Why Tennessee will win
Despite injury, Candace Parker will carry Lady Vols
Posted: Tuesday April 8, 2008 12:18PM; Updated: Tuesday April 8, 2008 1:55PM
Click here to read Kelli Anderson's five reasons why Stanford will win.
Want an out-of-the-spotlight unsung hero for this Lady Vols team? Look no farther than team trainer Jenny Moshak who has earned her paycheck during the last two weeks. Since Candace Parker dislocated her left shoulder during the regional final against Texas A&M, Moshak has worked round the clock to get the Tennessee star ready for the Final Four.
Parker isn't 100 percent, but Moshak has done her job. Now, it's time for the Lady Vols to do theirs on the court.
Here are five reasons why Tennessee will cut down the nets in Tampa on Tuesday night.
1. Candace Parker, of course.
Before becoming the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, Parker is determined to get the Lady Vols back to No. 1. So determined, she's spending most of her time off the court trying to rehab the left shoulder she dislocated, not once, but twice, in the regional final against Texas A&M. The injury has clearly affected Parker, who winced several times after contact with LSU players in Sunday's semifinal win. The Naismith Player of the Year hit just 6-of-27 shots against the Tigers.
Parker has, however, proven that the bum shoulder won't stop her. In addition to leading the Lady Vols -- as she has all season -- with 13 points, Parker came through, banging with the Tigers in the paint for 15 rebounds and three blocks.
"No question, she ain't never been 6-for-27 in her life," LSU coach Van Chancellor said. "She had a gutted performance [Monday]."
2. Been there. Done that. Again and again and again.
No coach in NCAA history has won more games than Pat Summitt, and no team has won more titles than Tennessee. Summitt is just 18 wins away from the 1,000 mark. The Lady Vols, making a record 13th trip to the title game, are one win shy of a second-straight championship and eighth overall. Their roster includes a group of seniors who have missed the Final Four just once, while compiling a 130-15 record.
"I think the fact that they've been to Final Fours and they have a lot of confidence in each other, I think that really helps us," Summitt said.
3. It's not always pretty, but Tennessee find ways to win.
After averaging 77.1 points per game this season, the Lady Vols struggled in the last two, averaging only 50 points. In addition to Parker's injury, they endured several scoring droughts against Texas A&M, including one that lasted nearly eight minutes. They buckled down on defense, though, and held the Aggies scoreless in the final minute. They also took care of business at the line, hitting 5-of-6 free throws in the closing minute to seal the victory.
Tennessee shot just 30 percent against LSU, but the Lady Vols' defense clamped down. They allowed just one three-pointer, holding LSU to 35 percent shooting from the floor. Tennessee's defense is the reason the two teams combined for lowest-scoring game in Final Four history and it's also why the Lady Vols were able to hang in and put themselves in position to win it on an off-shooting night. After missing her first seven shots, it only seemed fitting that senior Alexis Hornbuckle was the one to put back Nicky Anosike's miss for the game-winner in the closing seconds.
4. Shannon Bobbitt.
The 5-foot-2 point guard may be smallest player on the floor, but she hits big shots. Bobbitt, a junior-college transfer in her second season with the Lady Vols, gave Tennessee quite a boost in last year's title game when she hit 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc. Bobbitt's accuracy has continued this season as she's shooting 40 percent from three-point range. That type of precision can keep opponents from crowding the paint and give Parker and Tennessee's post players room to work.
5. Try beating the Lady Vols twice.
Stanford ended its 11-game losing streak against the Lady Vols in December. That 73-69 overtime win may not be such a great thing for the Cardinal, though, because if there's one thing the Lady Vols don't do, it's lose to the same team twice. After all, Tennessee hasn't lost to the same team twice in one season since dropping a pair of games to Connecticut four years ago.