Thursday, February 28, 2008

Candace Parker, Alex Fuller score 18 points each and No. 3 Tennessee beats Florida 88-61

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Nicky Anosike’s family arrived just after halftime to see her play in her final home game at Tennessee on Thursday night.

By then she and the third-ranked Lady Vols had already taken care of business.

“They are always late. I expected that, and I was prepared for it,” she joked after her family’s flight from New York was delayed.

Anosike was one rebound shy of a double-double when her family arrived. She finished with 15 points and tied a season high with 12 rebounds as Tennessee beat Florida 88-61.

Candace Parker and Alex Fuller scored 18 points each on the night the Lady Vols (26-2, 12-1 Southeastern Conference) honored their five seniors, including Parker, who will skip her final year of eligibility.

Angie Bjorklund added 14 points, and Vicki Baugh had 11.

The Lady Vols scored 40 points in the paint, outrebounded the Gators 57-35 and forced them to tie a season high with 29 3-point attempts.

“I felt like we were a little more passive in the paint than we should have been,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said.

Sha Brooks led Florida (16-12, 5-8) with 27 points. She made a career high seven 3-point field goals out of 11 attempts.

“I love playing in front of a lot of people. I love showing what I can do and showing what my team can do,” she said.

Tennessee’s 57 rebounds were a season high.

The teams traded baskets for the first four minutes before Tennessee launched a 16-2 run. Candace Parker hit a quick layup with 7:57 to put the Lady Vols up 25-8, prompting Florida to call a timeout.

Tennessee expanded its lead with the help of 3-point shooting from Angie Bjorklund, who finished 4-for-7 from behind the arc, and went into halftime with a 46-26 lead.

Earlier in the week, Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt forced her players to watch a replay of their uninspired 72-46 win over Mississippi State.

“I was really pleased with the energy we played with tonight,” she said. “Obviously, I’m proud of our seniors, but they are not finished yet. They have to focus on closing out the regular season and playing in the SEC tournament.”

Florida made 11 of 29 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough to counter the Gators’ 32.8 percent field-goal shooting or close the gap on Tennessee in the second half.

The Gators are 0-4 against ranked teams this season.

“Our goal every night is to get better and make progress,” Butler said. “There were some areas tonight where we didn’t make progress, so that’s very disappointing.”

Fabulous five say goodbye

Tennessee's seniors begin their good-byes tonight and the ceremonial start to the process will take some time.

Five Lady Vols will be honored before the final regular-season women's basketball home game, against Florida (16-11, 5-7 SEC) at 7 o'clock at Thompson-Boling Arena. For No. 3 Tennessee (25-2, 11-1), Candace Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta Auguste comprise the largest senior class since 1983-84.

Add the accompanying family members and the court figures to be very crowded. Hornbuckle's mother, Quandora, will sing the national anthem. Anosike's older brother, Ifesinachi, will see her play for the first time.

UT officials will supply a script and a schedule to organize the evening. It will be up to the seniors, though, to sort through all of their thoughts and emotions. They're hoping that project takes more time, as much as the season will allow, and that they don't have to settle for any sense of remorse.

"We don't want to leave with any regrets,'' Hornbuckle said. "I wish I would've done this my senior year. I wish that we could've turned it around before a loss in the NCAA tournament or what not. You have to realize this is your last opportunity to be a Lady Vol. You have to step it up."

The players who climbed to the top of a step ladder in Cleveland, Ohio, last April after helping win the program's first national championship in nine seasons were part of the group that marched to the top row of the arena Monday afternoon. They were sent there by the coaches to contemplate a fan's view after the season's largest crowd, 20,249, witnessed Tennessee's relatively lackluster 72-46 victory over Mississippi State on Sunday.

"We haven't had a terrible season if you look at the win-loss column,'' Hornbuckle said. "But if you just watched our games, yes it has not been a good season."

From the lofty vantage point, Hornbuckle and the other seniors had a better view of last season's championship banner. It hangs from the rafters next to the other six, symbolizing the mark the seniors have left on the program and broadening the perspective on this group. They've been good for UT.

"They've kept Tennessee as one of the top programs in the country,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "That 2007 national championship, we waited a long time for it."

This class initially arrived as the most ballyhooed recruiting class in women's history, the celebrated "six pack."

Since then, Alex Fuller has been splintered from the group by multiple knee surgeries her freshman season. Parker, who sat out her first season for the same reason, rejoined the class, forgoing an extra season of eligibility.

Junior college transfers Auguste and Bobbitt joined as a hoops version of a rescue squad after the transfers of six-pack members Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and Sybil Dosty.

Parker summed up all the personnel changes under the philosophical heading "everything happens for a reason." In this case, she had a pretty good reason.

"I don't think we win a national championship without Shannon or (Alberta) last year,'' Parker said.

Bobbitt and Auguste, both highly decorated junior college players, will take a bow tonight for putting the team concept before any personal ambitions.

"They were humble; they were appreciative,'' Summitt said. "They took nothing for granted. It was great."

The upgrade from junior college to UT was pretty good for them, too. Leave it to assistant coach Dean Lockwood to imagine a comparable context.

"They were like stepchildren,'' he said. "The second set of foster parents had just died, so they knew they were living upstairs in someone's garage. And now all of a sudden you give them a home and three squares a day and a closet full of clothes and they're like, 'Holy cow. Are you kidding me?' ''

He might have overstated the situation. On the other hand, there's no overestimating the importance of the other three seniors forging a working relationship. Summitt dubbed Parker, Hornbuckle and Anosike "the big three" before last season and hitched the team's fortunes to the merger of their talents and leadership.

"I think they came in, quite frankly, as three individuals and now they've become three team members who are very much tied together with the accomplishments of the team,'' Lockwood said.

"... The journey has been quite significant, the three of them together. You go through that, it can't help but bring you closer together."

What those three saw from the top of Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday afternoon wasn't any more important than what they still see in each other.

"I hope at some point, even if it's over a Coke somewhere for 10 minutes, they sit and talk about that,'' Lockwood said, "and they look in each other's eyes and say, 'This is it. Let's do this one more time and make it special.' Because I think that's what it takes."

Taking the time - while they still have the time.

"I think the first thing we need to concentrate on is finishing out the season with no more losses,'' Anosike said, "And then once we get into SECs, I think we all three need to sit down and just recap what we want to do and how we want to do it."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ride of their lives

Two Lady Vols coaches get on Harleys to fight cancer

Nikki Caldwell's got 10 weeks to sell Pat Summitt on the sidecar.

Caldwell, a Tennessee assistant, knows the smart thing to do is to just thank her boss for the time off. Unlike when she played for Summitt, Caldwell doesn't have to hide her motorcycling these days. She understands that the Lady Vols' Hall of Fame bites her lip when she -- and fellow assistant -- Holly Warlick -- ride around on a hog. And she readily volunteers it was huge of Summitt to let the pair, Caldwell and Warlick, do a cross-country Harley ride last fall.

After years of hosting staid little charity golf tourneys, Warlick thought of her outrageous grandmother and wanted to do something equally outrageous to shine light on the breast cancer that took the woman she calls her hero. Caldwell said, "I'm in," the magnanimous Summitt let them out of two individual workout days and off they went. From Berkeley, Calif., where Tennessee's football team opened the season, to the Grand Canyon, through New Mexico, Texas and Arkansas and up to Memphis, where Summitt's old sorority sisters were out in full force.

Eleven days -- plus one to, as Caldwell said, "help the Las Vegas economy" -- later and they were back in Knoxville, where men's hoops coach Bruce Pearl and Summitt serenaded the pair with Ride, Sally, Ride.

The song was cool. The bit of media attention they got wasn't bad and the $50,000 they raised definitely rocked. But for this next ride, the one Warlick and Caldwell will kick off May 11 in Knoxville and loop through the Florida Keys and back, the Lady Vols assistants want more. More attention on cancer, more money to combat cancer, more ... Pat Summitt?

"We do need to take it another step," Caldwell said with a giggle. "I keep telling her it's not the bikes that are dangerous."

Warlick can be pretty persuasive. ("Hey, I suckered Nikki into it," she said.) Warlick's offered Summitt a pick of bikes. ("We both have more than one," she said.) Caldwell's said they'll make Summitt over. ("I've got the whole matching jacket and helmet thing," she said.) And they've even said Summitt wouldn't have to drive herself.

