Sheryl Swoopes scored 36 points and propelled her Texas Tech team into next weekend's NCAA Women's Final Four in Atlanta with a 79-54 rout of Colorado on Saturday night at the University of Montana.
Texas Tech won the West Regional tournament championship with a near-flawless performance against a Colorado team that seemed listless after its rousing, 80-67 upset of Stanford on Thursday night.
Before a near-capacity crowd of 7,131, Swoopes was spectacular, as she was when the Red Raiders sent USC home with an 87-67 victory Thursday. She scored 33 points against USC and had 11 rebounds. Saturday, she had 36 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and two assists.
It was the 12th 30-point game of her career. In her last four games, she has scored 36, 33, 30 and 53 points.
She has scored on three-pointers, jump shots, tip-ins, baseline drives and her favorite shot--pulling up from a dribble and leaping into an abrupt jump shot.
So off to Atlanta goes Texas Tech (29-3), winner of its last 17 games. Coach Marsha Sharp's team meets Vanderbilt in the first game Saturday at the Omni, before Iowa plays Ohio State.
Colorado (27-4), Sharp said, "expended a lot of energy" in upsetting Stanford.
The Buffaloes trailed early and never threatened. The 6-foot Swoopes and her 5-10 teammate, Krista Kirkland, gave Texas Tech a 12-0 lead before Colorado scored with 14:56 to play in the half.
Swoopes had 17 points at halftime, including the last six points of the first half. With three minutes to play in the half, Colorado's sophomore point guard, Shelley Sheetz, was knocked on her back while making a three-point shot. She made the free throw and put Colorado's fans in the game for the only time.
That play made it 31-19, but Texas Tech's Noel Johnson hit a three-pointer and Swoopes ended the half with a follow shot, a jump shot and then executed her most acrobatic play of the night.
At the halftime buzzer, she sank a twisting jump shot from the free-throw line with two Colorado players in the air with her.
Said Colorado Coach Ceal Barry: "Sheryl is a tremendous athlete who also happens to be a tremendous basketball player. I said before this tournament she's the player of the year."
Swoopes, 15 of 16 from the free-throw line and 10 of 21 from the field, made 12 free throws in a row midway through the second half. When she missed one, Colorado fans stood and cheered.
Swoopes was the unanimous most valuable player of the tournament. Her teammates, Kirkland and Johnson, also made the all-tournament team, along with Stanford's Val Whiting and Colorado's Sheetz.