Monday, February 19, 2007

(3) Tennessee 56, (7) LSU 51

BATON ROUGE, La. -- One of LSU's more impressive defensive showings of the season wasn't enough to stop Candace Parker.

Parker had 27 points and 13 rebounds to help No. 2 Tennessee hold off seventh-ranked LSU for a 56-51 victory Monday night that also gave the Lady Vols their 14th Southeastern Conference regular-season crown.

Tennessee desperately needed Parker's output on a night when they were held to 31.3 percent shooting as a team and when Sidney Spencer managed only two points -- 10 below her average -- on 1-of-12 shooting.

"Candace on the inside was huge establishing the post-up game and being aggressive to the basket," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "Obviously, I am very proud of this basketball team. They hung really tough when things didn't always go our way. ... We came up with key rebounds down the stretch."

Tennessee never trailed, but LSU tied the game at 51 on Sylvia Fowles' free throws with 1:21 to go.

Parker, who also had two blocks, two steals and two assists, put Tennessee back ahead with a free throw after she was fouled on an offensive rebound.

Shannon Bobbitt then made a pair of foul shots after Spencer's seventh offensive rebound -- and Tennessee's 20th overall -- to give the Lady Vols a 54-51 lead.

LSU had a chance to tie it, but Quianna Chaney's 3-pointer rimmed out.

"When it left my hand I knew it was going in," Chaney said. "But when I opened my eyes and saw that it rimmed out, it was hard to take."

Bobbitt finished with 13 points, including three 3-pointers, for Tennessee (25-2, 12-0 SEC), which has won eight straight since a 74-70 loss to No. 1 Duke.

Fowles had 18 points and 16 rebounds for LSU (23-5, 9-3), which lost a second-straight game in Baton Rouge after No. 3 Connecticut won here eight days earlier to snap the Lady Tigers' 43-game home winning streak that had spanned nearly three years.

The game was a defensive battle most of the way, with LSU also shooting a relatively low 40.4 percent. But the Lady Vols outrebounded the Lady Tigers 44-36. Tennessee's 20 offensive rebounds helped produce 13 second-chance points.

"Our philosophy was if you can't grab it, tip it," Parker said. "We tipped the ball to different teammates. We got second chance points. It was just a team effort."

LSU coach Pokey Chatman found little consolation in having played a close game.

"It doesn't pay to have one of the best defenses in the country if you can't pick up your paycheck at the end of it with the rebound. It's like working all week and not picking up your paycheck," Chatman said.

"So, the novice fan," Chatman began, clapping her hands mockingly three times in front of her face, "They think you played well ... but I know better."

While never falling behind by more than nine points, LSU trailed from the opening minute until 8:50 remained in the game. That's when Chaney's difficult floater as the shot clock wound down capped an 8-3 LSU run that tied the game at 42.

But on a possession during which Tennessee got two offensive rebounds, Bobbitt capitalized with a 3-pointer to put Tennessee back ahead 45-42. Parker added a pair of baskets, including a difficult shot off the glass as she spun away from a double team, that put the Lady Vols up 49-44 before LSU rallied once more to tie it.

Parker, who came in averaging 20 points a game, took control early, scoring 17 points in the opening 12 minutes as Tennessee surged to a 22-14 lead.

"She is a great player," the 6-foot-6 Fowles said of the 6-4 Parker. "She's like three in one. She can post someone up, take someone off the block or drive to the basket. She was very impressive tonight."

Double-teaming the versatile AP preseason All-America forward didn't always help LSU. Sometimes she scored anyway. And when she was nearly stripped as she tried to post up late in the half, she regained possession and rifled a pass into the corner, where Bobbitt was wide open for a 3-pointer that gave the Lady Vols a 28-19 lead.

Parker's putback in the final seconds of the half gave her 20 points and sent Tennessee into halftime with a 30-22 lead.

"We're the type of team that takes what the defense gives you," Parker said. "They doubled and people were open outside. ... Other people stepped up in the second half."

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