"We told her we'd put her in one of those scooters on the side," Caldwell said.

Caldwell giggled again, Warlick did too and even if all this is a desperate longshot and Summitt never actually gets on board with them, these last two weeks have promised these two women that women's basketball already has.

It's been 27 years since the Women's Basketball Coaches Association grew out of a who's who meeting in Syracuse. The WBCA unified coaches and has worked tirelessly to develop women's basketball as a sport and as a community. In all that time, though, the WBCA never undertook any cause outside that. Until last year, when N.C. State coach -- and original founder -- Kay Yow took on breast cancer for the third time in her Hall of Fame career.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer, in incidence and death, among women. More than a quarter of new cancer cases in America are breast cancer; every 13 minutes breast cancer takes a life and one out of seven women will be diagnosed with the disease. That's two players per team and one coach per conference.

In 1992, Estee Lauder started giving away loops of pink ribbon. Later, pink became a brand, popping up on things like Campbell's soup cans. In 2006, Delta introduced a pink plane, and in 2007, 14 years after the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the American Cancer Society first unveiled the Coaches vs. Cancer classic, women's basketball got into the game.

Last Dec. 3, during the Jimmy V Classic -- named for late N.C. State coach Jim Valvano -- Yow got her name put on a fund we can all only hope will do what the V Foundation for Cancer Research has. The Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund became the first ever initiative in WBCA history and on Feb. 8, women's basketball launched its first ever major, major drive for its new champion cause: Think Pink.

For a week, officials blew pink whistles. Georgia, N.C. State and Rutgers -- in a game at Tennessee -- wore bright pink uniforms. Washington State's mascot came out in pink, Washington's concession stand sold pink cotton candy, gyms all over the country featured pink laces and pink headbands, and fans from Austin to Knoxville have traded their usual oranges for pink-shaded T-shirts.

Marquette's Jocelyn Mellen, Kelly Lam and Courtney Weibel cut off their ponytails, giving nearly 30 inches of hair to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program -- and then watched at halftime as a dozen fans lopped their ponytails off too for women who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy. The Chaminade men's team dyed their unis pink, the Gannon University men's team wore pink warm-ups and right now the tally stands at 1007 women's teams, 20 conferences, 57 men's teams and 31 non-basketball teams who've participated in this month's Think Pink drive.

The WBCA has has raised $418,858, and yet the best part of these past two weeks is that every time cancer's been in the game notes, someone's gotten a superstar infusion. At Texas, where new coach Gail Goestenkors is having a up-and-down first year, the Longhorns trounced 21-2 Baylor on the night their pink-clad fans "pinked-out" the Erwin Center.

For its game against Seton Hall, Marquette promised the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund money for every three-pointer it made. The Big East's worst three-point shooters then went out and nailed 11.

Even in that crazy Tennessee-Rutgers game, Essence Carson -- whose mother underwent treatment for breast cancer last season, whose coach is a breast cancer survivor and who had shot a brutal 6-for-27 in her three previous games - went 6-for-9 from the floor. And swished, with 23 seconds left, what would've been the winning jumper if the clock hadn't frozen.

That's the thing about cancer though: in real life, no one's clock ever freezes. The American Cancer Society's epidemiologists estimated last week that there will be 1,437,180 new cancer cases this year. Women will account for 692,000 of them, and some of those women will be among the 271,530 who of cancer this year. Think Pink was about breast cancer, but the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund raises money for all cancers because finding a cure for one isn't any more pressing than finding a cure for another.

The simplistic explanation for why Warlick and Caldwell are making their second ride in May is because, with six incoming freshmen, Summitt forbade them from leaving again in the fall. The more optimistic reason, though, may be because of Think Pink. There's been a buzz this month and in another, on Super Saturday at the Final Four, there'll hopefully be more buzzing, when Tampa hosts the 4Kay Run/Walk. The WBCA's trying to get the AAU and WNBA on board with initiatives of their own this summer it may have taken a while, but women's basketball is finally using its ever-growing stage, for a cause it is uniquely positioned to shine a light on.

"I don't know a woman who doesn't know someone who's had breast cancer," Warlick said. "What else could we all jump on board on?"

Yow's got 725 wins, two over breast cancer and she's gunning for a third. Virginia coach Debbie Ryan has 671 wins on the court and one over breast cancer. Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer will try to win her 800th game Wednesday, but her biggest one will always be the one she had against breast cancer. They're women, they're coaches, they're legends and Caldwell said they "are in totally a different type of competition."

It's true. Conference championships begin in a few weeks and the NCAA tournament shortly thereafter. Players and coaches will have always them to compete for. But sadly, some of them one day may have to compete for something different: their lives. Think Pink and the 4Kay Run/Walk and Warlick and Caldwell's ride, it's all the sort of thing that begs for hopping aboard.

So now, where's that sidecar?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lady Vols get unique view from Summitt

Tennessee took in an unusual women's basketball view and listened to a different viewpoint Monday afternoon.

Before the team's practice, the Lady Vols marched up to the back row of section 322 at Thompson-Boling Arena - the very top of the facility - to experience a fan's perspective.

The team climb was associate head coach Holly Warlick's idea. It was inspired by the team's uninspired 72-36 victory over Mississippi State on Sunday before a crowd of 20,249. The largest turnout of the season filled the far reaches of the arena, including the back row of section 322.

"I'm always touched by that when we have great crowds,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "I never want to take it for granted."

The fans' collective stamina also impressed Summitt.

"(They) stayed late, stayed late,'' she said. "I don't know. They must've been serving good hot dogs up there because we didn't give them much to cheer about, especially in the first half."

From their vantage point Monday, the players were asked to jot down some personal observations about the team. They turned in their notes in the locker room.

They then watched a replay of the FSN game broadcast, during which analyst Teresa Edwards was critical of Tennessee's effort.

These tactics were the latest attempt to motivate a team that, despite its 25-2 record and No. 3 national ranking, continues to meander through the season.

The home portion of the regular season concludes with Florida at 7 p.m. Thursday.

"I think every time you play the game, you should play the game with great passion if you're competitive, if you love the game,'' Summitt said. "You don't disrespect the game. If you don't play hard, what are you bringing, what are you saying?"

Baugh Honored: Lady Vols freshman Vicki Baugh was named SEC freshman of week, the first such honor for the 6-foot-4 forward. In games against Alabama and Mississippi State, she made all seven of her field-goal attempts and was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

Baugh averaged 10 points and 3.5 rebounds for the two games. She scored a season-high 12 points against Alabama.

Parker is Academic All-American of the Year

NOTRE DAME, Ind.-- Junior forward Candace Parker of the University of Tennessee and senior forward Lindsay Ippel of Millikin University head the 2007-08 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America® Women’s Basketball Teams, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Parker and Ippel have been named as the Academic All-America of the Year in the University and College Divisions, respectively.

A native of Naperville, Ill., Parker has emerged as one of the top players in the nation during her career, as she is among the finalists for the Naismith Award once again this season after leading the Lady Vols to their seventh NCAA national championship last April. Parker, who helped the United States qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, is the latest member of the Tennessee women’s basketball program to be honored by the Academic All-America® program, as her head coach, Pat Summitt, was honored last summer as the recipient of CoSIDA’s prestigious Dick Enberg Award. A Sport Management major at Tennessee, Parker holds a 3.35 cumulative grade point average.

“This is such an honor,” Parker said. “An athletic career could end at a moment’s notice, but a solid education will last a lifetime. My parents always made sure that I understood the importance of academics and impressed upon me a work ethic that has helped me sustain a certain level in the classroom while managing the busy schedule of being a collegiate student-athlete.”

Joining Parker as first team Academic All-America selections in the University Division are Delaney Conway of Portland State University, Jackie McFarland of the University of Colorado, Laura Rudolphi of Indiana State University and Lindsay Whorton of Drake University.

Parker’s senior teammate, Nicky Anosike, earned second team Academic All-America honors along with Megan Frazee of Liberty University, Danielle Green of Oklahoma State University, Lauren Kohn of Ohio University and Crystal Langhorne of the University of Maryland. The third team Academic All-America squad is comprised of Chelsea Chowning of the University of Kentucky, Brittany Cook of Virginia Tech, Sarah-Jo Lawrence of George Washington University, Whitney Lewis of Wright State University, Katelyn Murray of St. Bonaventure University and Allie Quigley of DePaul University.

