country and the NCAA Tournament's top seed in order to advance to the Final Four. That is familiar territory for Summitt, who guided her 1997 team, which had 10 losses, past No. 1 Connecticut in the Midwest Regional title game and won the national championship held in Cincinnati that year.


BEEN HERE TOO: The Lady Vols once found themselves in Cleveland in 2000 because it was the hometown of one of the Meeks -- Semeka Randall, who had more than 300 family members in attendance when Tennessee took on North Carolina State, winning 83-63. Summitt usually plays at least one game in the hometown or state of her starters before they graduate.


ANOTHER NATIVE: Former Lady Vol Vonda Ward, who took up professional boxing following her career at UT, was also from the Cleveland area, and she attended UT's knockout of Rutgers on Sunday. Ward is 21-1-0 in her boxing career and credits Summitt with instilling the kind of toughness that sees her through training for the sport.

Blockbuster on tap in Cleveland

The two teams that seemed most likely to have prevented the North Carolina-Tennessee showdown gave their best shot Sunday in the Cleveland Regional.

But Rutgers and Purdue fell short -- the Boilermakers painfully so on the Ivory Latta basket that will be replayed again and again -- and it will be the two giants who'll meet Tuesday night (ESPN, 7 ET) for a trip to Boston.

All along, this regional has reminded me of the Midwest in 1996, when No. 1 Louisiana Tech and No. 2 Georgia -- which I thought were the best two teams in the country that season -- had to meet in the Elite Eight.

Louisiana Tech lost one of its key players, Maquisha Walker, to a knee injury during the tournament and ended up falling 90-76 in the regional final. Then Georgia went to the NCAA title game, but nemesis Tennessee got the championship.

Tuesday's UNC-Tennessee matchup ought to be a lot closer than that Georgia-Louisiana Tech final from a decade ago. And history favors Tennessee. Doesn't it always?

In this case, that's for two reasons: Tennessee has been to the Final Four an absurd 16 times, North Carolina once. But also, the Orange Crush is 12-1 against the Tar Heels. North Carolina's only win came in January 1986, 82-68 in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The last time they met was eight years ago. It was a memorable game that was also in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels had a second-half lead, but Tennessee had Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and the edge of being the crowd favorite in the regional in Nashville, Tenn.

Tennessee won 76-70 and went on to take the national championship in a 39-0 season. And until now, that has been it as far as the Tennessee-North Carolina "rivalry." In fact, aside from the two NCAA meetings in the 1990s -- the other time was in the regional semifinals in 1993 -- these two programs haven't met of their own accord since 1988.

North Carolina fans might not like to hear it, but coach Sylvia Hatchell has shied away from having many big battles in the nonconference portion of her schedule. It's exactly the opposite of what Tennessee has done -- coach Pat Summitt plays the hardest schedule in the country every year.

Now, the teams that were 1-2 in the RPI have no choice: They have to take on each other.

All things considered, it seems as if Tennessee couldn't be playing much better at just the right time. North Carolina has to breathe a sigh of relief that it's still in the tournament. But the rule of postseason is always this: It doesn't matter how you win, just that you do win.

How does that translate for Tuesday? Odds are, we're in store for a blockbuster.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Parker, Zolman Lead Vols Past Rutgers

CLEVELAND - Candace Parker showed she can do a lot more than dunk. Parker scored 29 points with six blocks, and Shanna Zolman hit five 3-pointers and added 29 points to lead Tennessee over Rutgers 76-69 Sunday in the semifinals of the Cleveland Regional.

Parker, who last Sunday became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game, scored 12 straight points during a critical run by the Lady Vols. The freshman hit jumpers, blocked shots and at times brought the ball up the floor, looking a little bit like NBA star LeBron James in his own building.

Tennessee (31-4) improved to 21-4 in the regional semifinals in its 25th straight appearance. The Lady Vols have not missed the regional finals since 2001.

Tennessee will play Tuesday night against the winner of the other semifinal between North Carolina and Purdue.

In a matchup of two of the three winningest coaches in women's basketball, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer again couldn't get past her longtime friend Pat Summitt. The Scarlet Knights are 0-5 against the Lady Vols in the NCAA tournament, including a loss last season in the regional final.

As Summitt left the floor, she stopped to kiss her son and her mother, who is in a wheelchair.

"One more mom. One more," said Summitt, who is seeking her seven national title and first since 1998.

Matee Ajavon led Rutgers (27-5) with 24 points and Cappie Pondexter, a Naismith player of the year finalist, scored 22 in her final game.

Zolman, who has made three Final Four appearances and is Tennessee's career leader in 3-pointers, shot 10-for-14 and played all 40 minutes. Parker and Zolman accounted for all but 18 of the Lady Vols' points.

Rutgers' defense, which led the nation by holding teams to 51.1 points per game, disrupted Tennessee early, but the Lady Vols went on a 30-10 run to go up 54-41 with 10:46 remaining.

Rutgers twice got within seven but Parker hit two free throws and added a right-handed scoop in the lane with 1:15 left to seal it.

Parker went 11-of-13 from the foul line, had five rebounds and frustrated the Scarlet Knights inside.

Alexis Hornbuckle added some big hustle plays for the Lady Vols. Hornbuckle, who sustained a concussion in the second round game and was playing with a wrist she broke in February, scored 10 points and had five rebounds.

Rutgers opened up a 23-14 lead with 7:08 left in the first half behind a 15-1 run led by Ajavon. The Lady Vols' offense went nearly six minutes without a field goal.

