Tennessee repels ODU, keeps title 68-59 victory gives Lady Vols a record fifth women's crown

Holdsclaw scores 24

16-7 closing run puts Lady Monarchs away

March 31, 1997|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

CINCINNATI -- The talk in women's basketball circles in January was that Tennessee, with a 10-6 record, had lost the magic that had brought last year's national championship.

The Lady Vols, playing a murderous schedule, appeared to be on the verge of playing their way into a low seed in the NCAA tournament, or at worst, not even getting in, as coach Pat Summitt feared.

But two months later, Tennessee claimed what seems to be the team's birthright, another national championship, with a 68-59 win over No. 2 Old Dominion.

And as she has all season, sophomore Chamique Holdsclaw carried the Lady Vols (29-10) to a record fifth title, the most in women's history, with 24 points, including 10 in the final burst.

"I felt I let their pressure get to me early," said Holds- claw, who wore one of the nets around her neck. "My teammates and coaches stayed on me: 'Chamique, just take your time.' I can't hide on this team."

Tennessee, the nation's 10th-ranked team, gave back a 12-point lead, but regained its composure with a 16-7 closing run that put away the Lady Monarchs (34-2).

For the second time in less than a week, Tennessee, which beat previously unbeaten Connecticut in last Monday's Midwest Regional final, had not only avenged a regular-season loss, but snapped an opponent's 33-game winning streak in the process.

Much the way they had in Friday's overtime win over Stanford in the semifinal, the Lady Monarchs charged out of the dressing room behind their All-Americans, Ticha Penicheiro and Clarisse Machanguana, two-thirds of their vaunted Portuguese connection.

After Holdsclaw hit a short jumper in the lane, Penicheiro and Machanguana combined for 14 points in a 27-13 run. When Aubrey Eblin hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 9: 06 to go and was fouled. Her free throw gave Old Dominion a 44-43 lead, and the Lady Vols looked to be in trouble.

Amber Eller hit another three-pointer two minutes later to give the Lady Monarchs a 49-47 lead, but Tennessee began to exploit the absence of Mery Andrade, the Lady Monarchs' best perimeter defender who had locked up Holdsclaw for a long stretch of the game, but fouled out with 8: 01 to go.

Holdsclaw, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Astoria, Queens, hit eight straight points in a 1: 30 span to put the contest away and give Tennessee its fifth title in 10 years.

The Lady Vols looked substantially different last night than they did in January, when they lost, 83-72, to Old Dominion in Norfolk.

For one thing, Kellie Jolly, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in October, dressed out for the first time that night and returned to the lineup one game later, to take over ball-handling duties from Holdsclaw. The Lady Vols were 10-6 after the ODU loss, and 18-4 after Jolly's return.

Jolly calmly ran the offense in the first half with six assists and only four turnovers. The game opened at a furious pace, with both teams pressing to force the tempo. The Lady Monarchs in general, and Penicheiro in particular, looked tight, as Old Dominion turned the ball over on its first five possessions with the All-America point guard responsible for four.

Holdsclaw, meanwhile, was sensational early on, with a layup off a Jolly steal, a turnaround banker and a pull-up 15-foot jumper to give Tennessee an 8-4 lead.

After Old Dominion center Nyree Roberts got two baskets along the baseline to pull the Lady Monarchs to within two, the Lady Vols went on a 17-3 run, as freshman Niya Butts scored on three layups and Jolly hit a three-pointer with 5: 07 left, giving Tennessee a 27-11 advantage.

The Lady Vols played great team defense, particularly on Penicheiro as first Kyra Elzy and then Butts harassed her into six of Old Dominion's 16 first-half turnovers.

"In the first half, we were a little intimidated by the kind of pressure Tennessee put on us," Penicheiro said. "We turned it over way too much. That had a lot to do with the result."

TENNESSEE -- Johnson 4-4 0-0 8, Holdsclaw 11-20 2-3 24, Thompson 4-4 0-3 8, Elzy 1-3 0-1 2, Jolly 1-5 2-2 5, Butts 4-7 0-0 8, Milligan 0-0 0-0 0, Green 0-1 1-2 1, Laxton 0-0 0-0 0, Stephens 0-0 0-0 0, Conklin 4-5 2-2 12. Totals 29-49 7-13 68.

OLD DOMINION -- Andrade 2-7 0-0 4, Machanguana 7-13 2-2 16, Roberts 6-8 1-2 13, Himes 0-1 0-0 0, Penicheiro 4-13 2-2 10, Eller 2-4 0-0 5, Eblin 3-11 2-4 11, Small 0-0 0-0 0, Diaz 0-5 0-0 0, Bradley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-62 7-10 59.

Halftime--Tennessee 34, Old Dominion 22. 3-point goals--Tennessee 3-5, (Conklin 2-2, Jolly 1-3), Old Dominion 4-18, (Eblin 3-10, Eller 1-2, Penicheiro 0-1, Diaz 0-2, Andrade 0-3). Fouled out--Andrade, Machanguana. Rebounds--Tennessee 29 (Holdsclaw 7), Old Dominion 32 (Machanguana 10). Assists--Tennessee 18 (Jolly 11), Old Dominion 15 (Penicheiro 8). Total fouls--Tennessee 13, Old Dominion 16. A--16,714.

Pub Date: 3/31/97

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