Tennessee women shut down Stanford to win NCAA title

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- Offense attracts attention, defense wins championships.

The Tennessee women's basketball team demonstrated that Tuesday night in the NCAA championship game against Stanford, holding the high-scoring Cardinal to a season-low point total while forcing it into a season-high 25 turnovers in the 64-48 victory at St. Pete Times Forum.

The Lady Vols won their second consecutive title and eighth overall, ending Stanford's 23-game winning streak with an all-around team effort. Stanford had scored less than 40 points in a half just once during the tournament, but failed to hit that mark twice against Tennessee.

"A lot of people underestimate our defense," said Tennessee standout Candace Parker, who is expected to be one of the top two picks in today's WNBA draft. "When you get on the court, it's a little different than what you see on TV. We knew our full-court press would really bother them and take time off the clock, so they had to rush into their half-court sets."

Parker played with an injured left shoulder, but still managed a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds in her final game for top-seeded Tennessee.

She was supported by senior center Nicky Anosike, who had 12 points, eight rebounds and six steals, and senior guard Shannon Bobbitt, who scored her 13 points in the first half, when the Lady Vols built a lead they never relinquished.

"My mind-set was I wasn't going home without a championship," Anosike said. "If we lost, I was going to live here, because I wasn't going home."

Stanford's best shot to get back into the game came in the opening minute of the second half, when freshman forward Kayla Pedersen banked in a shot and then made two free throws to cut the deficit to four.

But the Lady Vols (36-2) answered with a 9-2 run, highlighted by a backcourt steal and layup by Parker, followed by her three-point play that pushed Tennessee's lead back to 11 with 16:09 remaining.

After a physical first half, the referees called the game tighter in the second. Anosike picked up her third foul with 16:46 remaining, but freshman Vicki Baugh stepped in and made a set shot from the top of the key and made a putback on an offensive rebound to help the Lady Vols maintain their double-digit lead through the first 12 minutes.

Baugh later scored on a layup with 7:14 remaining to extend the lead back to 11, but injured her left knee on the play and had to be helped off the floor.

Second-seeded Stanford (35-4) came into the game with a 30-0 record this season when leading at the half, but entered the locker room trailing, 37-29.

Candice Wiggins, who became the first woman to score more than 40 points twice in the same NCAA tournament, struggled in her final game for Stanford, missing 10 of 16 shots and scoring 14 points, 13 below her tournament average. She also had six turnovers and failed to get to the free-throw line.

"They were jumping, they were in passing lanes, you have to credit their defense," Wiggins said.

"When people are pressuring you, you have to be able to get by them. . . . we didn't start pressuring them until late in the game."


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