But Parker and Hornbuckle responded with a 15-4 run to close the half up 29-27. The Scarlet Knights committed 10 first-half turnovers and went more than six minutes without a basket.

Stringer ready to face old friend Summitt again

CLEVELAND — Pat Summitt and Vivian Stringer aren't Thelma and Louise, but they are similar is many ways.

Both are in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Both coached in the NCAA Tournament's initial women's Final Four in 1982, Stringer with Cheyney State and Summitt with Tennessee.

They have shared numerous board rooms working with USA Basketball committees.

Today's Sweet 16 game between Tennessee and Rutgers will be the 11th meeting between the two. Summitt has won eight, including four of five in the NCAA Tournament.

Summitt is women basketball's all-time winningest coach with 909. Stringer is third at 750.

Yet when asked directly what she and Summitt have in common, Stringer replied with a smile, "We both like nice clothes."

Only a friend would know that.

But make no mistake. These women are two of the most competitive coaches in the country, and they will challenge, mislead and scream in an effort to beat the other.

Off the floor they are like sisters, living in different parts of the country.

"She's like me. We're extremely competitive," Summitt said before her team's workout at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday. "But we're good enough friends so that we've been able to compete knowing that when you do, you know there's a winner and loser. But the friendship goes beyond basketball."

Summitt was on the other end of a telephone conversation in 1995 when Stringer was struggling with the decision on whether to leave Iowa for Rutgers. For most of the three hours, Summitt did most of the listening.

The situation was similar a couple of years earlier when Stringer's husband died of a sudden heart attack.

And when Summitt's father died last year, Stringer responded with not only a phone call, but also sent flowers, a fruit basket and card.

"She reached out at a time that meant a lot to me," Summitt said.

Familiarity does not breed contempt with these two. Just familiarity.

"She can see what I can see just as well," Stringer said. "She can see our strengths and weaknesses, just like I do with her."

They faced each other twice last season, with Rutgers winning at home in the regular season and then losing in the regional finals.

When Stringer took Rutgers to the Final Four in 2000, it was Tennessee that kept the Knights from the national championship game.

Summit also knocked Stringer out of the NCAA Tournament when she was at Iowa.

Still, there is never enough time for coaches to break down their opponents, especially this time of year.

Asked if she and her friend might do a little shopping downtown on Saturday, Stringer didn't skip a beat, saying, "I am so single-minded and focused right now that I will probably just take time out to go to the restroom. I'm serious. I have to remind myself to eat. I'm just like that. And I know Pat is too in that respect.

"It might take me six hours to break down every frame of tape. I want to know the whys of everything. I really do. I'm a great competitor."

Stringer, Summitt, sort of a sibling rivalry.

"I admire what she does and what she represents," Stringer said. "If outstanding athletes need to be great friends, I think outstanding coaches need to be great friends. Why wouldn't we? We all understand the same thing."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hornbuckle suffers concussion on top of bloody nose, broken wrist

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee point guard Alexis Hornbuckle, already playing with an injured wrist, got a bloody nose and suffered a concussion from hitting her head on the floor against George Washington.

But other than the obvious physical limitations, Hornbuckle's return from injury just in time for the NCAA Tournament has worked out well for the Lady Vols.

Hornbuckle was held out of practice Wednesday because of the concussion. She was stripping the ball away from a player in Tuesday's second round win when she fell on the floor and hit her head. Coach Pat Summitt said Hornbuckle should be ready to practice Thursday.

Then the No. 2 seed Lady Vols (30-4) are off to the regional semifinals in Cleveland, their 25th straight appearance in the round of 16. They will play Rutgers on Sunday.

"She got a concussion. She was out today. We'll evaluate her to see if she'll be back tomorrow," Summitt said after practice.

Hornbuckle, a sophomore from Charleston, W.Va., seemed unfazed by her latest injury.

"They're just being a little extra cautious because if I hit my head again it might be worse, I guess? I'm hard-headed," she said, smiling.

Hornbuckle missed seven games after she broke her right wrist on Feb. 12 in a game against Vanderbilt. She had surgery to insert a screw to help the healing, and team officials originally said Hornbuckle would miss the rest of the season. Doctors cleared her to play last week.

Without Hornbuckle, the Lady Vols had no true point guard. The only other one they had — Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood — left the team and transferred to Maryland in December.

Hornbuckle had started 24 of 25 games until the injury. She came off the bench and played 17 minutes in the Lady Vols' first round 102-54 rout of Army on Sunday, her first game action in over a month.

Wearing a splint-like wrap around her wrist and forearm, Hornbuckle played 24 minutes Tuesday in Tennessee's 66-53 win over George Washington.

"She gives our basketball team a lot of energy. She helps us improve our early offense, our transition, with her ability to push tempo. From that standpoint, it was good," Summitt said.

"I thought she tried to do a little too much last night. I think she's still trying to get back in the groove."

Hornbuckle had four assists, two turnovers and four steals against Army. She had three assists, four turnovers and three steals against George Washington.

Hornbuckle had to go to the bench at one point against George Washington after Kimberly Beck hit her in the face and caused her nose to bleed.

It was not broken. "Popped a blood vessel," Hornbuckle said.

Hornbuckle said she has been able to do more with her wrist than she thought — from dribbling to shooting. She's grabbed 10 rebounds total in two games.

After averaging 10.4 points a game before the injury, she has made only one field goal in the tournament so far.

But she's not bad at the foul line, going 3-of-4 against Army and 4-of-6 against George Washington, after changing the way she shoots it.

