Tennessee earns berth in Final Four

Mark Pawlak

Round three and a familiar spot in the Final Four goes to Tennessee.

The second-seeded Lady Vols downed top-seeded Vanderbilt 68-63 Monday in the Midwest Regional Final at Hilton Coliseum in front of a crowd of 8,206.

By claiming the third meeting of the season between these Southeastern Conference rivals, Tennessee (29-4) advances to play Connecticut (37-0) Friday in the national semifinals in San Antonio.

A trip to the Final Four is a journey that the Lady Vols have taken before. This is the 13th time Tennessee has qualified for the Final Four since the tournament started in 1982.

“It’s really exciting, especially coming in my first year,” said Lady Vol freshman Brittany Jackson about reaching the Final Four. “I really had a good feeling about this team. I knew if we worked hard we could do it.”

But it was not easy, the Lady Vols had to withstand a late charge by the Commodores (30-7) and a stellar performance by Chantelle Anderson.

Vanderbilt trailed by as many as 15 in the second half, but was able to cut away at the lead to get within 57-55 with 5:29 left.

Then, Michelle Snow took over hitting two shots in the lane to push the lead to 61-55.

The Commodores got to within three points with 1:20 left at 63-60, and Snow answered again with a bucket to put Tennessee up 65-60.

“I think Snow made some big shots. We were behind her. We shouldn’t have been behind her, we should have been in front her,” Vanderbilt head coach Jim Foster said. “She has a nice touch and she had a rhythm.”

Anderson led Vanderbilt with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds to earn Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Region.

The Lady Vols took a 34-25 lead into halftime.

Tennessee took the lead for good after a Tasha Butts basket gave them an 8-6 advantage. The Lady Vols lead increased from there reaching as high as a 13-point advantage at 34-21. Gwen Jackson led Tennessee with 10 first-half points.

An aggressive Lady Vol defense made four steals and forced Vanderbilt into 10 first-half turnovers, allowing Tennessee to hold a 13-0 advantage in points off turnovers.

“Tonight we won the Tennessee old-fashioned way with great defense the entire game,” Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said.

Gwen Jackson led the Lady Vols with 18 points and the freshman Jackson added 10, all coming in the second half.

“I’m extremely excited for our basketball team. I told them they have been a special group to coach. They have been a lot of fun,” Summitt said. “We have a lot of youth and our upperclassmen brought them along, which allowed us to come together.”

Earlier in the season, the teams split a pair of games with each winning on its home court. Vanderbilt won 76-59, Feb. 2 in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee was victorious Feb. 16 in Knoxville, Tenn., 75-68.




G.Jackson 8-15 2-2 18, B.Jackson 3-10 2-2 10, Ely 3-5 0-0 6, McDivitt 1-5 0-0 3, Lawson 1-8 3-4 5, Snow 4-4 0-0 8, Butts 1-2 0-0 2, Munox 1-3 0-0 2, Moore 2-4 3-3 8, Robinson 1-3 0-0 2, McDaniel 1-3 2-2 4, Pillow 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 12-13 68.


Klimesova 8-13 1-3 18, Benningfield 1-4 0-0 2, Anderson 12-19 11-12 35, McElhiney 1-3 0-0 2, Danker 0-2 0-0 0, Ramsey 2-4 0-3 6, Earley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-45 12-18 63.

Halftime-Tennessee 34-25. 3-Point goals-Tennessee 4-11 (B.Jackson 2-7, McDivitt 1-3, Moore 1-1), Vanderbilt 3-10 (Ramsey 2-3, Klimesova 1-3, McElhiney 0-1, Danker 0-1, Benningfield 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Tennessee 34 (G.Jackson 12), Vanderbilt 26 (Anderson 12). Assists-Tennessee 12 (McDivitt, Lawson 3), Vanderbilt 17 (Benningfield 6). Total fouls-Tennessee 20, Vanderbilt 12. A-8,206.