MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Top-seeded Tennessee put the clamps on No. 3 seed Texas Tech in the second half and clinched its NCAA record 12th Final Four berth with a 57-44 triumph in the Mideast Region final.
The Lady Vols (32-3) won their 19th straight game and advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in six seasons. They will face either Southeastern Conference rival Georgia or Rutgers in the national semifinals Friday in Philadelphia.
It also is the 12th Final Four for Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who tied the record for the most in either men's or women's basketball. John Wooden guided UCLA to 12 Final Fours and 10 national championships before retiring in 1975.
The Lady Vols, who fell to Duke in last season's East Region final, lead Louisiana Tech by one for the most Final Four appearances. The Lady Techsters lost earlier tonight to Penn State in the Midwest Region final.
Tennessee closed the contest with a 13-2 spurt thanks to four points apiece from Semeka Randall and Michelle Snow and three from Tamika Catchings, who returned from a sprained ankle.
Catchings made two free throws and Randall hit a turnaround jumper with 4:42 left to put the Lady Vols ahead, 48-42. Snow added a layup and Randall nailed two free throws with 3:55 left for a 10-point cushion.
Texas Tech freshman Plenette Pierson made a layup to cut it to 52-44, but that was as close as the Lady Raiders would get. They shot just 35 percent (9-of-26) in the second half.
Tennessee was even worse, shooting just 31 percent (10-of-32) over the final 20 minutes. But the Lady Vols nailed 12-of-16 free throws after halftime as it improved to 4-0 all-time against Texas Tech.
"It was ugly, but it was also beautiful," Summitt said. "We struggled on the offensive end and a lot of times when that happens, you see players really relax and worry instead of compete and play with an attitude." Freshman Kara Lawson scored 13 points and Snow and Randall added 12 apiece for the Lady Vols, who will be gunning for their seventh national title this weekend. Catchings grabbed 16 rebounds to help Tennessee gain a 47-31 advantage.
"I made a lot of turnovers to counteract with that I just made sure I went down and rebounded and played great defense so that I wouldn't be sitting on the bench with Pat," Catchings said.
Texas Tech, which suffered its second setback in 12 contests, lost in its bid to return to the Final Four for the first time since winning the 1993 national championship. The Lady Raiders (28-5) were appearing in the regional finals for the first time since 1995.
"(Tennessee) came out in the second half and made a lot of plays to give themselves a chance to win," Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said. "They have a lot of different weapons, a lot of different ways to hurt you and we just didn't make enough plays in the second half to give us a chance to stay in it." Aleah Johnson scored 12 points and Pierson added 10 for Texas Tech, which shot 37 percent (28-of-54) overall.
Tennessee was dealt a huge blow when Catchings suffered a severely sprained right ankle midway through the first half. She came down on teh foot of Texas Tech's Amber Tarr and was helped off the court with the Lady Vols ahead, 12-10.
Catchings returned seven minutes later but the Lady Raiders did not take advantage of her absence, leading only 23-21. Pierson scored 10 points and Lawson paced Tennessee with seven as the game was tied 25-25 at halftime.