Friday, January 26, 2007

Lady Vols completed by Parker

Given her fame for bringing the dunk to the women's game, the temptation is to feel a little cheated when you watch the Lady Vols and Candace Parker doesn't stuff one.

It's like going to the opera and having Pavarotti hum a few bars of a Top 40 tune.

Sometimes, though, you just take substance over style.

On Thursday night, Parker sweated the small stuff when her team needed her most. No, she didn't dunk. But she helped Tennessee dunk Vanderbilt for a 12th straight time.

With the Commodores leading 48-47 deep in the second half, Parker made a succession of plays that redirected momentum and helped the Lady Vols live up to their No. 4 national pedigree.

First, she drew a double-team and whipped a pass to Shannon Bobbitt, who buried a 3-pointer.

Next, Parker knocked the ball free from Vanderbilt's Carla Thomas and then converted two free throws.

Then, after another UT stop, Parker wheeled past a defender and arched in a layup while drawing a foul. The ensuing free throw pushed the lead to 55-48.

Retreating on defense, the 6-foot-4 Parker altered the shot of Vanderbilt's Jessica Mooney. UT's Sidney Spencer was fouled and hit both ends of the one-and-one.

Ms. Clutch

Suddenly, a one-point deficit was a nine-point advantage with 1:37 remaining in what eventually concluded as a 67-57 Lady Vols victory.

"At the end of the game, I think we do a great job of coming together and running our offense well," Parker understated.

This speaks volumes about the Lady Vols in general and Parker in particular. This team checks its ego at the door. For all of her star power, Parker is just one of the girls.

Asked about the killer sequence and Parker's role in it, UT guard Alexis Hornbuckle shrugged and said:

"I told her big-time players make big plays."

Certainly, Pat Summitt has coached more than her share of big-time players at UT. But for all of Parker's talent, it is her court awareness and sense of when to take matters into her own hands that makes her a cut above most of her superstar predecessors.

A team player

Against Vanderbilt, she authored a double-double — 19 points, 11 rebounds — but Parker also involved her teammates in the offense.

"Obviously, Candace is a go-to player for us," Summitt said. "I thought she stepped up and got some key rebounds for us and started the action for us on the defensive end. …

"The difference between this year's team and last year's team is that the ball doesn't get stuck in certain players' hands. I think that's indicative of the commitment to play together as a team."

Much of the evening was trip-to-the-dentist basketball. Teeth were pulled on every possession. A drive down the lane came the risk of a root canal — without anesthesia.

The teams combined for 52 turnovers. Vanderbilt entered the game averaging 16.3 turnovers per game. Vandy had 17 — at halftime.

But in a game filled with mistakes, Candace Parker brought order to all the chaos.

No comments: