Sunday, March 30, 2008

Parker insists she's OK; Summitt not so sure

Notre Dame has gone '0-for-Tennessee' under McGraw's leadership

OKLAHOMA CITY - Candace Parker said Saturday her right shoulder is fine, but Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has been taking no chances going into Sunday's NCAA tournament regional semifinal against Notre Dame at the Ford Center.

"You just hold your breath," Summitt said of watching her star player wince in pain after aggravating a chronic shoulder problem early in the Vols' Tuesday victory over Purdue.

"From the time we left Purdue, we did very little contact and virtually nothing up and down the floor. I'm a little paranoid at this time of the year about keeping them healthy."

Deja vu?

Naperville Central's Parker was on the West team and Tennessee teammates Alexis Hornbuckle and Nicky Anosike on the East in the 2004 McDonald's High School All-America Game at the Ford Center. Hornbuckle and Anosike have marked their return to the arena by reminding Parker about the outcome.

"The West lost. By a lot," Hornbuckle said.

It was 91-66, to be exact. Hornbuckle was the game's MVP with a game-record 22 points.

Tough stretch

Notre Dame is winless in 19 previous games with Tennessee. Fifteen losses have come during Muffet McGraw's 21 years as Irish coach.

"I feel like it's printed on my forehead: 0-for-Tennessee," McGraw said. "But I think I'm getting Pat at a good time. Her shoulder's hurting, and she has bad knees. I think if we get her in a running game, I have her."

Said Summitt: "She's going to have to take those high heels off to catch me."

Notre Dame's 2001 NCAA champions did not play Tennessee. The teams have met twice in the tournament, with the Irish losing by 39 points in 2002 and 16 in 1997.

Most games in the Irish-Vols series have been similarly lopsided.

The Irish have lost only three by fewer than 10 points. They lost the two most recent meetings by 24 each.

That includes the Jan. 5 game at South Bend that Tennessee won 87-63, with Vols' freshman Angie Bjorklund hitting 7 of 9 three-pointers.

Calling all Catholics

Notre Dame played spoiler for the regional by knocking out Oklahoma, which means the upper deck at the Ford Center will be closed.

"We're combing the state for Catholics right now," McGraw said. "I plan on wearing red (Oklahoma's color) and hope the people will cheer for us."

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