A native of Decatur, Ill., Ippel was the leading scorer in the nation in NCAA Division III play as a junior as part of a stellar career for the Big Blue, which she helped lead to an NCAA national title as a freshman. The holder of 17 school records, Ippel was a finalist for the Jostens Trophy last winter and was tabbed as the D3 News Pre-Season Player of the Year heading into the 2007-08 campaign. A Kodak Honorable Mention All-America performer as a junior, Ippel holds a 3.54 cumulative grade point average as a Nursing major at Millikin, which enters the post-season at 19-6 overall.

“I am both humbled and honored to receive this award because I know how many other deserving student-athletics there are,” Ippel said. Balancing Millikin’s rigorous nursing program with basketball has been tough at times, but my passion for both has made it worth the sacrifice. Being named the Academic All-America Player of the Year only reinforces that the long hours at the hospital and the late nights studying after practice have been worth it.”

Joining Ippel as first team Academic All-America selections in the College Division are Anna Atkinson of Wingate University, Emily Brister of West Texas A&M University, Rachel Folcik of Ferris State University, Allison Fowler of Union (Ky.) College and Tarra Richardson of McMurry University.

Second team Academic All-America honorees were Emilee Ackerman of Westminster (Pa.) College, Katie LaViolette of Concordia-St. Paul University, Megan Scheele of Edgewood College and Michelle Stueve of Emporia State University. The third team Academic All-America squad is comprised of DeCarol Davis of the United States Coast Guard Academy, Melanie Hageman of Concordia (Moorhead) University, Sheena Kuntzsch of Fort Hays State University, Lindsey Maple of Central Missouri State University and Justine Pagenhardt of Marietta College.

To be eligible, a student-athlete must be a varsity starter or key reserve, maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.20 on a scale of 4.00, have reached sophomore athletic and academic standings at his/her institution and be nominated by his/her sports information director. Since the program’s inception in 1952, CoSIDA has bestowed Academic All-America honors on more than 14,000 student-athletes in Divisions I, II, III and NAIA covering all NCAA championship sports.

ESPN The Magazine – winner of the 2006 and 2003 National Magazine Award for General Excellence – is a provocative and innovative sports publication. Full of insight, analysis, impact and wit, the oversized biweekly with a circulation of 1.9 million looks ahead to give fans a unique perspective on the world of sports.

For more information about the Academic All-America® Teams program, please visit or e-mail

2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Women’s Basketball Team

Name School Dist. Yr. Hometown G.P.A. Major
Delaney Conway Portland State VIII Sr. Seattle, Wash. 3.99 Science
Jackie McFarland Colorado VII Sr. Derby, Kan. 3.86 Accounting
Candace Parker Tennessee IV Jr. Naperville, Ill. 3.35 Sports Management
Laura Rudolphi Indiana State V Sr. Carlyle, Ill. 3.98 Business Insurance
Lindsay Whorton Drake VII Sr. Independence, Mo. 4.0 English Education
Academic All-American of the Year: Candace Parker, Tennessee
Nicky Anosike Tennessee IV Sr. Staten Island, N.Y. 3.77 Sociology, Criminal Justice, Political Science, Legal Studies
Megan Frazee Liberty III Jr. Xenia, Ohio 3.91 Kinesiology
Danielle Green Oklahoma State VI Sr. Philadelphia, Pa. 3.76 Education
Lauren Kohn Ohio University IV Sr. Adrian, Mich. 3.82 Communications, Public Advocacy
Crystal Langhorne Maryland II Sr. Willingboro, N.J. 3.43 Communication
Chelsea Chowning Kentucky IV Gr. Berea, Ky. 4.0 Pharmacy
Brittany Cook Virginia Tech III Jr. Narrows, Va. 3.75 Health, Nutrition, Foods, Exercise
Sarah-Jo Lawrence George Washington II Sr. Rhoadesville, Va. 3.85 Communications, Sociology
Whitney Lewis Wright State IV Sr. Lynchburg, Ohio 3.97 Human Factors Psychology
Katelyn Murray St. Bonaventure I Jr. Harrisburg, Pa. 4.0 Biology
Allie Quigley DePaul V Sr. Joliet, Ill. 3.72 Physical Education
Anna Atkinson Wingate III Jr. Marion, N.C. 4.0 Biology
Emily Brister West Texas A&M VI Jr. Amarillo, Texas 3.90 Elementary Education
Rachel Folcik Ferris State IV Sr. Powers, Mich. 3.83 Business Administration
Allison Fowler Union (Ky.) IV Sr. Morganfield, Ky. 4.0 Biology
Lindsay Ippel Millikin V Sr. Decatur, Ill. 3.54 Nursing
Tarra Richardson McMurray VI Sr. Fort Worth, Texas 3.91 Finance
Academic All-American of the Year: Lindsay Ippel, Millikin
Emilee Ackerman Westminster (Pa.) II Sr. Greensburg, Pa. 3.53 Elementary Education
Katie LaViolette Concordia (St. Paul) V Sr. Manitowoc, Wis. 4.0 Kinesiology
Megan Scheele Edgewood V Jr. New Glarus, Wis. 3.89 Elementary Education
Michelle Stueve Emporia State VII Sr. Olpe, Kan. 3.58 Biology
DeCarol Davis U.S. Coast Guard Acad. I Sr. Woodbridge, Va. 3.96 Electrical Engineering
Melanie Hageman Concordia (Moorhead) V Sr. Fargo, N.D. 3.79 Biology
Sheena Kuntzsch Fort Hays State VII Sr. Scott City, Kan. 4.0 Art
Lindsey Maple Central Missouri State VII Sr. Knob Noster, Mo. 3.98 Physical Education
Justine Pagenhardt Marietta IV Sr. Oakland, Md. 3.92 Biology

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No. 3 Tennessee overcomes slow start in 72-46 win over Miss. St.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is ready for her third-ranked Lady Volunteers to start playing hard for an entire game. She’s still waiting.

The Lady Vols (25-2, 11-1 Southeastern Conference) overcame a slow start to beat Mississippi State 72-46 on Sunday, their second come-from-behind victory over the Lady Bulldogs (16-12, 4-9) this season.

“They play in spurts,” Summitt said. “As a coach you want every possession to be played.”

The Lady Vols shot just 38 percent from the field and made only 3-of-8 free throws in the first half. However, Tennessee’s defense held Mississippi State without a field goal for over 10 minutes.

Candace Parker scored all but five of her 19 points in the second half and set a new Tennessee record for blocks.

Just days after announcing she would skip her final year of eligibility to turn pro, Parker blocked five shots to set a new Tennessee career record with 247, surpassing Shelia Frost’s total of 246.

Shannon Bobbitt and Alexis Hornbuckle each added 11 points for the Lady Vols.

Alexis Rack led Mississippi State with 15 points, and Marneshia Richard added 11. The Lady Bulldogs shot only 28.8 percent from the field during the game.

Despite the strong defense, the Lady Vols only held a 27-22 halftime lead.

“We weren’t intense or inspired in the first half,” Hornbuckle said. “We have to learn to play up. In postseason, we won’t have time to flip a switch when we are in that position.”

Mississippi State was trailing 47-40 after Richard’s layup with 7:39 left.

The Lady Vols answered with a 10-1 run capped by Shannon Bobbitt’s 3-pointer to extend their lead to 16 and put the game out of reach with 5:04 left.

Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning said she’s also looking for more consistent play from her Lady Bulldogs.

“We have played harder, but we have not played for the 40-minute stretches that we need,” she said. “In this league it takes 40 minutes. Against Tennessee it takes 40 great minutes.”

Tennessee built a 16-5 lead in the first half on free throws by Parker with 9:47 left before the half, but the Lady Bulldogs went on a 13-0 run. Rack made a 3-pointer before stealing the ball from Bobbitt.

Rack was fouled by Nicky Anosike and sank both free throws to give Mississippi State a 18-16 lead with 4:25 left in the first half. Tennessee closed the half on a 11-4 run to take a 27-22 advantage at the break.

Tennessee overcame the slow first half with 50 percent field goal shooting in the second half while Mississippi State shot 27.3 percent during the half.

“They were getting out to all the shooters, so we were trying to find open shots,” Richard said. “They did a good job preventing us from having those open looks.”