"I slide over to the left a little bit because my shot is off. I don't have a follow through wrist down, so it's not a straight shot," she said.

And Hornbuckle is still diving on the floor for loose balls, which is how she broke her wrist.

"I don't even think about it," she said. "I guess I'm crazy."

The Lady Vols were treated to some high-flying dunks after practice. And no, it wasn't Candace Parker, who made women's basketball history by dunking twice over the weekend.

The Harlem Globetrotters were practicing on a trampoline for a show Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

(2) Tennessee 66, (7) Geo. Washington 53

NORFOLK, Va. -- Pat Summitt stayed perfect in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, and the Lady Vols are hoping they've already cleared the bump in the road to a championship.

Shanna Zolman scored 19 points and Candace Parker had 15, and second-seeded Tennessee used a fast start to send eighth-seeded George Washington reeling in a 66-53 victory Tuesday night.

Summitt improved to 38-0 in the first and second rounds in her career, and gave Tennessee (30-4) its 16th 30-win season in her 32 years as coach. The Lady Vols have advanced to 25 consecutive regional semifinals.

The way she saw it, it also made her hopeful that better times are ahead.

"I don't think I've ever been in a postseason that we haven't had an ugly win," the career victories leader said. "I'll take an ugly win any day at this time of year."

The Lady Vols advanced to play Rutgers or TCU in the Cleveland Regional, and looked like they might be contenders for a seventh national championship in the process.

The key, Zolman said, is learning from experience, not only in the tournament, which Tennessee last won in 1998, but also from the regular season. This season, the Lady Vols lost to two unranked teams for the first time in the history of the poll.

"By no means was this just a warmup for us," Zolman said. "We've learned moreso this year than ever to respect our opponent in every single aspect of the game."

That respect, though, is accompanied by a lingering feeling of having been disrespected by the committee that made Tennessee a No. 2 seed in the tournament.

"We're going to continue to use that as motivation," Zolman said.

Parker didn't have the same impact as in the first round, when she dunked twice, but the 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman still wowed the crowd with her razzle-dazzle.

The loudest cheers came when she took an alley-oop pass from Zolman and banked in a layup, and when she sliced to -- and under -- the basket for a nifty reverse layup.

"We're going to come into the regional with fire," Parker said.

George Washington (23-9) trailed by double digits almost the whole way after the Lady Vols' opening 16-2 burst. After 11 minutes, Zolman had 11 points and Parker had 10, both exceeding the Colonials' total, and Tennessee was up 25-8 and cruising.

"By the time I think we really got our arms around this game and made a run, it seemed like we were just out of gas," Colonials coach Joe McKeown said.

George Washington missed its first nine shots, but used an 11-3 run to begin the second half to get within 43-34 with 13:50 to go. But Zolman and Sidney Spencer hit back-to-back 3-pointers, sparking a 13-0 run that put the Colonials back in a hole.

"It was time to do something," Zolman said of her 3-pointer to stop the run.

Jessica Simmonds led the Colonials with 14 points and Jessica Adair had 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Colonials shot just 30 percent and were outrebounded 53-37.

"They were a pretty good No. 2 seed. I'll say that much," McKeown said.

George Washington never got closer than 10 in the last 13 minutes, even when Parker went to the bench with four fouls and 7:48 to play. The Colonials lost to the Lady Vols for the second time this season, the first by 59-43 in Washington on Dec. 7.

Spencer added 12 points and Nicky Anosike had nine and 12 rebounds.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Quotes and Notes


Opening Statement

Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summitt: "I was really pleased with how we came out today as a team. I thought our starters demonstrated great commitment in terms of their defensive intensity and obviously we had good ball movement and shot the ball well. When you shoot the ball 60% for the game, its hard to be disappointed with the offense. You always look at turnovers but for the first game in the NCAA tournament, we are very pleased with how we started and where we are."

On her two dunks against Army

Candace Parker, RS Freshman Forward: "I took an outlet pass and just went up and did it. It was nothing that I thought about, I've done it a few times in practice and I've been getting talk from my teammates in practice about not doing it in games. It's a relief to finally do it and get it over with. I think our whole thing coming into this tournament is to bring energy, confidence, and a sort of swagger. Being who we are at Tennessee , we bring confidence and that's what dunking does. We came out and played huge in the first game, and just brought a lot of energy, and I think that brought a lot of momentum.

On Army's performance

Shanna Zolman, Senior Guard: "We knew coming into the game that it was going to be hard fought in the sense that they are competitive and hard working. They fight not only in terms of on the court but also for our country. When I was looking up at the beginning of the game and saw the band in their fatigues, and a lot of the fans with their Army gear on, I knew this game was a lot more than basketball and starting off the NCAA Tournament. Our opponents not only play basketball, but more importantly, they are fighting for and serving our country. We were talking a lot about what it means for them, as members of the Army, what all they have to go through, and we knew they would be well conditioned athletes just because of being in the Army and going through boot camp. It's definitely an honor to play against them, because they are serving our country for a much more important purpose."

On pressure of having to dunk again in the future:

Parker: "I'm just going to approach the games like I've normally done it, and I'm not going to force anything. If it's a close game, no way, I will make the best decision for the team. I just thought it brought energy, and I'm not pressured to do it again."

On Army's performance:

Summitt: "I thought they came out with discipline on the court. These young ladies understand discipline, and at the same time, I was pleased that we managed to make some adjustments because they were getting good open looks against us. There is no question they are very well coached. Maggie has done a great job, and I knew of her work at DePaul. I have tremendous respect and admiration for their head coach, and she could only benefit by being in his presence. There's coaching in her blood with her brother, and when you have it in your family I know the feeling that you just talk basketball. You love the game and you love to teach the game, which she does very well."

