Monday, April 07, 2008

Hornbuckle’s putback with less than second left lifts Tennessee back to title game

TAMPA, Fla. — Alexis Hornbuckle’s only basket of the game was enough to get Tennessee back in the championship game.

Hornbuckle’s putback with seven-tenths of a second left lifted the Lady Vols to a 47-46 victory over LSU in Sunday night’s national semifinal. It was the lowest scoring game in Final Four history.

Candace Parker did all she could with her bum shoulder, scoring 13 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols.

Tennessee (35-2) moved within a win of its eighth national championship. To do it, the Lady Vols will have to beat Stanford, which stunned Connecticut 82-73 in the other semifinal.

The Lady Vols are looking to become the first repeat champions since the Huskies won three straight titles from 2002-04.

Meanwhile, LSU’s Final Four drought continued. The Lady Tigers, who have been a Final Four staple the last five seasons, again failed to make it to the championship game. LSU, only the second team to play in five straight Final Fours matching the feat accomplished by Connecticut from 2000-04, has lost all five appearances.

All-American Sylvia Fowles did all she could to avoid losing her fourth straight Final Four. She scored 24 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead LSU (31-6), but it wasn’t enough.

Tennessee clung to a 45-44 lead with 7.1 seconds left when Hornbuckle fouled Erica White on the sideline. The senior calmly stepped up and hit both free throws to give LSU a one-point lead.

After a timeout, Parker drove the length of the court and passed the ball to Nicky Anosike, who missed a layup. Hornbuckle grabbed the rebound and put it back up and in to give Tennessee the one-point lead—and the eventual win.

LSU had one last chance but their inbounds with 0.7 left was intercepted at midcourt, and Tennessee celebrated its hard-fought victory.

Parker’s shoulder clearly wasn’t at 100 percent as she was constantly short on jumpers, including shooting an air ball, but she aggressively went for rebounds with both hands and blocked shots.

She has been rehabbing the shoulder constantly the last few days after dislocating it twice against Texas A&M in the Oklahoma City Regional final. Wearing a white long sleeve shirt underneath her No. 3 jersey for the first time this season, The Associated Press player of the year got off to a slow start offensively missing her first five shots before hitting a turnaround jumper 8 minutes into the first half.

The anticipated matchup between Parker and Fowles—the expected top two picks in the WNBA draft Wednesday—also got off to a slow start as they combined to miss nine of their first 11 shots.

The two guarded each other for parts of the first half. Parker didn’t get going offensively until she had her shot thrown back at her by Fowles when she tried to drive on the 6-foot-6 center. Fowles converted the layup on the other end, but then Parker scored six of the next eight points on an array of moves.

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