It was the second time this season Tennessee had to rally against Mississippi State, a team that has never beaten the Lady Vols.

The Lady Vols won 87-69 in Starkville on Feb. 7 after trailing by as many as nine points in the first half.

“They are a very aggressive team,” Hornbuckle said. “They are very active and physical.”

Approaching a summit, Stringer is praised by one

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt's 971 victories are more than any other Division 1 coach in NCAA history. The Hall of Famer talked to us about C. Vivian Stringer's legacy.

What is the most impressive part of Vivian closing in on the 800-win plateau?

Vivian has had a tremendous impact on our game. She's been able to do something that a lot of people have never done -- and that's win wherever she coaches. That speaks volumes. That's the most impressive part. I've never coached but one place in my life. I admire what she's been able to do. She's always been an ambassador for women's basketball, certainly passionate about promoting our game and going out and playing tough schedules. It's not like she's going to reach the 800 mark without playing some of the very best teams.

As a friend, are you rooting for her to win her first national championship?

It's unfortunate that coaches are sometimes judged on whether or not they've won championships, because there are great coaches who have never won championships. Vivian's been right there. I think it's going to happen for her.

Do you think winning one national title would be enough for her?

Vivian loves teaching and coaching, and she's passionate about it. She's so driven and so intent on the details. When she cuts down the nets, I don't see her saying, "Okay, I've done this, so I'm moving on." I see her saying, "Let's get the next recruiting class in and let's start getting better and focusing on daily improvement." That's how I see Vivian.

Could Vivian command respect coaching a men's program?

Wherever she goes, whatever she does, she's going to command respect. When she speaks, people are going to listen to her. She has proven herself. With the credentials and résumé she can put out there -- she's so visible and well-respected -- I don't think that would be an issue at all.

If anyone aspires to do that, I'd say go for it. I don't know how Vivian feels about it, but for me, I really feel like my calling was in the women's game. My passion's in the women's game, and that's the place where I can make the greatest difference. Because we're still growing the women's game. We're not where the men are. We don't have the sellout crowds. We don't have as much TV exposure. So I think that's an individual choice.

What personality trait do you admire the most about her?

She probably has more patience than I do. That's a good thing.

If I'm not happy, I'll say nobody's happy. Vivian's had some teams that started out and lost games early, but what do they do in the end? They're there. They win. And I would attribute that to her combination of patience and persistence.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Candace Parker helps lead No. 3 Tennessee past Alabama 85-58

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - On the day she announced that she’s leaving for the WNBA draft and Olympic play after the season, Candace Parker scored 19 points to help lead No. 3 Tennessee to an 85-58 win over Alabama on Thursday night.

The Lady Vols (24-2, 10-1 Southeastern Conference) opened fast and had a 21-point lead, 31-10 with 8:42 left to go in the first half.

Then the Crimson Tide (8-19, 1-11 SEC) went on a 17-7 run—with Parker and other Tennessee starters on the bench—to cut Tennessee’s lead to 11 points.

Then Tennessee sent the starters back in and led by 20 at 49-29 going into the half.

The Lady Vols came into Thursday’s game with a 39-2 advantage in the series, and have won 35 consecutive meetings. The last time Alabama beat the Lady Vols was in 1984.

Tennessee entered Thursday’s game fighting for an SEC championship, while Alabama was just trying to avoid ending up at the bottom of the conference for the second straight season.

Parker, the first woman to win a national slam dunk contest, announced earlier in the day that she will skip her final season at Tennessee for the chance to play professionally.

The redshirt junior will graduate at the end of this season and plans to participate in the Olympics and pursue a professional career, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. Parker redshirted her freshman season to recover from surgeries to repair a torn knee ligament.

All-American Candace Parker to skip senior season at Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — All-American forward Candace Parker will skip her senior season at Tennessee.

The redshirt junior will graduate at the end of this season and wants to participate in the summer Olympics and pursue a professional career, coach Pat Summitt said Thursday.

“Obviously we’d love to have her another year,” Summitt told The Associated Press. “Who wouldn’t?”

Parker will be honored as part of the third-ranked Lady Volunteers’ senior night activities before the Feb. 28 game against Florida.

She was unavailable for comment Thursday morning while the team traveled to Alabama. Parker redshirted her freshman season to recover from surgeries to repair a torn knee ligament.

The 6-foot-4 Naperville, Ill., native leads the team in scoring with 20.6 points per game and rebounds with 8.8 per game and is one of six women to have dunked in the college game. She made her seventh career dunk earlier this month against Kentucky.

After leading the Lady Volunteers to their national championship, Parker played with the U.S. national team during her summer break, helping earn a 2008 Olympic bid. She also earned the women’s 2007 John R. Wooden Award.

By skipping her final year of eligibility, Parker has the chance to enter the WNBA draft in April. She would likely go as the top pick.

The Los Angeles Sparks hold the top pick, which would give Parker the opportunity to play alongside Lisa Leslie and former teammates Sidney Spencer and Tye’sha Fluker.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hornbuckle swiping Gordon's record

Alexis Hornbuckle is about to steal a long-standing Tennessee career record.

The Lady Vols senior guard is four steals away from surpassing Bridgette Gordon as the all-time steals leader in UT women’s basketball. Gordon, who had 333 steals, has held the mark since 1989.

With six steals against Vanderbilt on Sunday, Hornbuckle upped her career total to 330. She’ll go for more against Alabama at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“It’s real big to me,’’ Hornbuckle said. “It will be a mile marker for my defensive career.

“I pride myself on defense and hustle plays. So to be able to accomplish something like that will mean a lot.”

Other noteworthy UT defenders — Tamika Catchings and Nikki McCray to name two — were unable to overtake Gordon. Hornbuckle’s larceny has been helped by her long arms and her sense of anticipation, an attribute she has enhanced by doing offseason reflex drills with Heather Mason, the Lady Vols’ strength and conditioning coach.

UT coach Pat Summitt said Hornbuckle’s defensive role also has played a helpful part.

“She’s not having to play on the ball all the time,’’ Summitt said. “Playing off the ball has helped her. She’s good on the ball but, she’s great off the ball.’’

Hornbuckle is hoping that the quest and ultimately the record will energize her. She had been lagging and was concerned enough at one point to seek divine guidance.

“I kind of just prayed about it and said, ‘Look I don’t know what I need to do, but God give me strength so I can give my team strength,’ ” Hornbuckle said.

Hollifield Update: Former Powell High School standout Caitlin Hollifield has started 14 games for Alabama this season. The 6-foot-1 freshman forward is averaging 5.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Ten of her starts have come in SEC play, where she’s averaging 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds a game.

Reminder: The gates will open at 1 p.m., a half-hour earlier than normal, for Sunday’s game against Mississippi State at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Parker confirms she will participate in senior night

Tennessee All-American Candace Parker said Wednesday that she will take part in senior day festivities when the Lady Vols play their final home basketball game Feb. 28 against Florida.

This virtually confirms that Parker will not return next season to use her final year of eligibility,

Parker redshirted as a freshman because of multiple knee surgeries.

Parker will be eligible for the WNBA draft and is likely the No. 1 pick of the Los Angeles Sparks.

Johnson among future Lady Vols on All-America game roster

Four Lady Vol basketball signees, including Webb forward Glory Johnson, were listed on the roster for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-America Game announced today.

The game will be played April 5 at Tampa, Fla.

Also named to the roster are Alyssia Brewer of Sapulpa (Okla.) High School, Amber Gray of Lakota West High School in Liberty Township, Ohio, and Shekinna Stricklen of Morrilton (Ark.) High School. All are Lady Vol signees.

With four signees on the roster, UT has the most of any college with players in the game.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lady Vols fall in poll

Summitt: We looked below average vs. LSU

Tennessee's fall in the Associated Press' weekly top 25 women's basketball poll didn't turn out to be a full-scale tumble.

The Lady Vols (23-2) dropped from the top spot to No. 3 after suffering a 78-62 loss to LSU last Thursday. UT coach Pat Summitt didn't offer much comment regarding last Monday's controversial 59-58 victory over Rutgers and its impact on the voting by a national media panel. The Scarlets Knights received eight first-place votes but also were ranked as low as eighth by voters.

"I don't know,'' she said, regarding the game's effect on UT. "I don't know that it really matters."

