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Defense the key as Tennessee wins second straight title

Apr 9, 2008 - 4:10 AM TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- Using an aggressive press to slow down the NCAA Tournament's hottest team, Tennessee cruised to its second straight national championship.

Candace Parker had 17 points and nine rebounds and Shannon Bobbitt added 13 points as the Lady Vols' defense frustrated Stanford en route to a 64-48 victory on Tuesday.

Nicky Anosike chipped in 12 points and six steals for Tennessee, which forced 25 turnovers and held Stanford, which had averaged 85.0 points during the tournament, to its lowest scoring output of the season.

Still wearing a brace to protect a separated left shoulder, Parker shot 5-of-10 from the field and added four steals to help earn her second straight Most Outstanding Player award.

"Obviously my shoulder is a little sore, but winning the national championship is making it better," Parker said. "My experience here at Tennessee has been great. I feel like it's been the best four years of my life. I wouldn't change anything about it. I love my teammates, and I'm just very, very fortunate to have won two national championships."

It is the eighth career title for Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who had guided Tennessee to three straight championships from 1996-98.

"Obviously this is a very special night for our program and for our basketball team," Summitt said. "Extremely excited for what these seniors left. They put obviously up another championship win, back-to-back, which is certainly no easy task. And I particularly like the way they committed to each other on the defensive end."

Tennessee (36-2), which avenged both of its regular season losses in the Final Four, used an early 8-0 run to take a 15-7 lead with 13:51 left in the first half and never trailed again.

Bobbitt's third 3-pointer of the half gave the Lady Vols a 30-19 advantage before the Cardinal cut the deficit to 37-29 at the break.

Using a trapping, full-court press defense, Tennessee smothered the high-scoring Stanford offense, forcing the Cardinal into 14 first-half turnovers.

"I feel like we went over in practice how aggressive they were going to be and how to break the press," Stanford guard JJ Hones said. "But you can't practice that kind of aggressiveness. They're an extremely talented team and they have a lot of big, long bodies."

Stanford (35-4) scored the first four points of the second half to cut the deficit to four but that would be as close as they could come.

Parker's three-point play capped a 9-2 burst to push the Lady Vols' advantage to 46-35 with just over 16 minutes to play and Tennessee led by at least eight points the rest of the way.

Stanford shot just 29 percent (7-of-24) in the second half and scored only six points over the final 10:38 of the contest.

"I thought that we did a pretty good job of keeping them off-balance by changing, switching up our defenses," Summitt said. "But our man defense was the best thing we had going for us."

The loss also snapped Stanford's 23-game winning streak.

"The game itself was I don't think indicative of the great season we've had," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We did not play well. We did not handle the pressure well. Obviously the turnovers absolutely killed us."

Candice Wiggins, the Wade Trophy winner who had two 40-point contests for Stanford during the Cardinal's run, had just 14 points - four in the second half - on 6-of-16 shooting for the game.

"We were very well prepared for this game," Wiggins said. "I think our coaches did an excellent job in scouting them. Nothing was really new. You just get in the game and you've got to play. You can't second-guess yourselves and they just did a great job on defense."

Jayne Appel had 16 points to lead Stanford, which was in its first national title game since 1992.