On Parker's dunk:

Summitt: "It was nice to get it out of the way since shes tried it before against Auburn at home, and she missed. The fans talked about it all the time, and she wanted to do it for the Tennessee fans at home because they are always asking, "when are you going to dunk?". When she did that baseline dunk today, it took me back to our first practice when we were running basic baseline drills, and I was at the other end of the court. Candace got the drop pass, and dunked it much like she did today. I've been in this business for 32 years, and I said to myself I cant believe I saw what I just saw. I didn't think I'd be impressed when it happened, but I was. I told her at the end of the game today, I said to her "well you got yourself on Sportscenter again, good job!", and she smiled."


* Tennessee scored 80+ points for the 17th time this season. At 78.5 ppg, the Lady Vols rank sixth nationally.
* The 80-point plateau has now been reached 14 times by UT in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
* UT scored 100+ points for the third time this season (fifth including exhibition games).
* Every Lady Vol scored in the game for the fifth time this season.
* The 60.3 percent (38-63) from the field was the highest this season for the Lady Vols. The last time UT shot 60 percent was on Nov. 29, 2002 against Puerto Rico Mayaguez (57-86 for 66.3 percent).
* Tennessee has played in 70 games where the Lady Vols have accumulated at least 100 points. In those games, UT holds a 67-3 record overall, a 9-2 mark at neutral sites.
* UT has eclipsed 100 points in four NCAA Tournament games.

The win today...

* Improves the Lady Vols to 29-4 on the season.
* Improves Tennessee to 19-0 in its 19 first round games of the NCAA Tournament. UT had a first round bye from 1988-93. The Lady Vols are now 37-0 in the first weekend of NCAA Tournament action.
* Improves Tennessee to 90-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
* Improves Pat Summitt to 911-176 in 32 years at Tennessee.
* Improves Tennessee to 2-0 all-time against the Black Knights.

Candace Parker...

* DUNKED! TWICE! Parker made her first collegiate dunk with 13:47 showing on the clock in the first half and then dunked again with 14:38 left in the game. On Feb. 23 against Auburn in Thompson-Boling Arena, Parker attempted a dunk, but just missed. She joins Georgeann Wells (West Virginia, 1984), Charlotte Smith (North Carolina, 1994) and Michelle Snow (Tennessee 200, 02) as the only women in the history of Division I basketball to dunk in a game. Parker is the first to do so in an NCAA Tournament game (Snow attempted a dunk in Thompson-Boling Arena against Notre Dame on March 17 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament but missed). Parker is the only female to dunk twice in a game.
* Remains the only Lady Vol to start every game this season
* Moved into sixth place in the Lady Vol record book for most free throws attempted in a season (193) and into sixth place for free throws made (139).
* Scored in double figures for the 30th time this season, the 11th time in a row. Scored 20+ points for the eighth time this season, the third time in a row.
* Moved into 15th place for career blocks (75).

Shanna Zolman...

* Played in her 141st career game, a tie (with former teammate Tasha Butts and Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick) for the fourth most games played by any Lady Vol in the history of the program.
* Made a three-pointer for the 32nd game this season, the 14th in a row.
* Tied her own Lady Vol NCAA record for three-pointers in a game (5), which she set last year in the first round against Western Carolina.
* Scored in double figures for the 26th time this season, the 75th time in her career.
* Remains in second place in career three-pointers (254) in the Lady Vol record books, but needs only three more to pass sharp shooter Kara Lawson (256).

Alexis Hornbuckle...

* Played in her first game since breaking her wrist Feb. 12 against Vanderbilt.
* Picked up right where she left off... with four steals and a team-best six rebounds

Tye'sha Fluker...

* Scored in double figures for the 14th time this season

Sybil Dosty...

* Scored a career-high 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field.



No. 6 Tennessee Tops Army 102-54 - Parker Dunks Twice

NORFOLK, Va. - Candace Parker of Tennessee slam dunked her way into NCAA history with a feat that even fans of underdog Army had to appreciate.

The 6-foot-4 Parker became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game Sunday, jamming one-handed on a breakaway just 6:12 into the second-seeded Lady Vols' 102-54 victory against a Black Knights team that was making its NCAA tournament debut.

Then, for good measure, Parker ensured her place in history by becoming the first to do it twice in a college game with another one-hander on the baseline. She finished with 26 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

The first came when Parker took an outlet pass from Sidney Spencer, causing the large contingent of Lady Vols fans to begin buzzing at the possibility that after dunking several times in pregame warmups, Parker would try it on the fast break.

She did, beating Army's Margaree King down the floor, elevating and throwing it down with her right hand as the fans at Constant Convocation Center erupted.

It was the second college dunk attempt for Parker, who missed against Auburn on Feb. 23. She became the fourth woman in college history to dunk in a game, joining Georgeann Wells of West Virginia (twice in 1984), Charlotte Smith of North Carolina (1994) and Michelle Snow of Tennessee, who did it three times in the 2000-01 season.

The play gave the Lady Vols a 15-14 lead against the pesky 15th-seeded Black Knights, who were adopted by most of the fans at Tennessee rival Old Dominion's home arena, and it spelled the beginning of the end of Army's whirlwind NCAA tournament experience.