LSU received a first-place vote and moved up to No. 6. Summitt thought the one-sided outcome Thursday might cost Tennessee three places in the poll.

"I think the way we played in the LSU game, we looked below average for a Tennessee team,'' Summitt said. "We exposed ourselves to everybody."

The Lady Vols' fall corresponded with the Tennessee men's team rising to No. 2 in its poll. It marked the first time the Vols were ranked ahead of the Lady Vols since late December of 1982. Summitt was quick to credit the Vols. She told her players as much in their meeting last Friday afternoon, the day after the LSU debacle.

"I talked to them in the meeting about how hard they play,'' Summitt said of the Vols. "I talked to them about the effort our guys are playing with, the intensity, the togetherness."

Summitt saw more of what she expects from her team in Sunday's 81-68 SEC victory at Vanderbilt. She's hoping the Lady Vols build on their performance when they play at Alabama on Thursday.

"It's more about us right now and how we play,'' Summitt said. "Are we playing the scoreboard? Are we getting bored? What are we doing? We have to have accountability.

"I liked what I saw in Nashville for the most part and we had a good workout today (Monday), but we've yet to demonstrate we're going to be a 40-minute team every game."

On The Other Hand: UT senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle framed the importance of Sunday's victory with the stark contrast of the alternative.

"I know if we would've lost, it would've been very discouraging,'' she said. "We might have been second-guessing our abilities as a team and where we're headed and our goals, whether they're achievable."

It's About Defense: Sydney Smallbone has played one minute in the last three games. Summitt said the freshman guard's playing time is being curtailed by a "lack of awareness on the defensive end."

"Sid is going to get all of this down eventually,'' Summitt said. "It's unfortunate she didn't come in with a depth of knowledge on the defensive aspects."

Notebook: UT's championship rings from last season finally have arrived, to which Summitt jokingly replied: "I don't want them (the players) to think we got one. We need two." ... Senior center Nicky Anosike, who has a shiner after being hit in the nose during the LSU game, is one point shy of her 1,000th career point. ... Summitt said the team will travel to Alabama on game day, allowing several players to attend classes Thursday morning.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

(1) Tennessee 81, (25) Vanderbilt 68

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pat Summitt wanted to see how her Tennessee Lady Vols responded to an ugly, sloppy loss at home.

They snapped back into form pretty well.

Candace Parker scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and top-ranked Tennessee bounced back from a home loss with a 81-68 victory over No. 25 Vanderbilt on Sunday.

"If they play like they played today just in terms of the effort, we're going to win a lot of basketball games and we're going to be alive and well in the postseason," Summitt said. "But it has to be a habit. It can't be a one-game situation."

Tennessee (23-2, 9-1 Southeastern Conference), which beat Vanderbilt for the 15th straight time, risked slipping from first to third in the conference with a second straight loss. On Thursday, the Lady Vols lost to No. 7 LSU 78-62 at home.

Summitt followed that with a meeting Friday where the coaches talked followed by a players' only session.

"We said that we can't wait like we did last year until the postseason to turn it on and expect to win a national championship and basically we just said that we need to stop talking about it and be about it," Parker said of their meeting.

"Actions speak louder than words. We've talked all year about playing 40 minutes, and we've yet to do it."

They came pretty close Sunday.

The Lady Vols, expected to drop from No. 1 in Monday's new poll, hadn't lost consecutive games since 2006 when they lost to Duke and Kentucky.

It was never really close against Vanderbilt (19-7, 8-3), which snapped a six-game winning streak and has not beaten Tennessee since Feb. 16, 2002.

Angie Bjorklund added 15 points for Tennessee, and Alex Fuller had 14 off the bench.

Christina Wirth led Vanderbilt with 14 points, and Merideth Marsh had 11.

Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb credited Tennessee going to a zone defense with helping her Commodores to matching their season-high with 24 turnovers, a mark set Jan. 20 in their loss at Tennessee.

"Especially down the stretch when we were throwing the ball away for no apparent reason against their zone. That really hurt us," Balcomb said.

This was Tennessee's third game against a ranked opponent in seven days, a week that started with the controversial 59-58 win over No. 5 Rutgers on Monday and included a blown 19-point lead in that LSU rout Thursday.

They needed this kind of game and got it by leading throughout. Vandy managed only one tie -- at 2 -- and Lady Vols led 42-36 at halftime.

But Nicky Anosike picked up her fourth foul less than five minutes into the second half, and the Commodores scored 12 straight points capped by Wirth's 3 with 13:59 remaining to pull within 51-50 -- the closest they had been since that early tie.

Parker said they expected a run from Vanderbilt.

"I'm really happy with how we responded. We didn't just play down and let what happened at LSU happen again," she said.

Wirth picked up her fourth foul 11 seconds later and went to the bench. Tennessee answered with seven straight points in a 12-3 spurt, and Fuller's 3-pointer with 8:58 to go put the Lady Vols back up 63-53.

"They really dialed it up a bit," Summitt said of her team's response. "It hasn't always been the case, so I'm really proud for them."

They kept padding that lead to as much as 19 on a bucket by Parker with 4 minutes left at 78-59.

The Commodores are hoping for a rematch with Tennessee next month when they defend their league tournament title in games that will be played a couple miles away from their home court. But Wirth said they were disappointed with how they played Sunday.

"We should be. We didn't play well. We didn't do what we needed to do," Wirth said.

Tennessee opened the game outscoring Vandy 17-2, including 15 straight points. Bjorklund's 3 with 9:39 left put Tennessee up 22-8.

Tennessee got into foul trouble with Parker playing only 11 minutes and Anosike on the floor for seven. Summitt pulled both after they picked up their second fouls.

Vanderbilt took advantage. The Commodores had missed five of their first six shots and finally started settling down without the 6-foot-4 Parker and Anosike -- both taller than all but Vandy center Liz Sherwood -- in the middle.

The Commodores started turning Tennessee over and hit four straight shots, including three 3-pointers, to get back within single digits.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Summitt sees link to last season, 1998-99

By Pat Summitt's count, the present Tennessee team is vying for a historical correlation with two past UT squads.

The Lady Vols coach has a rooting interest in how this all plays out. She'll get another batch of clues this afternoon when Tennessee (22-2, 8-1 SEC), a lame-duck No. 1, faces Vanderbilt (19-6, 8-2) in an SEC women's basketball game at sold-out Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville. (TV: FSN, 3:30).

UT is reeling from a 78-62 thrashing at the hands of LSU on Thursday night. After stumbling in the race for the conference lead, the Lady Vols will try to hold sole possession of second place against the Commodores, who have won six in a row since a 79-63 loss in Knoxville on Jan. 20.

"We can mope around and keep our heads down,'' Summitt said, "or we can obviously take it to heart, come back and fight and pull together."

Thursday's loss is reason enough for Summitt to hope this season's team resembles last season's in an important aspect. During her weekly teleconference last Wednesday, Summitt spoke of how last season's 63-54 loss to LSU in the SEC tournament was a pivotal motivation for a team that won the national championship.

"At that moment, we had a meeting after the game and a meeting the next day,'' Summitt said. "We basically gave everyone an opportunity to voice their concerns and to determine which direction they wanted to go in. They said right then that they wanted to come together, play together and win a national championship. ... That was a defining moment for our team in the road to the championship."

This season's loss sparked at least one known meeting, Friday afternoon. The timing of this setback, though, is different.

"They were headed right into the postseason,'' Summitt said of last season's team. "We've got some games still left to play."

Therefore, the 1998-99 Tennessee team remains in contention for the correlation distinction. That team, which was pursuing the program's fourth consecutive national championship, skated through the regular season in a manner comparable to this squad.

The 1998-99 season ended in despair with a 69-63 upset loss to Duke in the East Regional final. Semeka Randall playing injured, Tamika Catchings' illness and the worst shooting night of Chamique Holdsclaw's career conspired against Tennessee's chances that stunning night.

Summitt made the connection between the respective UT teams during her scalding recap of Thursday night's beating.

"They were really a pain to coach,'' Summitt said of the 1998-99 team. "This team has not been quite as bad in comparing it to (then) but in the last couple of games they've reminded me of that team.

"No great sense of urgency. They start out great, they get casual and then (Thursday) they get beat."

