Tennessee tops Rutgers, claims seventh national titleApr 4, 2007 - 5:07 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) - Tennessee's Candace Parker reminded anyone who would listen that she is not a one-woman team.
In the biggest game of the season, her teammates went out and proved it.
Parker scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures, but it was the 3-point shooting of Shannon Bobbitt and dominant rebounding of Nicky Anosike that carried the Lady Vols to a 59-46 victory over Rutgers in the NCAA Tournament championship game at Quicken Loans Arena.
Tennessee (34-3) captured its tournament-record seventh national title - and first since 1998 - under Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt.
"As sweet as ever," said Summitt, who improved to 7-5 in a national final. "This is not about me winning No. 7. This is about this team winning their first."
And the Lady Vols did win this one as a team. With Wade Trophy winner Parker struggling with her shot (5-of-15 from the floor), Bobbitt helped break the game open by hitting three 3-pointers in a span of 2:43 midway through the second half. She finished with 13 points.
Even when Bobbitt or Parker did miss, Anosike was there to sweep the glass, pulling down 16 rebounds in an immense effort.
"All year it's been pick your poison," said Parker, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "I think if you take one option away we have four others and I was just proud at how everybody came together and made corrections and adjustments and we just took it to them."
Rutgers (27-9), meanwhile, came up short in its bid to become the lowest seed - at No. 4 - and fell to 0-6 all-time against the Lady Vols in the NCAA Tournament.
It was also a disappointment for Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer, who was seeking her first championship in her 36th year of coaching.
"I've been coaching a long time and she's (Summitt) won eight or nine of them so we would have like to have one," Stringer said. "So it hurts a lot. Because as I was saying to the team, you don't get to that point often in life, and I'm a living testimony."
While Rutgers is known for its defense, the Lady Vols swung the early momentum in their favor by denying the Scarlet Knights the 3-point shot that had been so effective in their national semifinal victory over Louisiana State.
Summitt had two defenders swarm the ball as soon as Rutgers got to mid-court, preventing the Scarlet Knights from getting into their offense.
"It was our job to handle the pressure, and we didn't do a good job of that tonight," Rutgers guard Essence Carson said. "Usually throughout the season we did a great job of handling any type of pressure ... but tonight that didn't happen.
"So it was a great game plan by coach Summitt and unfortunately it didn't work in our favor."
Tennessee also set the tone by controlling the boards (23-12) in the opening half, particularly on the defensive end, giving Rutgers hardly any second-chance attempts. Anosike had eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes and collected 10 offensive boards for the game.
"I just think that coach said before the game, offense sells tickets, defense wins games and rebounding wins championships," Anosike said. "And that really stuck with me throughout the whole game. And I just tried to go out there and rebound to the best of my ability."
"Now, notwithstanding Tennessee was big and all those things, but they killed us on the boards," Stringer said.
Bobbitt, the shortest player in the game at 5-2, had the biggest impact during the crucial point of the contest.
With Tennessee leading, 35-28, at the 13-minute mark, Bobbitt triggered an 11-2 run in a span of 2:46 to put the Lady Vols in control.
Bobbitt hit consecutive 3-pointers and made a steal that set up a layup by Alexis Hornbuckle to cap an 8-0 run for a 43-28 lead with 11:17 left.
After center Kia Vaughn - Rutgers' only consistent offensive threat - hit a pair of free throws, Bobbitt responded by connecting again from the arc to balloon the margin to 46-30 with 10:13 to go.
"I just definitely took what the defense gave me," Bobbitt said. "I felt like I had enough room to release the ball. I stand 5-foot-2 so I definitely got to create space."
The Scarlet Knights did make one last charge, using a 7-0 run to pull within 50-42 on a 3-pointer by Matee Ajavon with 2:33 left.
They did not get closer, though, as Parker hit six consecutive free throws to keep Rutgers at bay.
"I think Candace Parker is the best player in the country," Summitt said. "And she makes everyone better. ... You got a Candace Parker, you got a chance to win a national championship. But it's not because she's the only player on our team. It's because she makes everyone else better."
Vaughn finished with 20 points and 10 boards for Rutgers, which finished just 2-of-10 from the arc and committed 18 turnovers.
"Maybe we read the headlines, maybe we realized it was a national championship game," Stringer said. "We looked like we were a deer stuck in the headlights."
AT CLEVELAND OH
NCAA WOMENS BB CHAMPIONSHIP
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
RUTGERS (4) 18 28 46
TENNESSEE (1) 29 30 59 FINAL
Apr 3 10:43 PM
AT CLEVELAND OH
NCAA WOMENS BB (4) RUTGERS 18
(1) TENNESSEE 29 HALFTIME
Apr 3 9:33 PM
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