Lady Vols have momentum

Duke carries a 15-game winning streak into Sunday night's Final Four semifinal matchup with Tennessee, but the Lady Vols have a bit of momentum, too.

Since losing 78-62 to LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament, Tennessee has mauled four consecutive NCAA Tournament opponents -- Alabama State (95-43), Virginia (81-51), Penn State (86-58) and Villanova (73-49).

The latest victory saw the Lady Vols rally from a meager 32-29 halftime lead to outscore Villanova 41-20 in the second half. Thus, UT is on a roll heading into the Final Four.

''Down the stretch, since we lost the SEC game to LSU, we've really committed more to defense,'' said senior Gwen Jackson, who was voted MVP of the Mideast Regionals after scoring 44 points and grabbing 22 rebounds in the two games. ''Any time you're playing good and you have 11 people committed to each other, you definitely have some momentum.''

Fellow senior Kara Lawson, who made the All-Tournament team after posting 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists in the title game, offered similar thoughts.

''We have a confident group of 11 players that really believe that every time we step on the floor, we can win the game,'' she said. ''We believe in each other. When you get to the Final Four level, that's what you have to have -- belief in your system and belief in each other.''

Tennessee made it to the Final Four twice previously during the Jackson/Lawson era but came up empty. UT lost to UConn 71-52 in the 2000 title game and bowed 79-56 to UConn in last year's semifinal round.

Will this year be any different? Lawson thinks so, citing Final Four experience as a key.

''We have nine players that went to the Final Four last year,'' she said. ''For seven of those nine, it was their first time. All summer we wanted to get back to the Final Four and, hopefully, go a couple of steps farther.''

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