Tennessee jumps past Virginia

Lady Vols dominate boards in 77-56 win

Texas Tech edges Notre Dame, 69-65

Mideast at Memphis, Tenn.

Ncaa Women's Tournament

March 26, 2000|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- By now, the invocation of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt for her team to rebound must be the thing her Lady Vols players hear just before REM sleep sets in at night.

But Summitt's chants haven't become so rote as to be ignored, as the No. 2 Lady Vols pounded the glass early and often in yesterday's 77-56 Mideast Regional semifinal win over 19th-ranked Virginia.

Tennessee will meet No. 11 Texas Tech in tomorrow's regional final. The Lady Raiders (28-4), the third-seeded team in the Mideast, overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to knock off fifth-ranked Notre Dame, 69-65, in the other regional semifinal at the Pyramid.

Tennessee (31-3) scored a decisive 11-rebound margin over the Cavaliers, but that stat tells only part of the story of the Lady Vols' board dominance.

At one point late in the first half, Tennessee had more offensive rebounds than Virginia had overall rebounds, and the Lady Vols used their rebounding strength to get second and third shots practically at will.

"That's the stat I'm the proudest of," Summitt said. "We've improved in that area, and I hope it will carry over to [tomorrow] night."

The Lady Vols, who have beaten Virginia in 10 of 11 all-time meetings, blasted out of the gate on a 15-2 run and harassed Virginia into seven turnovers in the first four minutes.

"We were dribbling it off our feet, throwing it to no one and doing things we don't normally do," Virginia guard Renee Robinson said.

Said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan: "We had [seven] turnovers before the first television timeout and that put us back on our heels, and some things happened that we couldn't control."

One of those things happened to be Tennessee forward Tamika Catchings, this year's Naismith and U.S. Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-1 junior from Duncanville, Texas, had 15 first-half points on the way to a 28-point, five-rebound performance that placed her versatility on full display.

Catchings alternately drove through or around Virginia defenders or took them out on the wing, where she hit intermediate and three-point jumpers.

"She's deserving of Player of the Year honors," Ryan said.

"It's obvious that she's a level above everyone else. Whenever they needed a shot, she was the player."

Catchings restored order midway through the second half after the Cavaliers (25-9), the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference champions, cut the Tennessee advantage to three. She hit a tough jumper inside with 11: 40 to go, then made a three-pointer with one second left on the shot clock that took the Lady Vols' lead back to 12 with 6: 50.

"That's what makes Tamika Catchings such a potent offensive weapon," Summitt said. "It's inside, it's outside, it's off the dribble, and, of course, she's tenacious on the board."

Virginia got no closer after that, and went nearly eight minutes in the half without a field goal.

Tomorrow night's game will give the Lady Vols an opportunity to try to forget last year's 69-63 loss to Duke in the East Regional final, which cost them a chance to win a fourth straight title.

"We've been working hard for the last year to get over that game," Catchings said. "We learned a lot from that and we just hope to be able to come out and put all these things we've learned to good use."

Said Summitt: "Can this team win a championship? Maybe, but we just have to grind it out. We have to make runs and answer runs."

Texas Tech 69, Notre Dame 65: In the second semifinal, the Fighting Irish and Lady Raiders swapped 17-0 runs at the start of the game before settling into a more normal scoring pattern.

After those first 16 minutes, Texas Tech never trailed by more than eight. Tech took the lead for good with 7: 45 remaining when junior guard Katrisa O'Neal hit the first of two free throws, then senior forward Aleah Johnson hit a turnaround baseline jumper and a layup in a 50-second span -- for four of her team-high 18 points -- to give the Lady Raiders a five-point lead.

"We were trying to stay motivated," Johnson said. "As long as we kept saying, `It's all right, it's all right,' it was OK, because we were getting shots; they just weren't falling."

Notre Dame (27-5) would get to within one twice but fell back when All-America center Ruth Riley fouled out with 1: 42 left. The 6-foot-5 Riley finished with a game-high 19 points.

"We had to [get Riley in foul trouble]," Tech coach Marsha Sharp said. "There wasn't any way that we could beat them with her on the floor. We had to attack her and hope that we could get her in foul trouble. Thankfully, it worked."

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