Monday, April 02, 2007

Game's 'messy' style has Summitt defensive

CLEVELAND — Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is normally patient with the media.

But one question after Sunday's 56-50 win over North Carolina in the NCAA semifinals seemed to upset her.

A reporter asked if she worried that the game, which included a total of 50 turnovers (29 by North Carolina and 21 by UT) might have set "women's sports" back since it was played before a national television audience. The reporter said the game might have been perceived as "messy."

Summitt paused then said: "I am not the least bit concerned about that style of play. I think people that understand basketball would have a great deal of respect for the intensity and the defense that these two teams brought to the court. And also understand that we influenced each other because of our defense."

She looked away and then added: "It seems like I watched the men's game (Saturday) night that wasn't quite as fluid early on. But I think that if you understand the game, then you understand what happened tonight."

Stars missing early: Tennessee and North Carolina played much of the first half without their star players Sunday night.

The Lady Vols' All-American Candace Parker picked up her second foul with 12:28 remaining in the first half, headed for the bench, and put her warm-up top back on.

With Parker out, former Shelbyville star Alex Fuller played more in the first half than she usually does.

The Tar Heels' All-American point guard Ivory Latta was whistled for her third foul with 8:37 left in the half. She was replaced by junior Alex Miller, who played the remainder of the half.

Low score: The 50 points were the fewest scored by North Carolina this season. The Tar Heels came into the game as the nation's top scoring team, averaging 84.6 points per game.

Heated moment: Tennessee point guard Shannon Bobbitt got into a brief shoving match with Latta in the first five minutes. Referees quickly got between the two and UT's Sidney Spencer pulled Bobbitt back.

Cheering the Lady Vols: Tennessee men's basketball Coach Bruce Pearl was seated in the fifth row behind the Lady Vols' bench. He sat next to UT men's athletics director Mike Hamilton. Pearl also attended UT Coach Pat Summitt's post-game news conference.

Slow start(s): Tennessee's offense hardly came out blazing, but North Carolina was even worse. The Tar Heels did not score their first basket until Rashanda McCants made a layup over UT's Alexis Hornbuckle 5:30 into the game.

North Carolina hit just two of its first 17 shots while UT made only one of its first 11.

Ninth best: Sunday's attendance of 20,704 ranked ninth most for an NCAA Women's Final Four dating back to 1982. It marked the 15th consecutive time and 16th overall that the Final Four has been a sellout.

Usually there: This was the 24th time in the last 26 years that the Southeastern Conference had a team in the Final Four. This year's Final Four included two SEC teams — Tennessee and LSU.

From the state: Of all the players in the Final Four only two hail from Tennessee and both are on the Lady Vols roster. Fuller is a sophomore post player and Cait McMahan is a backup freshman point guard from Maryville.

Which seed wins?: The last three women's national champions (2004 Connecticut, 2005 Baylor, 2006 Maryland) were No. 2 seeds. This year UT and North Carolina were No. 1 seeds, LSU was a No. 3 and Rutgers a No. 4.

Familiar face: SEC game official Dee Kanter served as referee for the UT-North Carolina game.

LSU's number: LSU's last loss before falling to Rutgers was against Vanderbilt 51-46 in the SEC Tournament championship. The Lady Tigers' final loss in the regular season also was against Vandy 68-58 in Nashville on Feb. 22.

Texas-bound?: Hatchell is a longtime friend of Duke Coach Gail Goestenkors, who interviewed for the Texas job Wednesday. Goestenkors returned to Durham on Thursday and released a statement saying she planned to "take a few days to think about my decision."

Texas is looking for a replacement for longtime coach Jody Conradt, who retired on March 12.

When asked what she felt Goestenkors might do, Hatchell said: "I saw her (in Cleveland Saturday) morning, but I didn't get a chance to talk to her. She wished us good luck. I don't know what she'll do."

Three in Final Four: Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer is the only coach to take three different schools to the Final Four: Cheyney State (1982), Iowa (1993) and Rutgers (2000 and 2007). Stringer is tied with Goestenkors with 36 victories among coaches with the most NCAA Tournament wins without a championship title. Georgia's Andy Landers is the leader with 47.

No dual appearances: This marked the first time since 2001 that a men's and women's team from the same school failed to appear in the Final Four. Oklahoma (2002), Texas (2003), Connecticut (2004), Michigan State (2005) and LSU (2006) had both teams in the last five Final Fours.

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