First-year Army coach Maggie Dixon was making some history of her own Sunday. She and her older brother, Pittsburgh men's coach Jamie Dixon, are believed to be the first brother and sister to coach in the Division I tournament in the same year. Big brother didn't fare much better: The fifth-seeded Panthers lost to 13th-seeded Bradley 72-66 Sunday.

A little over eight minutes after Parker's first dunk, the Lady Vols (29-4) held a 37-17 lead thanks to a 24-4 run and the only suspense left was whether Parker would try to do it again.

She did, with 14:18 left, working a give-and-go with Nicky Anosike from the right corner, and taking a return pass with a clear path down the baseline. This time, it happened so fast that the crowd didn't even have a chance to anticipate the moment.

Less than a minute later Parker was summoned by Tennessee coach Pat Summitt to watch the last 13:42 from the Lady Vols' bench. Tennessee will face the winner of the game between George Washington and Old Dominion in the second round of the Cleveland Regional on Tuesday night.

For Army, which had West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Bill Lennox among its fatigues-wearing, face-painted fans, Parker's dazzling performance likely only enhanced their debut in the tournament, which had already sparked a frenzy at the academy.

The Blacks Knights (20-11), who were carried off the court by cadets after winning the Patriot League tournament, lost to the Lady Vols 96-44 in 2002, so they knew what they were up against. They gave away several inches at each position on the floor.

Cara Enright led the Black Knights with 21 points and Alex McGuire had eight.

The Lady Vols, who shot 60 percent and outrebounded Army 40-21, got 15 points each from Tye'sha Fluker and Shanna Zolman and had all 10 players that played score.

They cracked the century mark with 54 seconds left on a steal and layup by Anosike.

Parker, Tennessee open tournament today

NORFOLK, Va. — Hearing Candace Parker quip, "I like that play. I don't have to do nothin' in that play," during drills Saturday is funny because Parker's done so much for Tennessee this year. So much, that it's actually not funny.

Parker averages 16.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this year and became the Southeastern Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player on March 5 after making the winning shot against LSU with 17 seconds left.

Her court presence will become even more significant to the No. 2 seeded Lady Volunteers (28-4) when they play No. 15 Army (20-10) today in their NCAA Tournament opener, which starts at 11 a.m. at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va.

"I'm really just excited because of knowing what it was like last year to sit out, and there's huge anticipation (this year)," said Parker, answering questions in a busy and crowded locker room. "I mean, last year I couldn't wait to play and now it's finally here. It's kind of like, 'I can't believe it.'

"A year's gone by."

Nominated for this year's V Foundation Comeback Player of the Year award, Parker sat out her freshman season to recover from surgery that repaired the lateral meniscus and the lateral articular cartilage in her left knee. Without Parker, this year's SEC Freshman of the Year, the Lady Volunteers finished 30-5 overall, won the SEC Championship and finished third in the NCAA Championships.

As much as Tennessee didn't need Parker to advance as far as it did last year, it's now clearer than ever how much they will call on her this time around. Parker not only has the ability to play every position, but she actually has played them all.

As of late, Parker has played at the three position as well as at the post and the point, the latter during the last seven games because of a broken right wrist suffered by sophomore Alexis Hornbuckle on Feb. 12.

"I think Candace has really matured in a lot of ways," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "Looking at her as a basketball player now and just seeing the growth from the beginning to the NCAA Tournament, I think that she has stepped up her game and tried to take more responsibility."

Jenny Moshak, UT's Assistant Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, cleared Hornbuckle to play on Thursday. Hornbuckle's return should free up Parker and senior shooting guard Shanna Zolman from bringing up the ball and wearing the extra hat of point guard, which means a tougher task for Army sophomore Stefanie Stone.

Stone, who has the unenviable task of guarding Parker, said the Naperville native will be a challenge because she's quick and she can play both inside and outside.

"Candace is a great player, obviously. She's done some really great things this year," Stone said. "It's gonna be a tough matchup, but I'm up to the challenge. We're gonna try different things defensively, not just on her, but on the entire team."

Army's making its first appearance in the tournament under first-year coach Maggie Dixon, who recruited Parker while serving as DePaul's assistant coach and recruiting coordinator from 2001-05.

"I went to every one of her AAU games and recruited her very hard," Dixon said. "I've watched her grow as a person and as a player, and I'm very proud of what she has accomplished."

The last time UT and Army played — a 96-44 Lady Vols' victory during the 2002 San Juan Shootout — Parker was busy winning a second-straight Class AA state title as a senior at Naperville Central. The winner of today's rematch will play the winner of No. 7 George Washington and No. 10 Old Dominion on Tuesday.

Army entered the tournament by defeating Holy Cross 69-68 in the Patriot League title game, while the Lady Volunteers defeated LSU 63-62 in the SEC Championship.

Tennessee boasts an 18-0 record in the first and second rounds of the tournament, history that does not bode well for the undersized and inexperienced Black Knights.

"We haven't actually really done our scouting on them yet, but for any team to be in the tournament right now, you know they're a good, solid team," said Parker, who cited Army's discipline as a strength. "So I think if we bring energy on both the offensive and defensive end, hopefully, we'll come out with a victory."

Hornbuckle provides pointed assistance

Alexis Hornbuckle is happy to be back where she belongs - on the court and directing Tennessee's offense.

NORFOLK -- The half-court shot never had a chance, bouncing off the top of the backboard and into the stands.

But the smile on Alexis Hornbuckle's face was as wide as if she'd just sunk the 45-footer to win a national championship.

