Lady Vols advance to Sweet 16

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Tennessee made sure the home crowd had little to cheer about Tuesday as it used withering defense from Alexis Hornbuckle, offense from Candace Parker and both off the bench from Vicki Baugh to defeat Purdue, 78-52, and reach the Sweet 16 for the 27th time in program history.

Tennessee, 32-2, had no repeat of its slow start Sunday and although Purdue, 19-15, had its home court, the Lady Vols dominated on the scoreboard and the stat sheet.

"I'm really proud of our basketball team, and how they came in and committed to playing great defense," Coach Pat Summitt said. "I told them after the game that we had about 30 minutes of the best defense we've played all season.

"I thought Alexis Hornbuckle really set the tone for how we were going to play on the defensive end. She's had back-to-back really strong games and has really made a difference for our defense as well as our offensive play. Going inside to Candace I thought was very, very effective for us, and she played very aggressive and that established our inside game. It helps to have your guard play along with your inside action."

A 40-20 halftime lead swelled to 63-30 in the second half and the Boilermaker fans – orange-clad fans were dotted throughout Mackey Arena – were subdued for most of the evening.

"It was very important for us to take the crowd out early with them having a home-court advantage," Candace Parker said. "We knew that we had to come out here and take care of business. You don't mess around with home teams, and that was the key."

Summitt summoned a memory of last postseason for her players when Tennessee played Pittsburgh on its home floor.

"When you're on the home court you don't mess around," Summitt said. "You have to be more mindful of being able to establish how you want to play because of the home-court advantage. I reminded them when we were in Pittsburgh last year second half they cut it to nine, and we had a real battle on our hands, and the crowd was a factor.

"We've got to be able to make sure that we don't allow them to make the kind of runs that will get us in trouble."

Tennessee made sure that the Boilermakers never made a significant run and once the lead went to double digits, 16-6, at the 12-minute mark, it never fell to single digits. Purdue, which came into the game averaging 17 turnovers a game, had 15 by halftime.

"We didn't really execute the game plan exceptionally well in the first half; second half we did," said Purdue Coach Sharon Versyp, who added the hope was to bottle the inside and force the post players to kick out. "We wanted to force them to shoot the three. They were able to get some offensive boards. We put a body on maybe three of them. We're not used to having five people rebound so that's very different."

Parker led all scorers with 24 points. She also had eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.

Parker sat inside a wire-frame locker after the game with a bag of ice on her right shoulder – she re-injured it lunging for a ball along the sideline early in the first half – and assessed her team's effort.

"We knew if we played around with this team we were playing with fire," Parker said. "We decided as a team to come together and play hard and play defense. We knew that our defensive pressure really was hurting them."

Parker and Jenny Moshak, the head of sports medicine for the Lady Vols, declared the shoulder to be sore but OK. Parker hurt the shoulder in a preseason practice and has dealt with several re-tweaks of the injury that have been treated with rehab all season.

"It's all right," Parker said. "Jenny Moshak. That's all I need."

The Lady Vols needed a much better defensive effort than the one they used to open Sunday's game against Oral Roberts – Tennessee eventually ran away with a 94-55 win – and they got it from Hornbuckle, who tied her career high with seven steals in the first half and set a new career high with a total of eight.

That set a new Tennessee record for an NCAA tourney game – former Lady Vol Nikki McCray had seven thefts against Northwestern in 1993 – and set the tone for Tuesday's game. Hornbuckle is now the ninth player in tournament history to record eight steals in a game. The record is 14 thefts by Old Dominion's Ticha Penicheiro against St. Francis (Pa.) in 1998.

"When she plays like that that helps our team out tremendously," Parker said. "She's really stepped up her game in the postseason. Our team is a postseason team. I didn't realize she had eight steals. That's amazing."

Hornbuckle had planned to be disruptive long before tipoff based on scouting film and the team's walk-through Tuesday before the game.

"In walk-through we were saying they're a team that loves to run their sets and if you let them run their sets they will eat you up," Hornbuckle said. "So we were trying to take them out of their sets and make them do things that they didn't like doing from what we saw on film. I was trying to play in the passing lanes as much as possible."

That's an understatement. Hornbuckle swiped a cross-court pass, she snuck up behind players, she anticipated the passes before they were thrown and twice slipped to the low block to break up what would have been a layup.

"It gets us hyped and it gets us encouraged to play even harder on defense seeing her hustle and the great intensity that she has the whole game," Alberta Auguste said. "It opens up our eyes to play harder."

Tennessee had 15 total steals and scored 25 points off of 24 turnovers by Purdue. They recorded seven blocks – two by Nicky Anosike – and got on the boards, where the Lady Vols had a 41-28 advantage.

