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UT: Ultimate Team

Rebounding, defense and togetherness lifted Vols

Posted: Wednesday April 4, 2007 2:26AM; Updated: Thursday April 5, 2007 10:12AM
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Before the Tennessee Lady Vols took the court for Tuesday's NCAA title game against Rutgers, they heard a poem from assistant coach and frustrated English major Dean Lockwood about the importance of embracing the warrior mentality. When Lockwood had finished his recital, he picked up a baseball bat and smashed to pieces a videotape of Rutgers' semifinal game, in which the Scarlet Knights embarrassed SEC runner-up LSU 59-35.

"That game means nothing now!" Lockwood cried. And as one last symbolic reminder of the task in front of them, the players stood within a chain of white plastic links, a reminder that they are linked together, a unified team.

In the days leading up to Tuesday night, the Lady Vols had been insisting that there was more to their team than the Candace Parker show. Their 59-46 victory over Rutgers proved that point. To win coach Pat Summitt's seventh national title in 20 years, the Lady Vols needed contributions from all precincts: A barrage of four three-pointers from diminutive junior point guard Shannon Bobbitt. Sixteen rebounds, including 10 off the offensive glass, from junor forward Nicky Anosike. Ten points, five rebounds and a critical steal from reserve Alberta Auguste.

Parker, the Wade trophy winner, did her part, dropping 17 points, including 7 of 10 from the free throw line, and pulling down seven rebounds. When double and triple teams prevented her from scoring, she showed off perhaps her most overlooked skill, passing out of the double team, hitting Anosike in the paint for a layup here and Bobbitt in the corner for a three there.

"Candace did a great job of passing out of double teams," said junior guard Alexis Hornbuckle. "Nicky Anosike OWNED the boards. This win was not about Candace Parker. This was about Tennessee basketball. This was about a team."

This team was significantly different than the one that fell to North Carolina in the regional finals in Cleveland last year. "Last year we always tried to take the short way out," says Hornbuckle. "We had a lot of offensive power, and a lot of times we came into games with the wrong intent: Let's outscore this team. How about let's stop this team as well as outscore this team? That's the kind of mindset this team has. You can just feel it when you step on the court. I know my teammates have my back. If I get beat, I know Candace or Nicky is going to be here. We weren't on that same page last year that we are this year."

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