The urgency for this season ought to be peaking because UT's offense, heretofore its strength, is bottoming out. The Lady Vols have averaged 62.7 points per game in their last three games against top-10 teams (Duke, Rutgers and LSU). Against three of the nation's top defensive teams, they have shot a collective 34.8 percent from the floor. Furthermore, they've averaged about 10 assists per game, compared to 17 turnovers.

In the past two games, the Lady Vols' overall field-goal accuracy has plunged from nearly 47 percent to 45.7. Their scoring average has dropped from 80.5 points per game to 78.8.

The offensive breakdowns apparently have their origins in a disconnect between the strategy discussed in team huddles and halftime talks and what's actually happening on the court.

Senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle described the second half against LSU in this fashion: "Everything that we weren't doing, (Summitt) was telling us to do."

On Thursday, LSU coach Van Chancellor opted to double- and triple-team UT star Candace Parker as the game wore on and "just take a chance with the rest of them."

Four weeks ago, when UT was shooting 50 percent from the floor and had four double-figure scorers against the Commodores, Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb thought just the opposite.

"Their starting lineup makes it very difficult to leave any of those players (open) this year,'' she said. "That's what makes (Parker) so good. You can't double and triple her as much."

Sounds like a case of two different Tennessee teams battling over one identity. This contest is more relevant than any historical determination and all the Lady Vols are invested in the outcome.

Said Summitt: "We need each other."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Players-only meeting follows 30-minute chat

Rather than practice, the Tennessee women's basketball team convened for a meeting Friday afternoon in advance of Sunday's game at Vanderbilt.

The meeting was more about Thursday's 78-62 loss to LSU. The coaches shared their thoughts and then left the players to talk among themselves. Assistant coach Dean Lockwood estimated that both sessions lasted approximately a half-hour.

"Our staff is very disappointed,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "We'd like to hope our players are as disappointed."

Summitt said the coaches shared more than their feelings.

"We probably gave them more information,'' she said. "It was more about what we've been seeing."

In Summitt's case, she likely mentioned shoddy defense and suspect guard play.

"Our lack of commitment to defense last night, quite honestly, was embarrassing,'' Summitt said.

Regarding the backcourt, she mentioned starters Shannon Bobbitt and Alexis Hornbuckle, who shot a collective 5-for-21 from the floor and combined for two assists and six turnovers.

"When Shannon and Lex play that way, we shouldn't expect to win," Summitt said.

Summitt didn't speculate about what the players might have said to each other.

"I didn't send any hints to anyone on what they needed to do,'' Summitt said.

Mindful of Matchups: Summitt acknowledged that backup forward Alex Fuller got stuck with some difficult defensive assignments Thursday, guarding either LSU center Sylvia Fowles or guard Quianna Chaney, who burned Fuller for consecutive baskets during a pivotal stretch.

"We may have to move Candace (Parker) or Nicky (Anosike) to the perimeter,'' Summitt said, "because Alex struggles on the perimeter defensively and we need her offense."

More Shots: Summitt had some simple advice for Hornbuckle, Bobbitt and fellow guard Alberta Auguste, who shot 1-for-7 Thursday.

"I'd like to see them get in the gym and shoot more,'' Summitt said. "I think we're going to have to insist that they do."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

(7) LSU 78, (1) Tennessee 62

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- When LSU fell behind early by 19 points, coach Van Chancellor was afraid to look at his cell phone.

"Well, when it was 21-2, I didn't want to answer my cell phone," the first-year coach said. "I thought it might be the athletic director telling me I no longer had a job."

Chancellor had nothing to worry about. The No. 7 Lady Tigers overcame the deficit and grabbed the Southeastern Conference lead with a 78-62 win over top-ranked Tennessee on Thursday night.

LSU (21-3, 10-0 SEC), which remains the only SEC team without a conference loss, also handed Tennessee it's worst conference loss at home since a 72-56 setback to Georgia in 1985.

Sylvia Fowles led a balanced offensive attack with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Erica White added 16 points, Quianna Chaney had 14 points, RaShonta LeBlanc had 11 and Ashley Thomas and Allison Hightower both added 10.

It was the first time in history six LSU players have achieved double-figure scoring.

The Lady Vols (22-2, 8-1) held a 33-30 halftime lead, but the Lady Tigers came out with a 5-1 run to grab a 35-34 lead as LeBlanc drove to the hoop with 16:34 left.

LSU shot 60 percent during the second half compared to Tennessee's 28.6 percent. The Lady Tigers also took advantage of 17 Tennessee fouls in the second half, sinking 17 of 26 at the line.

Tennessee jumped out to a 21-2 lead on an Angie Bjorklund 3-pointer with 13:17 left in the first half as LSU hit only two field goals and a free throw in the first 8 1/2 minutes while missing 14 shots.

"We actually kept our composure as a team," Fowles said. "Nobody fussed with each other, nobody got on each other about anything."

Candace Parker led Tennessee with 26 points and had 10 rebounds. Nicky Anosike had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

The Lady Tigers chipped away at the margin with five 3-pointers and took a 30-29 lead on a tip in by Sylvia Fowles with 1:38 left in the half.

"Honestly, I don't know how to explain it," Tennessee guard Alexis Hornbuckle said. "I hope we can figure it out before it's too late."

The Lady Tigers forced 15 steals and capitalized with 25 points off 19 turnovers by the Lady Vols.

LSU has won two straight in Knoxville and two straight over Tennessee. The Lady Tigers extended their winning streak to 12-straight games.

Tennessee was coming off a controversial last-second win over Rutgers on Monday night. Coach Pat Summitt said earlier in the week that the Lady Vols were spent emotionally and physically after that game.

"I can't figure this group out," she said. "We got a win over Rutgers. They went in understanding that we could win the league tonight if we took care of business. That didn't seem to matter very much."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Moving on to LSU

SEC says refs, timer handled jobs properly

Pat Summitt's tunnel vision was put to the test Tuesday.

All around Tennessee's women's basketball coach the rewind button was being punched regarding the controversial ending to UT's 59-58 victory over Rutgers Monday night. And she was trying to look forward to Thursday's clash with No. 7 LSU , which could decide the SEC regular-season championship.

"We have to get ready for LSU,'' Summitt said. "I hated that it (Monday's conclusion) was very controversial and got a lot of attention. But I feel like right now we have to focus on Thursday night's game."

Tip-off is 6:30 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: FSN).

The Internet was buzzing Tuesday with a rehash of the circumstances surrounding Lady Vols center Nicky Anosike's game-winning free throws with two-tenths of a second left. Countless replay clips were available for fans to scrutinize and ask, "What was the call? And when did the official make the call?"

The SEC released a statement on the matter.

"The Big East and SEC conference offices have been in communication throughout the day. The coordinators of officials for both leagues have spoken to the officials as well as the clock operator. The officials discharged their duties properly and there is no indication that anything improperly was done by anyone involved."

The league said that there would be no further comment on the issue.

Media outlets had their say. Several newspaper headlines weren't kind to Tennessee. The Chicago Tribune's read, "Charity at Home: Late FTs lift No. 1 Lady Vols." The San Francisco Chronicle incorporated the frozen-time-clock angle with, "No. 1 Lady Vols prevail; Time (0.2 of a second) stands still for Rutgers."

The poll question on its women's basketball page: Did the officials make the right call at the end of the Tennessee-Rutgers game? A story on the site recounted two other messy game endings, including the Lady Vols benefitting from a controversial foul call at the end of a 2004 NCAA tournament regional semifinal game against Baylor in Norman, Okla. That call also occurred with two-tenths of a second remaining in the game. Tasha Butts made two free throws and UT prevailed, 71-69.

The Lady Vols were tossed about in the tempest created by that call, which was strongly criticized, much like Monday's

"I hadn't even thought about that,'' said Summitt, regarding any correlation between 2004 and now.

Monday's outcome kept the phones busy in the Lady Vols' coaches office. Several calls came from irate Rutgers fans.

The ripple effect reached as far as the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll. Although Tennessee was No. 1, Rutgers received a first-place vote.

Amid the clamor, Summitt said, "I'm not worried about what's going on or said."

Summitt confirmed that she spoke with C. Vivian Stringer after the Rutgers coach finished her angry postgame press conference. Stringer had rushed by Summitt during the postgame handshakes to chase after the game officials.

