Can Tennessee finally end North Carolina's hex?
Posted: Sunday April 1, 2007 12:07PM; Updated: Sunday April 1, 2007 12:07PM
North Carolina (34-3) vs. Tennessee (32-3)
Once again, they stand in each other's way. Last year at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, North Carolina knocked off Tennessee to advance to the Final Four. On Saturday, they'll be back on that same court. But this time, they'll fight for the chance to get to that all-important championship game.
"It's kind of ironic, the fact that we're back her at the Final four," Tennessee center Alex Fuller said. "It means a lot so that we can kind of redeem ourselves from the first time we played here because we played North Carolina on the same court and lost. Our ultimate goal is to win the national championship."
Of course, it won't be the first time the Lady Vols have played the Tar Heels this year. The two teams met at North Carolina in December. Once again, the Tar Heels came out on top. That was a long time ago, though. Both teams have improved since.
Tennessee and North Carolina have two of the best defenses in the country. They also do a good job of putting points on the board. North Carolina leads the nation with 84.6 points a game. The Lady Vols are 13th with 74.5. And both are incredibly motivated to get that title. That has been North Carolina's main focus since losing in the semifinals a year ago. Tennessee has six championship trophies, but that last one came nearly 10 years ago in 1998.
Here are four keys to getting them to that championship game:
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone on either team who won't harp on the importance of hitting the boards in this matchup. That's something North Carolina has done extremely well all season, ranking third in the nation in rebounding margin. They've picked it up even more through the tournament. The Tar Heels out-rebounded their first four postseason opponents by 15 a game. That not only gives them a lot of second chances on offense, but also limits their opponent's chances on the other end.
Tennessee has done a better job of beating opponents to the board in the tournament, but hasn't faced anyone who does it as well as the Tar Heels. It was certainly a problem for the Lady Vols in that December meeting. North Carolina won the rebounding battle by 10.
"North Carolina is very athletic and they pride themselves on rebounding the basketball on the offensive end as well as the defensive end," Tennessee's Candace Parker said. "In December, I don't think we did a great job. We allowed them to have second and third chances, so obviously, we've got to limit that and just box out because we're not going to jump with them."
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