Hornbuckle, Tennessee's starting point guard, didn't figure to factor into the Lady Vols' postseason push after breaking her right wrist Feb. 12 against Vanderbilt. But doctors told Hornbuckle on Thursday that the injury had healed enough for her to play in today's first-round NCAA tournament game against Army.

"There was the biggest the smile on my face," Hornbuckle said. "I was cheesing from ear to ear."

That expression seems ever-present for Hornbuckle, a 5-foot-11 sophomore from Charleston, W.Va.

Taping stimulating electrodes to her wrist in the Lady Vols locker room on Saturday afternoon, Hornbuckle laughed while fielding reporters' questions.

As the Lady Vols conducted their first practice on the Ted Constant Convocation Center court, she smiled as her baseline jumper swished through the net. And after her half-court heave went long at the end of practice, her grin stretched across her face as she turned and playfully flexed an arm muscle.

"I'm such a competitive person. I always want to be on the floor," she said. "I could be having a broken leg, not able to walk, and I'm still gonna want to play, no matter what."

Hornbuckle's teammates may be the only people happier that her 10.4 points and 3.9 assists per game are back in the lineup.

"Just energy-wise, she's a huge presence, defensively and offensively," freshman Candace Parker said. "She's our only true point guard, and teams aren't gonna press us as much because they know that we have a ballhandler."

With the Lady Vols' backcourt already depleted by the transfer of Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, Hornbuckle's absence turned Tennessee into a three-forward team.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward, was pressed into point guard duties in the Lady Vols' 58-55 win at Georgia four days after Hornbuckle got hurt.

But the Lady Vols lost just once - 95-93 to Florida in overtime on Feb. 26 - with senior Shanna Zolman directing their offense.

On March 5, Tennessee (28-4) won its second straight SEC title with a 63-62 victory over LSU as Hornbuckle watched.

"During our SEC run, she was so involved, talking to players," Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said.

On Saturday, the cast that stopped a few inches above her right wrist didn't seem to bother Hornbuckle as she smoothly switched her dribble from her left hand to her right.

She'll wear a splint today, when Summitt expects her to play against an Army team making its first Division I NCAA appearance.

"I'm not concerned about her shooting. I'm more concerned about her getting other people shots, and she's been doing that in practice, left-handed," Summitt said. " ... I don't know if she can shoot a BB in the ocean, but I know she can make you guard her."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tennessee's Hornbuckle cleared to play

Tennessee point guard Alexis Hornbuckle, thought to have been lost for the season when she suffered a broken wrist in a game on Feb. 12, has been cleared to play, the school announced Thursday.

"Following consultation with Dr. Robert Ivy, team orthopaedic hand specialist, Alexis has been cleared to play," said Jenny Moshak, the University of Tennessee Assistant Athletics Director for Sports Medicine. "She has been active in conditioning and practice for the last three weeks while wearing her GORE-TEX cast. Dr. Ivy has cleared her to play wearing a protective device."

Hornbuckle missed seven games with the injury, including all three SEC Tournament games for the Lady Vols. Tennessee won the league title with a 63-62 win over LSU.

"Emotionally, this is a great boost for Alexis and our entire team going into the NCAA Tournament," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "We recognize what Alexis has meant to our team this year and while injured her attitude has been tremendous as she has stayed mentally and emotionally involved in all of our games."

The 5-foot-11 Hornbuckle averaged 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and a team-leading 3.9 assists while starting 24 of 25 games.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lady Vols honored

Coach Pat Summitt was named the Region 3 coach of the year, and Candace Parker and Shanna Zolman were named second team All-SEC on Tuesday.

Summitt's award by the Women's coaches association means she is eligible to be the national coach of the year.

Parker was named the AP's rookie of the year in the SEC on the same day she was named one of 48 finalists for the Kodak All-America team. Still, she was second team All-SEC according to the AP, as was teammate Shanna Zolman. Both had been named first team in the coaches All-SEC list last week.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tar Heels face one of toughest regions -- ever

North Carolina, to most eyes, was the clear top No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament. As a reward for that, the Tar Heels got one of the toughest regions I've ever seen.

Anyone want to clue me in on how the two top teams in the RPI -- as best I can figure -- are in the same region? Yes, if seeds hold, North Carolina faces Tennessee in the Cleveland Regional championship game. Wow.

Oh, and let's throw in No. 3 Rutgers and No. 4 Purdue in that region, too.

And just in case North Carolina is still feeling too comfy about its draw -- note to committee, this is sarcasm -- the Tar Heels might also face Vanderbilt on the Commodores' home court in the second round. Likewise, Tennessee could have to face Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., in the second round.

I can sum this up in one sentence: I don't get it.

After their Lewis and Clark-like trek to the Midwest last year (they played in the Kansas City Regional), the UConn Huskies are back in their home state for a regional. If -- that is -- they get past the early rounds in University Park, Pa. Then they'll head back to Bridgeport, Conn.

Duke is the No. 1 seed there, and once again the Blue Devils won't have to travel far for the early rounds (they're in Norfolk, some three hours from Durham). Duke has been very fortunate in that regard for quite a while now.

A potential matchup of big, strong centers could be looming in the San Antonio Regional, as LSU with Sylvia Fowles and Oklahoma with Courtney Paris are the 1-2 seeds. OU might meet No. 3 Stanford in the regional semis, and those two programs don't have a very friendly history, of course.

Ohio State got a No. 1 and has nothing to complain about in the Albuquerque Regional. The Buckeyes could have a matchup with No. 2 Maryland, which should also be pleased with how it was rewarded for its season.

