Tennessee 76, Drake 37

Sunday, March 18th 2007, 8:25 pm
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The final score made it appear Tennessee had it easy. For a half, the Lady Vols found Drake to be anything but a pushover.

Tennessee limited the Bulldogs to two points in the opening 10 minutes of each half and Alexis Hornbuckle led a late surge in the first half that broke open a tight game, carrying the Lady Vols to a 76-37 victory Sunday night in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament.

The Vols (29-3), the top seed in the Dayton Regional, didn't expect much trouble with the 16th-seeded Bulldogs (14-19) but got exactly that for most of the first half _ leading only 13-9 nearly 12 minutes into the game and 21-14 with 2:21 remaining before halftime.

Tennessee then went on a remarkable 34-0 run that lasted nearly 13 minutes and didn't end until midway through the second half, time enough for the Vols to push their lead to 57-14 before Drake's Monique Jones made two free throws with 10:36 remaining.

Hornbuckle scored 14 points, Parker added 13 points and six rebounds, Shannon Bobbitt scored 11 and Dominique Redding finished with 10. No Drake player reached double figures as the Bulldogs shot 21.4 percent (12-of-56), with their starters a combined 9-of-49.

Vols coach Pat Summitt probably couldn't choose between being pleased with her team's shutdown defense or being exasperated with the long delay it took to generate any offense. Tennessee, No. 3 in the final Associated Press regular-season poll, hadn't played since a 63-54 loss to LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament on March 3.

Earlier Sunday, North Carolina _ the top seed in its region _ needed fewer than 5 minutes to seize a 24-4 lead over another No. 16 seed, Prairie View A&M, in winning 95-38 in Pittsburgh. But Tennessee didn't reach double figures until well past the midway point of the first half and was visibly struggling against the smaller and less athletic Bulldogs until Hornbuckle and star Candace Parker took over late in the first half.

Parker scored on a spin-move layup with her left hand to make it 23-14, and Hornbuckle finished off the half with a fast-break layup, a shot off the glass and a 3-pointer as the Vols took a 30-14 halftime lead.

With Drake's shooting percentage hovering in the 14 percent range until late in the game, the Vols scored the first 25 points of the second half against a tiring opponent that was 10-18 until winning four games in four days on its home court to take the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Parker scored the first two baskets of the half before Bobbitt, 0-of-4 in the first half, got going with a pair of 3-pointers, a driving layup and a basket following a steal.

Tennessee, a six-time national champion looking for its first title since 1998, is the top seed in its region for the 18th time. The Vols play the winner of the Pitt-James Madison game on Tuesday night _ setting up the possibility they may have to play a much lower-seeded Pitt team on its home court.