"I hated what happened happened, that there was controversy'' Summitt said. "Vivian is one of my dearest friends in the profession. That's not going to change."

Stringer released a follow-up statement Tuesday regarding the game's outcome.

"The controversy at the end of the game last night at Tennessee was an unfortunate incident and Rutgers deserved to win," said Stringer. " I am saddened because my team played a hard-fought game and to have it finish in such a manner overshadows the accomplishments of two exceptional teams."

Another replay from Monday's game involved Summitt and UT senior point guard Shannon Bobbitt. The ESPN2 telecast showed Summitt blistering Bobbitt for drawing a technical foul in the second half. Bobbitt rushed up and pointed at Matee Ajavon after a foul was called on the Scarlet Knights guard.

"The response has been so positive, just in terms of what I said,'' Summitt said.

She and Bobbitt met Tuesday and watched game video of Monday's second half. They didn't zero in on UT's last possession like everyone else. They were watching the six baskets and 23.1 percent field-goal shooting (6-for-26). They were preparing for Thursday night.

"We're going right to LSU,'' Summitt said.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tennessee back at No. 1, UTEP enters Top 25 for first time

Tennessee has Rutgers to thank for its return to No. 1.

The Lady Vols regained the top spot in The Associated Press women's basketball poll after Connecticut lost to Rutgers last week. Tennessee, which was the top-ranked team for the first seven weeks before losing to Stanford in late December, received 45 of the 50 first-place votes. The Huskies received the other five.

The Lady Vols rallied to beat No. 5 Rutgers 59-58 on Monday night in a rematch of last season's national championship game. The Scarlet Knights were bidding to be the first team ever to defeat top-ranked teams in consecutive games.

While the Lady Vols are no stranger to the poll, UTEP earned its first-ever appearance in the Top 25.

"It's a great feeling. It's a reflection of a lot of hard work and something that didn't happen over night," said UTEP coach Keitha Adams, whose team has won 15 straight games. "No question, it's a positive to be in the mix of the other great programs."

It's been a great few days for UTEP (19-2), which has never competed in the NIT or NCAA tournaments. The Miners made their first appearance on national television Sunday, set the Conference-USA record for consecutive league victories, and earned their first-ever Top 25 ranking.

Not too bad for a team that was 3-25 a few years back and has never advanced past the semifinals of the conference tournament. Coming off a 20-win season, UTEP has been outstanding with its only two losses at Nebraska and at Kansas State.

UTEP has the second longest winning streak in the country, trailing only Chattanooga, which has won 16 straight games.

Even with the recent success, the Miners are focused on their next game, a key Conference-USA matchup with Houston on Thursday night.

"Today's the only day we're going to talk about being ranked," Adams said. "The bottom line is we know we have to focus on playing Houston."

North Carolina remained No. 3 after blowing out then-No. 11 Duke, Clemson and Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels were followed by Maryland, Rutgers, Stanford and LSU. Baylor fell three places to No. 8 after a loss to then-No. 17 Oklahoma State. California and Oklahoma are Nos. 9 and 10.

West Virginia and Duke flipped places followed by Old Dominion, George Washington and Oklahoma State, which moved up two spots to No. 15.

The Cowgirls were followed by Notre Dame, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Utah and Texas A&M.

Syracuse, Wyoming, Ohio State, UTEP and Vanderbilt rounded out the poll. The Commodores re-entered the poll for the first time since week 7. Georgia and DePaul dropped out.

A close loss to LSU on Sunday ended Georgia's string of 98 consecutive weeks in the poll alive. It was the seventh longest active streak.

The Lady Dogs fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since Jan. 20, 2003.

(2) Tennessee 59, (7) Rutgers 58

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Nicky Anosike sank two free throws with two-tenths of a second left and No. 1 Tennessee rallied to beat No. 5 Rutgers 59-58 on Monday night in a rematch of last season's national championship game.

Trailing 58-57, Anosike grabbed an offensive rebound and was grabbed by Kia Vaughn from behind. Unclear whether the foul had come before time expired, the Rutgers bench began to celebrate, but officials reviewed the play and determined that the foul had been committed just before the buzzer.

Television replays showed the game clock seemed to pause as Anosike came down with the ball and two-tenths remained on the clock, leading to the controversial finish.

Anosike camly stepped up and hit the two free throws to seal the victory.

Candace Parker, who bruised her knee in the Lady Vols' last game, had 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Angie Bjorklund added 13.

Epiphanny Prince had 21 points for Rutgers, Essence Carson added 18.

The Lady Vols (22-1) entered the second half with a 34-23 lead after the Scarlet Knights (19-4) made only two field goals and two free throws in the 11 minutes before the half.

But Tennessee went cold after the break, making only one shot from the field -- a 3-pointer from Angie Bjorklund -- in the first 14 1/2 minutes.

Rutgers took a 39-38 lead on a Rashidat Junaid layup with 10:08 to go. Vaughn's putback basket put the Scarlet Knights up 56-51 with 1:35.

Coming off a timeout, Shannon Bobbitt nailed a 3-pointer for Tennessee with 1:23 left. After Matee Ajavon missed a layup on the other end, Alexis Hornbuckle grabbed the rebound, setting up another 3-pointer by Bjorklund to put the Lady Vols up by 1.

Carson responded immediately with jumper with 26 seconds left. Bobbitt and Parker both missed shots on the goal before Anosike was fouled trying to grab the rebound.

Rutgers was coming off an 73-71 upset of previous No. 1 Connecticut and was trying to become the first team to ever beat No. 1 teams in consecutive games.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Parker, Auguste and Bjorklund pronounced fit to play against Rutgers

The injury news was all good for Tennessee on Sunday afternoon.

Specifically, the update was good enough for Pat Summitt. And that was saying something, considering UT's women's basketball coach earlier had tumbled to the court after accidentally backing into freshman forward Vicki Baugh.

"I'm the only injury, isn't that great news?'' Summitt asked rhetorically. "Better me than anybody else."

Lady Vols Candace Parker (left knee bruise), Alberta Auguste (left shoulder/biceps strain) and Angie Bjorklund (broken nose) all were on the court Sunday after suffering injuries in Thursday night's game at Mississippi State. Parker was wearing a sleeve on her knee, finding one that fit properly by the workout's conclusion.

The trio was pronounced fit to play against Rutgers at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena. (TV: ESPN2).

"It's a great feeling,'' said Summitt, ignoring her discomfort, "a great feeling."

Tennessee will line up like Tennessee for tonight's top-10 showdown, which will be part of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's "Think Pink" campaign to raise breast cancer awareness. The return of the aforementioned players will aid the second-ranked Lady Vols (21-1) in playing up to their capabilities, too.

The seventh-ranked Scarlet Knights (19-3) will require the best response that UT can summon. Summitt can imagine Rutgers' motivation after its 59-46 loss to Tennessee in last season's national championship game in Cleveland, Ohio.

"If you flip the script and we're playing them and they beat us for a national championship, I can imagine the emotional intensity and level of competitiveness,'' Summitt said. "I expect that from them."

UT is embarking on a difficult three-game stretch that continues with No. 8 LSU on Thursday and at Vanderbilt on Sunday. Rutgers, meanwhile, is completing a four-game obstacle course that started with games at West Virginia and Pittsburgh and continued last Tuesday with a 73-71 upset at home of top-ranked Connecticut.

A lineup like that doesn't leave much room to breathe, let alone celebrate.

"I did not even spend 30 seconds thinking about how great we played (versus Connecticut) when I came to practice the other day,'' Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "I was excited when we played UConn as I should have been, but when I came to practice the next day I did not say one word about it. The next focus was Tennessee."

Rutgers' overall schedule is ranked third in degree of difficulty by, behind Tennessee's and Connecticut's. The Scarlet Knights have forged their play against Stanford, LSU, Maryland and Duke.

"I think Vivian strategically put together a very demanding schedule and I think it's helped them,'' Summitt said. "They're not going to back down from anyone. ... So they're as prepared as we are when you look at who they've played and the toughness they have shown in a lot of big games."

Compared to their last meeting with UT, Rutgers is more physically imposing around the basket. Rashidat Junaid started at center against Connecticut, allowing Kia Vaughn to move to forward and creating a 6-foot-4 tandem on the front line.