The Big 12, despite being the league of the defending national champion in Baylor, got a cold shoulder from the committee compared to other leagues. The ACC and Big East have seven teams in, the Pac-10 six, the SEC six, the Big Ten five and the Mountain West and Big 12 four each.

Yeah, I really believe the Pac-10 and SEC are identical, as are the Big 12 and Mountain West. Don't you? (Note to committee: more sarcasm).

Lady Vols upset over No. 2 seed in NCAA tournament

Lady Vols upset over No. 2 seed in NCAA tournament

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Pat Summitt was shocked and confused.

Tennessee beat LSU to win the Southeastern Conference tournament, played the toughest schedule in the nation and was ranked second in the RPI.

So when the sixth-ranked Lady Vols received a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Summitt told her players to consider it "a slap in your face."

Summitt believed Tennessee (28-4) had earned a top seed. The selection committee believed otherwise, sending Tennessee to the Cleveland Regional to play 15th-seeded Army in Norfolk, Va., on Sunday.

Because North Carolina, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, also is in Tennessee's bracket, Summitt said that means the Lady Vols were considered the lowest second seed.

"That's a slap in your face," Summitt said after watching the selection show with her players at her Knoxville home. "It's a slap in our program's face. I guess it's my fault for putting together the toughest schedule in the country year in and year out. But as far as I'm concerned we got no respect and I don't understand it."

Joni Comstock, the selection committee's chairman, explained on ESPN that the RPI is only used as a tool for seeding. She said Tennessee's four losses hurt a chance for a top seed.

Comstock denied on the show that Tennessee was being considered the lowest No. 2 seed and was only placed there for geographic reasons.

"Liar!" someone in Summitt's house shouted during Comstock's televised interview.

The Lady Vols lost at Duke, at Kentucky, at home to LSU and at home to Florida. The losses to Kentucky and Florida marked the first time Tennessee has ever lost to two unranked teams in a season.

Summitt speculated that the committee looked at the effect of the loss of point guard Alexis Hornbuckle, who broke her wrist on Feb. 12 and is out for the season.

She said this was the most baffling bracket she's ever seen.

"I don't know what we did wrong," Summitt said. "You have to look at the strength of schedule. We're No. 1 and if I'm not mistaken Ohio State is No. 21. And their conference is No. 7. Those two things don't add up."

The players also didn't understand.

"Being able to win an SEC championship and to overcome so much adversity as we have through the course of the year with injuries or whatever, when they showed us the two seed in by far the toughest region, it was complete disrespect by everybody," senior guard Shanna Zolman said.

The Lady Vols are aiming for their seventh national title and first since 1998. They have been a No. 1 seed the last three years for a total of 17 times out of 25 NCAA tournaments.

Summitt said she wondered if the brackets showed that the committee was hoping new teams would make it deeper into the NCAAs.

"You have to stop and think about that. As I looked at the bracket I thought they must want new teams at the Final Four," she said.

The Lady Vols have been to four straight Final Fours and 17 overall.

Women's No. 1 seeds announced: North Carolina, Ohio State, LSU, Duke

Women's No. 1 seeds announced: North Carolina, Ohio State, LSU, Duke

North Carolina, Ohio State, LSU and Duke were selected Monday as the No. 1 seeds for the women's NCAA tournament.

All four teams have started atop the NCAA brackets before, but the overall top seed Tar Heels the only ones already with a national title. It's the third No. 1 for North Carolina, which is seeking its second championship since 1994.

Duke has been a No. 1 seed five times and LSU has been selected atop the bracket three times. Ohio State received its second top seeding and the first for the Buckeyes since 1993.

The Atlantic Coast Confernece and Big East had the most teams in the field with seven, followed by the Southeastern and Pacific-10 conferences with six each.

North Carolina, ranked atop the final AP Poll, and No. 2 Ohio State each won their regular season and conference championships in their respective Atlantic Coast and Big Ten conferences.

North Carolina (29-1) was placed in the Cleveland regional and will open the tournament Saturday in Nashville against Big West champion UC Riverside.

Six-time national champion Tennessee is seeded second in the Cleveland bracket, and Big East regular season champion Rutgers is third.

"It's like the Final Four!" Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said of the tough Cleveland Regional. "I don't know how any bracket can get tougher than our bracket. ... But hey, that's just the way it is. We have to go play those games."

Others in the Nashville subregional are eigth-seeded Vanderbilt, playing at home. The Commodores will take on Big East newcomer Louisville, the No. 9 seeded team. Tennessee gets No. 15 seeded Army, a NCAA tournament newcomer and Patriot League champion on Sunday in Norfolk, Va.

Rutgers will open close to home when the Scarlet Knights take on 14th-seeded Dartmouth in Trenton on Sunday. Fourth-seeded Purdue rounds out the bracket with an opening round game Sunday against 13th-seeded Missouri State, winners of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Duke's road to the Final Four runs through Connecticut -- and that means a possible matchup with homestate favorite and No. 2 seed UConn. The Blue Devils (26-3) were assigned the Bridgeport Regional, as were the five-time national champion Huskies, who are making their 18th tournament appearance.

The Blue Devils open Sunday in Norfolk against Southwestern Conference champ Southern. The Huskies take on 15th-seeded Coppin State at University Park, Pa. on Sunday.

Georgia earned the third seed in the Bridgeport bracket and is matched up against 14th-seeded Marist on Sunday in Trenton. That subregional also features the battle of a couple of point guard coaches. Dawn Staley's 6th-seeded Temple will play America East champ Hartford, the 11th seeded team, coached by former UConn star Jennifer Rizzotti.

