Third time's a charm for Huskies, Lady Vols
Posted: Saturday April 01, 2000 01:44 AM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Home court was not a factor the first two times Connecticut and Tennessee met this season, so playing on a neutral court should make no difference as the teams battle for the national championship on Sunday.
Tennessee is seeking its seventh title and fourth in six years. Top-ranked Connecticut won its only championship in 1995, defeating the Lady Vols to cap an undefeated season.
A missed layup at the buzzer against Tennessee cost Connecticut a shot at another undefeated season as the Huskies fell to the Lady Vols 72-71 at home on Feb. 2. Connecticut beat Tennessee 74-67 at Knoxville on Jan. 8.
"Knowing their personnel is important," Tennessee's Kristen Clement said. "We've played them twice and we know them pretty well. It comes down to how well we execute."
Tennessee advanced to the title game with a 64-54 victory over Rutgers on Friday. Connecticut beat Penn State 89-67 in the nightcap.
"It's going to be a tight game," said Sue Bird, who led UConn with 19 points against Penn State. "But if we play a complete game, we'll have a good shot."
Those long days of regional competition in the women's tournament -- and midnight starting times -- might be ending soon.
The NCAA and ESPN, which has the television rights to the tournament, are looking at playing the regionals over four days instead of two.
Currently, the eight regional semifinals are played on one day. The first game starts late in the morning and the last one tips off at midnight EST. The four regional championship games are played on Monday, starting in the early evening and finishing with another midnight game.
"We're going to look at that very carefully because neither you nor we are satisfied that midnight starts are the best things for us or the best things for the viewers," Len DeLuca, ESPN's senior vice president for programming, said.
Clement's home cooking
Kristen Clement, a native of nearby Broomall, hit her first three shots and scored eight of Tennessee's first 10 points as the Lady Vols advanced to the national championship with a 64-54 victory over Rutgers on Friday.
Clement made a 3-pointer from the top of the arc and a long-range jumper and a 3-pointer from the wing as the Lady Vols took a 10-5 lead 5:59 into the game.
Clement did not take another shot until midway through the second half. She went to the bench after committing her second foul 6:38 into the game and did not play the rest of the first half. She finished with eight points.
"I was just having fun," Clement said. "Coach told me not to try and force things, to relax and have fun and that's what I did. It felt great. I was more concerned with getting my team involved."
A group of nuns sat among the Penn State fans, cheering every basket by the Lady Lions and cringing each time Connecticut scored. The sisters came from nearby Immaculata College to support Penn State coach Rene Portland, who played on three national championship teams at Immaculata during the 1970s.
Notes: Tennessee's Michelle Snow broke a Final Four record with seven blocked shots. Connecticut's Kara Wolters blocked six against Tennessee in 1996. ... Shawnetta Stewart, a Philadelphia native, led Rutgers with 11 points and eight rebounds. She fouled out with 1:01 left in the game. ... Hillary Howard played in the national championship game last season as the point guard for Duke, which lost to Purdue. Howard was back in the Final Four this year, covering the games as a reporter for an Internet site. ... The crowd of 20,060 was the largest to attend a college basketball game in Pennsylvania. The previous high was 19,372 for a Villanova-Notre Dame men's game in February 1997. . . The NCAA issued 669 credentials for the women's Final Four, most ever in the history of the tournament, officials said. The number exceeds the amount issued for the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals and the 1998 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the First Union Center.