The Scarlet Knights also are potentially more explosive. Guard Epiphanny Prince scored two points in the national championship game last April. She went off for a career-high 33 against Connecticut. The 5-foot-9 sophomore was encouraged by Huskies center Tina Charles, Prince's friend, to have a scoring encore ready for UT.

"I told (Epiphanny) 'make sure you beat them,' " Charles said. "I told her to play her 'A' game, just like she did against us."

Interestingly, Rutgers had success against UConn with its "55" defense, a press Stringer picked up when she was coaching at Iowa from Hawkeyes men's coach Tom Davis. His assistant was Tennessee men's coach Bruce Pearl.

The Lady Vols' coaching staff consulted Pearl in preparing for the alignment last season.

"I do believe that Tennessee knows how to break the play and what's going on with it,'' Stringer said.

Being prepared for everything else Rutgers dishes out with its physical, defensive-minded style is another matter. It's a good idea for Tennessee to remember last season as well and consider its own encore.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tennessee's Parker Uncertain for Rutgers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As a doctor checked Candace Parker's knee on Friday, the Tennessee star turned to her trainer and mouthed, "Don't count me out for Monday."

A day after Parker bruised her knee in No. 2 Tennessee's 87-69 win over Mississippi State, the 6-foot-4 forward was plotting how she'd prepare for Monday's game against a No. 7 Rutgers team that's rolling off an upset of top-ranked Connecticut.

"I am going to be rehabbing like crazy," she said Friday at practice, where she hobbled around on crutches. "(Tennessee trainer Jenny Moshak) and I are going to be buddies for the next 48 hours and just try to get back."

Coach Pat Summitt is urging caution with the knee that's already undergone two surgeries to repair a torn ligament that Parker suffered in high school and won't decide until Monday if Parker will play.

Parker was one of three Lady Vols to be injured in the scrappy game against the Lady Bulldogs. Freshman guard Angie Bjorklund broke her nose and senior forward Alberta Auguste reaggravated a shoulder injury.

Tennessee's schedule doesn't get much easier, with key Southeastern Conference opponents LSU and Vanderbilt up next.

"As big a game as it is to play Rutgers here at home, I'm hopeful that they will be able to play. But if they are not ready, they are not ready, and other people are going to have to step up," Summitt said.

None of the Lady Vols (21-1) are underestimating the stakes of Monday's game, also a rematch of the 2007 national championship game won by Tennessee 59-46. The game will air as part of ESPN2's "Big Monday" broadcast.

"It is a very emotional game for us as well," guard Alexis Hornbuckle said. "They knocked off the number one seed. If we can come in here Monday night and take care of business then we would become the number one seed, so we have a goal in mind as well."

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer doesn't think Tennessee would be any less dangerous without Parker as other Lady Vols will jump at a chance to show Summitt they can play just as hard as the star.

But, she also realizes just how important Parker is to women's basketball.

"She is the most versatile player in America, hands down. There has not been a player like her in the past 10 years or 20 years," Stringer said. "She is a game changer, there is no question about it. "

ESPN probably wouldn't mind having the fan favorite and dunking sensation back in the lineup for the broadcast, but said the Tennessee-Rutgers rematch meant more than just one player.

"We are disappointed about Candace Parker's injury, however the rematch of the 2007 national championship game led by two legendary coaches will still be a terrific game for an ESPN2 Big Monday franchise," said Carol Stiff, senior director of programming and acquisition for ESPN.

Doctors will monitor Parker's knee through Monday afternoon as she works with trainers. X-rays showed the ligament didn't sustain any permanent damage and shows no signs of swelling.

"Jenny Moshak is the best in the business at rehabbing. I told her she is going to earn her money, and she said she would be spending a lot of time with all of them, just trying to get them back and healthy and ready to play," Summitt said.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tennessee women's F Parker injured

STARKVILLE, Mississippi - Tennessee women's forward Candace Parker left Thursday's 87-69 victory over Mississippi State with a left knee injury.

The leading scorer for the second-ranked Volunteers, Parker was hurt while driving to the hoop with 3:09 remaining in the game.

The junior forward had to be helped off the court but, according to Mississippi State team physician, Bob Collins, all of her ligaments appear to be "sound" and it "appears as if she has hyperextended it."

There was no word on how much time Parker could miss.

Parker, who led Tennessee to the national championship last season, finished the contest with a season-low 11 points to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists in the contest. She was averaging 20 points per game entering play Thursday night.

(2) Tennessee 87, Mississippi State 69

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Candace Parker had to be helped off the court after an apparent knee injury during No. 2 Tennessee's 87-69 win over Mississippi State on Thursday night.

Alexis Hornbuckle and Shannon Bobbitt scored 16 points each and the Lady Vols won their 11th win in a row, but the victory -- one of their poorest overall performances of the season -- was further marred by a late injury to Parker, the nation's top player.

The All-American hurt her left knee with 3:09 left in the game. Parker finished with a season-low 11 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Tennessee (21-2, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed at halftime for the first time this season and was held without a point for more than 8 minutes midway through the first half as Parker and the Lady Vols struggled to find a rhythm against the collapsing defense of Mississippi State (14-9, 2-6).

It took a 17-4 run out of halftime to erase Mississippi State's 40-33 lead and it wasn't until a 12-2 run fueled by a pair of 3-pointers by Bobbitt during a span of 1:06 midway through the second half that Tennessee put the game away.

Alexis Rack had 32 points off the bench for the Bulldogs, who have never beaten Tennessee in 27 tries. Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning is now 0-for-32 against Pat Summitt.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

(2) Tennessee 79, Kentucky 51

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Coach Pat Summitt wanted Candace Parker to take it to the hoop. Instead, the All-American went above the rim.

Parker dunked for the seventh time in her career and scored 20 points to help No. 2 Tennessee overcome a sluggish first half in a 79-51 win over Kentucky on Sunday.

"Coach Summitt told me to go strong to the hoop," Parker said. "She said I needed to go inside the paint and take over and stop taking fade-aways."

With the Lady Vols' leading by 18, the 6-foot-4 Parker chased down a loose ball after Chante Bowman lost control of it at midcourt.

After the fast break, Parker hesitated at the baseline as if she were going to dunk but stopped to get better control of the ball. Then she turned around and put it in with 8:08 left in the game as the home crowd erupted.

The Lady Vols (20-1, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) led 32-24 after a slow first half, but went on a 15-6 run that ended as Parker drove for a layup with 14:07 left to put Tennessee up 49-31.

Kentucky (11-11, 5-3) never recovered.

Parker had four dunks last season, including one against rival Connecticut. She also dunked twice in her freshman season against Army in the NCAA tournament.

LSU All-American Sylvia Fowles is the only other women's college player to dunk this season. Only six women have dunked in a college game.

Parker was one of four Lady Vols in double figures. Alexis Hornbuckle added 13 points, Alberta Auguste had 11 and Nicky Anosike 10. Vicki Baugh grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Lady Vols missed 28 shots and a free throw during the first half. The 30.3 percent field goal shooting was their worst first-half percentage of the season for a team that averages 47.2 percent shooting.

"Obviously it was a game of two different halves," Summitt said. "In the locker room I said we go as Candace Parker and Alexis Hornbuckle go. They have to bring intensity from the opening tip to the last possession. We saw what happens when they do that."

Tennessee warmed up a bit 2 minutes into the game as a jumper by Shannon Bobbitt sparked a 20-5 run that ended on a pair of free throws by Nicky Anosike with 7:28 left in the half.

But the Lady Vols failed to score in the last 2:35 before the break, and Kentucky took advantage by cutting Tennessee's margin to 32-24 on baskets by Sarah Elliott and some free throws.

Samantha Mahoney led Kentucky with 18 points and Elliott added 11.

Kentucky shot 47.4 percent from the field -- the best shooting percentage of any Tennessee opponent this season besides UCLA. But the Wildcats couldn't overcome their 36 turnovers.

"We didn't take care of the ball obviously," said coach Matthew Mitchell, who tutored under Summitt as a Tennessee graduate assistant in 1999 and 2000. "It was a tough, tough day."

Kentucky's Amber Smith sprained her right knee with 0.5 seconds left before halftime after she collided with Auguste. She did not return, and Mitchell said she would be evaluated Monday.

"Amber's been doing such a good job at the point," Mahoney said. "I had to move in and take her spot. With them cranking up the pressure and really getting in our passing lanes, it was disturbing our offense."