Tennessee 65, Marist 46

Sunday, March 25th 2007, 3:09 pm
By: News On 6

Dayton, Ohio (AP) -- Coach Pat Summitt spares no one her stony glare -- even Candace Parker.

It didn't matter that Parker hit her first 8 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 Summitt works, and how she keeps everyone in line.

Parker keyed a 14-0 1st-half that put Tennessee in control, and finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds. But when she didn't fight through a pick that resulted in a Marist layup early in the 2nd half, Summitt called timeout. 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 2nd half. So it was a timeout for Candace."

Shannon Bobbitt and Sidney Spencer each had 11 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.

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 4th-seeded Ohio State 67-63 in the first round and 5th seeded Middle Tennessee 73-59 in the second round, ending the Blue Raiders' 27-game winning streak.

Tennessee was well aware of how many people would like to have seen the Red Foxes pull off another upset.

"We knew that a lot of people wanted us to lose, wanted the Cinderella story to continue," 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 1st half."

The 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."

Tennessee looked crisp and exacting, shooting 58% to 39% for Marist. Marist 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 1st 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 1st half might have been key for us."

"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."

Despite a solid turnout of Red Foxes supporters, the arena was mostly orange. Tennessee travels as well if not better than any team in the country, and Lady Vols fans had no trouble making the 260-mile trip from Knoxville to Dayton.

Marist fans held signs that read "Believe." Parker and Tennessee, however, 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 8 1/2 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 8-10 from the floor. Tennessee did not turn the ball over 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 6 turnovers.

By halftime it was 42-21. Parker took over after the Lady Vols built the big early lead, finishing the half 7-7 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."