No. 4 seeded Michigan State, also placed in Bridgeport, opens with 13th-seeded Wis.-Milwaukee on Saturday in a Chicago subregional.

LSU (27-3), aiming for its third straight trip to the Final Four, was placed in the San Antonio Regional. The Lady Tigers open Saturday against Atlantic Sun champion Florida Atlantic in Norfolk.

The bracket sets up a potential meeting of two of the top centers in the game in the Lady Tigers' Sylvia Fowles and Oklahoma's freshman star Courtney Paris.

The Sooners, seeded No. 2, finished unbeaten in the Big 12 and Paris was a big reason why. She had 24 points and 26 rebounds against defending national champion Baylor in the tournament title game. She needs three rebounds to become the first player in NCAA history to log 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocked shots in a season. The Sooners open against 15th-seeded Pepperdine on Saturday in Denver.

The Cardinal of Stanford are the third seeded team in the San Antonio bracket and also open in Denver on Saturday against Southeast Missouri State. Big East newcomer DePaul earned the No. 4 seed in the region and play Liberty on Saturday in Chicago.

The Buckeyes (28-2) landed in the Albuquerque Regional, where second-seeded Maryland and defending national champion Baylor await. The Terps handed North Carolina its only loss this season and the Lady Bears are led by Big 12 player of the year Sophia Young.

Ohio State plays 16th-seeded Oakland, the Mid-Continent champ, in their tournament opener on Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind. Baylor locked up the No. 3 seed and play Big Sky champion Northern Arizona, the 14th seed on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.

PAC 10 power Arizona State is the fourth seed in the Albuquerque bracket and also opens in Tucson against 13th-seeded Stephen F. Austin, champions of the Southland Conference.

The women's Final Four is April 2 and 4 in Boston.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

SEC Tournament Champs!

(8) Tennessee 63, (3) LSU 62

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- This time, the rookie came out on top.

Freshman Candace Parker made a driving one-hander from the left side of the lane with 17 seconds left, and No. 8 Tennessee held on to beat No. 3 LSU 63-62 in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship when Seimone Augustus' attempt went long.

"It wasn't open into the basket," said Augustus, the two-time SEC player of the year. "I didn't want to take a chance at drawing a foul, losing the ball, whatever the case may have been, so I stopped and shot the jumper."

When it was finally over, the Lady Vols (28-4) spilled onto the court while the predominantly pro-Tennessee crowd roared. Guard Shanna Zolman and center Tye'sha Fluker danced over to lead the band in "Rocky Top."

The Lady Vols won their 12th SEC tournament and second in a row. They beat a top-seeded LSU team in the finals last year too, 67-65.

"Obviously, this was a tough battle for both teams," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "A great basketball game I'm sure to watch, a challenging one to play in and coach."

Last month, LSU became the first SEC team to win at Tennessee in nearly 10 years, edging the Lady Vols 72-69. Augustus scored 32 points in that game. She had 24 Sunday, but it wasn't enough.

The Lady Tigers (27-3) led 62-58 with less than a minute remaining, but Zolman's 3-pointer with 35.5 seconds to play cut Tennessee's deficit to one. Erica White missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 33 seconds left, giving the Lady Vols a chance to take the lead. Tennessee chose not to call time out or hold for the last shot.

"In most of my coaching years, I've called time out. But I've found it very difficult at times to get the ball back inbounds," Summitt said. "You just have to trust your team. I think I've changed my philosophy in probably the last three years."

The 6-foot-4 Parker, the SEC freshman of the year, had the ball near the top of the key, then drove to the left against Scholanda Hoston, who is 6 inches shorter.

"It was just one on one with me and her," Parker said. "I knew I had the height advantage over her. I just took it and shot over her. Fortunately it went in."

Sidney Spencer scored 21 points and Parker, the tournament's most valuable player, finished with 20 for the Lady Vols. Zolman added 14.

Tennessee and LSU met in the SEC title game for the third time in four years -- LSU won in 2003 in North Little Rock.

Augustus, also the reigning national player of the year, reached double figures for the 127th time in her career, tying the record set by Missouri State's Jackie Stiles and Duke's Alana Beard. Sylvia Fowles added 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks for LSU.

Fowles hurt an ankle in the second half of LSU's 79-52 semifinal win over Kentucky, but she looked fine at the start against Tennessee. She made her first four shots and had 12 points, six rebounds and six blocks in the first half.

But Tennessee went on an 11-0 run late in the half and led 36-33 at the break. Spencer made all four of her 3-point attempts before the break. Fowles and Augustus combined to score LSU's first 16 points but went scoreless for the last 8:12 before halftime.

"We don't want to be good. I want to make that next step to being great," LSU coach Pokey Chatman said. "We'll work on that and we'll be a better basketball team."

LSU led 55-48 with 8:23 remaining, but Tennessee called time and went on a 10-0 run capped by Zolman's 3-pointer. Tennessee went 10-of-19 from 3-point range -- Spencer made five and Zolman four.

"When you give up 10 3-pointers in this environment this late in the year, it's going to be a struggle," Chatman said.

The Lady Vols haven't been their dominant selves this season, finishing second in the SEC at 11-3. It was their first regular season with more than one SEC loss since 1997.

But Tennessee improved to 12-5 in SEC title games, and now Summitt is talking about a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"I think this team deserves a No. 1," Summitt said. "Now, whether we're going to get it or not, that's up to the committee."