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Lady Vols stop Red Foxes' run

RUSTY MILLER • Mar 26, 2007 at 1:15 AM

DAYTON, Ohio - Coach Pat Summitt spares no one her stony glare - even Candace Parker.

It didn't matter that Parker hit her first eight shots, or that top-seeded Tennessee was in command and about to end Marist's inspiring tournament run with a 65-46 victory Sunday in the Dayton Regional semifinals.

This is how the winningest Division I college basketball coach works, and how she keeps everyone in line.

Parker keyed a 14-0 first-half run that put Tennessee in control, and finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. But when she didn't fight through a pick that resulted in a Marist layup early in the second half, Summitt called time out. The coach stared at Parker all the way to the bench, a stern lecture to follow.

"Since it was aimed at me, I'll answer the question," Parker said with a grin when Summitt's displeasure was mentioned. "Coach very calmly told me that I needed to play better defense. I didn't come out with the same intensity in the second half. So it was a timeout for Candace."

And tournament time was up for the Red Foxes.

Marist, a 4,000-student school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was just the third No. 13 seed to make it to the round of 16 in NCAA history.

"We went up against a tremendous basketball team today," coach Brian Giorgis said. "It's tough to lose, but to lose to that team is really not that tough."

Shannon Bobbitt and Sidney Spencer each had 11 points for Tennessee (31-3), which improved its record to 22-4 in regional semifinals. The Lady Vols, a part of all 26 NCAA tournaments, ran their record to 95-19 in the tournament. Tennessee will face fellow Southeastern Conference school Mississippi in the next round with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

"We knew that a lot of people wanted us to lose, wanted the Cinderella story to continue," the Lady Vols' Alexis Hornbuckle said. "So we just relied on each other and said we want this story to end now. We just came out with great intensity in the first half."

Meg Dahlman had 16 points and Rachele Fitz 13 for Marist (29-6), which had never won an NCAA tournament game until last weekend. The Red Foxes stunned fourth-seeded Ohio State 67-63 in the first round and fifth-seeded Middle Tennessee 73-59 in the second, ending the Blue Raiders' 27-game winning streak.

Tennessee looked crisp and exacting, shooting 58 percent to 39 percent for Marist, which came in as the national leader with just 11.5 turnovers a game. But the Lady Vols had seven steals and forced 10 turnovers in the first half, and the Red Foxes ended up with 15 turnovers thanks to Tennessee's trapping half-court pressure.

"Our perimeter defensive pressure was very effective," Summitt said. "Bringing the pressure in the first half might have been key for us."

Despite a solid turnout of Red Foxes supporters, the arena was mostly orange. The Marist fans held signs that read "Believe," however, Parker and Tennessee were unbelievable. A slow start was about the last thing the Red Foxes needed. Trailing 8-5 after Dahlman scored off an assist from Nikki Flores, they didn't score again for 8½ minutes.

"They took us out of what we like to do," Giorgis said. "We don't have the biggest or strongest team in the world, but we have a lot of heart and we don't quit."

Tennessee's harassing defense was its old methodical self. On offense, the Lady Vols would hit a 3 or pound the ball inside to Parker, who hit 8-of-10 from the floor. Tennessee did not turn over the ball during its 14-0 run. Spencer hit a jumper and then a 3-pointer before Hornbuckle stepped in a passing lane and completed a breakaway layup. Bobbitt then threaded a pass to Parker to make it 17-5. After Bobbitt's free throw, Nicky Anosike and Hornbuckle each scored inside to make it 22-5. The Red Foxes didn't break through until Lynzee Johnson's 3-pointer, ending a string of eight consecutive misses from the field with six turnovers. By halftime it was 42-21. Parker took over after the Lady Vols built the big early lead, finishing the half 7-for-7 from the field for 14 points in 14 minutes.

"Survive and advance, that's what you want," Summit said. Giorgis said his team had fun while it lasted.

"For Tennessee, it's an expectation," Giorgis said. "But for us, it's the greatest moment in our athletic lives. I think we represented the mid-majors very well."

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