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Ending the drought

Five reasons the Lady Vols will cut down the nets

Posted: Tuesday April 3, 2007 9:24AM; Updated: Tuesday April 3, 2007 11:46AM
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Candace Paker's status as Tennessee's go-to playmaker is just one reason the Lady Vols will cut down the nets.
Candace Paker's status as Tennessee's go-to playmaker is just one reason the Lady Vols will cut down the nets.
Bill Frakes/SI
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Click here for five reasons Rutgers will win

Candace Parker was just 11 years old and a few years away from her first dunk the last time Tennessee won a national title, its sixth, in 1998. This week that nine-year drought has been weighing heavily on the Lady Vols, especially Parker, UT's sophomore star, who doesn't want to be included among Tennessee's greats until she cuts down a net in April. "I want my legacy to be that we hung banners during my career," she says. "All of us came here to win championships. And we haven't done that since 1998."

Coach Pat Summitt hears about that dry spell all the time, but she says, "I feel no pressure to win. The only pressure I feel is that I want my players to win this. They want to win championships as much as any team I've coached in a long time and they've demonstrated it through their commitment to defense and rebounding." That's why, when the Lady Vols were down 48-40 with 7:13 remaining in the semifinals against North Carolina on Sunday night, Summitt stood in the middle of a timeout huddle, fixed her signature ice-blue gaze on every one of her players and said, "We are not going home without a national championship."

Here are five reasons Summitt's prediction will come true:

1. Candace Parker is the go-to player Tennessee hasn't had since Chamique Holdsclaw graduated in 1999.
Teams without a go-to, do-everything star have won championships -- look at Maryland last year and Baylor the year before. But given their druthers the two coaches who have three-peated in titles -- Summitt and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma -- would much rather have a franchise type in the huddle during the tournament. Auriemma said as much last week after his well-balanced team imploded against LSU in Fresno, and Summitt seconded that opinion after her team beat North Carolina in the semifinals in Cleveland. "You gotta have that player," said Summitt after that player, the fluidly graceful 6-foot-4 forward-center-guard Parker, notched six points, three rebounds and a steal in the last 4:38 to help erase a 12-point second-half deficit against the Tar Heels. It wasn't an all-around great game for the Wade Trophy winner (13 rebounds and 14 points on 3-of-12 shooting) but in true Diana Taurasi fashion, she produced when her team needed her to. "Players like Candace make everybody else around them better," says Summitt. "You need a go-to that's going to take a big burden and say, Come on."

Parker has notably turned up her defense in the past three weeks, but it is her 19.4 points and 10.8 rebounds a game in the tournament that will draw a small army of Scarlet Knights. Parker, who has been shooting 64 percent from the floor in the tournament, will find a way to score, even if it's primarily from the free throw line, where she is 159 for 222 this season.


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