News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Down by 12, UT rallies into NCAA title game
Rutgers puts away LSU to earn berth opposite Lady Vols

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — With Candace Parker making the biggest steal, Tennessee snuck back into the NCAA championship.

Parker wrestled the ball away from North Carolina’s Alex Miller in the final minute and the Lady Vols rallied to beat North Carolina 56-50 in a national semifinal on Sunday night, setting up a NCAA title date with Rutgers.

The Lady Vols (33-3) set a Final Four record with 20 steals and outscored the Tar Heels 20-2 over the final 8:08 to earn their 12th trip to the title game — but only their first since 1998.

It was sweet revenge for Tennessee, which had lost the Cleveland Regional final on the same floor one year ago to the Tar Heels (34-4).

Parker finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Nicky Anosike added 14 points, none bigger than her layup with 2:04 left when Tennessee, down 48-36 with 8:18 to play, finally caught the Tar Heels at 50-all.

North Carolina collapsed down the stretch, just like its men’s team did last week against Georgetown.

In the Tar Heels’ last 15 possessions, they scored just two points, missed all eight field-goal tries and had seven turnovers.

All-American Ivory Latta had 13 points, but missed three 3-pointers in 1:15 as North Carolina was unable to pull it out.

When the final horn sounded, Tennessee’s players poured onto the floor in celebration. Parker, though, walked to mid-court and said, “One more,” reminding her teammates there’s still work to be done.

Rutgers 59, LSU 35: C. Vivian Stringer is just one win away from that elusive championship she’s been chasing for 25 years, with a Rutgers team even she didn’t believe would make a run to the Final Four.

Rutgers’ improbable tournament continued with a dominating victory over LSU in a national semifinal that earned the Scarlet Knights their first trip to the championship game.

“We’re not supposed to be here, but that’s all right,” Stringer said. “This team isn’t looking for accolades. We got none. We just play together as a team.”

The Scarlet Knights have a chance to make history for a school that last earned an NCAA team championship in 1949 — sharing a fencing title with Army. Rutgers will face Tennessee in the championship game Tuesday.

“It’s a dream come true,” Stringer said.

“Work hard, get some rest and see what we can do in this next one.”

Swarming defense and a hot touch behind the arc blew out LSU, which scored the fewest points ever in the Final Four — Louisiana Tech had 44 vs. Tennessee in 1987 title game.

Matee Ajavon scored 16 points and hit four 3-pointers to help Rutgers build an insurmountable first-half lead.

The Scarlet Knights (27-8) hounded 6-foot-6 Sylvia Fowles, who appeared aggravated by the relentless defenders.

She was held to five points, which tied a season low, and seven rebounds.

“Not taking anything from Rutgers’ defense, but I don’t feel that they had to do much,” Fowles said. “I just think I had a sluggish game from the get-go.”

The Lady Tigers (30-8) ended a surprising tournament run behind acting head coach Bob Starkey, who was thrust into the job when coach Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned March 7 amid allegations of improper conduct with one or more former players.

“I did tell the team that if I never coached again that I was thrilled that this was the last team I coached,” Starkey said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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