Purdue was led by Keisha Mosley, a freshman forward, with 14 points and six rebounds. Kalika France, a senior guard playing in her last game, added 10 points and five boards.

"I guess it still hasn't hit me yet," France said. "I feel like we had a great season. We've overcome a lot from the beginning. We've done a lot. It'll definitely be an experience that I'll never forget, and I'll take with me, and I'll appreciate it greatly."

Purdue shot 37.3 percent from the field and took just two three-pointers, with France hitting one and FahKara Malone missing one. Purdue had three turnovers in the first four minutes to just two points in the first four minutes.

"I feel like a lot of the things we did to ourselves," France said. "I feel like there wasn't really anything they did that really stopped us. If we had come out in the beginning playing hard, like we did toward the end of the first half and for all in the second half, then the game would have been a lot more competitive. But they're a No. 1 seed, and with great teams that's what they do, they rebound."

Tennessee's first six points came off offensive rebounds by Parker, Hornbuckle and Anosike.

Anosike led the Lady Vols with 10 rebounds, including six on the defensive end, a number that Summitt pays close attention to every game. Parker had eight boards with five on defense, and Hornbuckle split her eight rebounds on both ends. Vicki Baugh had five rebounds with four on defense.

"I was pleased with our rebounding," Summitt said. "Defensive boards are the boards that I really keep my eye on. You don't get your name in the paper for defensive rebounding. I praise them all the time for defensive rebounds."

The Lady Vols had plenty of effort on the offensive end as Parker established her presence down low early in the game.

"Dean (Lockwood) always preaches work inside-out, and that's what I did," Parker said. "Because of those easy layups it opened up the outside. We needed to get to the hole, get paint points and then the jump shots will fall."

Hornbuckle hit her first three-point attempt and scored 14 points to join Parker in double figures. Baugh had 12 points off the bench on 6-7 shooting and played well on the defensive end, prompting Parker to call her, pun intended, a "Baugh of energy."

"Vicki came off the bench and did a super job; she was instrumental in us winning the SEC championship against LSU," Summitt said. "She came off the bench and did a terrific job on both ends of the floor. I thought she was very, very active tonight and obviously very efficient offensively. We need that. I think that's something that really helps us as far as our inside presence and obviously she's very active defensively."

The starters felt as if they had something to prove Tuesday after the sluggish opening to the Oral Roberts game.

"We let the team down Sunday," Anosike said. "We didn't come hard. The starters got the team off to a horrible start. That was really an emphasis for us, and we knew that we had to do a better job."

Anosike was the first player on the floor to shoot during warm-ups – she ended up going 3-4 from the field and 3-4 from the line for nine points – and was singled out by Summitt at her post-game press conference.

"I think Nicky Anosike doesn't get enough credit," Summitt said. "She does a lot of what I call dirty work. She's always the one that guards the toughest inside player. She did a good job of keeping herself in the game. I don't think people realize her physicality in the paint until they go against her, but she does have a great presence for us and she's willing to do a lot of the tough part of the defense and the rebounding."

Baugh, like Parker and Anosike, can affect how opponents shoot in the paint.

"I look up to them as seniors," said Baugh, who also had one block and a steal. "I want to be like them when I get to be a senior, if not better. I want to get as good as I can."

That is not said with even a trace of boastfulness but with a sincere desire to be a great player. Baugh has singled out Anosike, Parker and Alex Fuller all season for the way they have helped her on the court. Baugh has the physical gifts – she's 6'4, athletic and quick – and now is working to raise her basketball IQ and become a complete player.

"Vicki Baugh has been great," Parker said. "I'm really happy for her. I'm really proud of her. She's really stepped up in postseason. She has a lot of energy. She's a ball of energy coming off the bench."

"Coming off the bench I'll do whatever I can to help my team," Baugh said. "I just have to stay focused. I am repeating the plays in my head. I don't want to make mistakes, and I just want to do anything that will benefit and help our lead."

Summitt opted to play Baugh over Fuller because of Purdue's speed down the floor and some lingering knee pain for Fuller.

"I went with a little more athleticism, and Alex hasn't been able to practice as much because of her knee," Summitt said. "The difference is the pace up and down. That's a concern for Alex. I hope she can get better. They're rehabbing every day."

Fuller sat in the locker room with an ice bag on that left knee. She replaced Parker late in the second half and hit a three-pointer and grabbed a defensive board.

"I want to do whatever Coach asks me to bring, trying to rebound, bringing offensive pressure, spreading out the defense," Fuller said.

Tennessee shot 47.4 percent from the field despite only shooting 4-17 (23.5 percent) from behind the arc. Hornbuckle was 2-4 behind the arc and Fuller hit her sole attempt, but Shannon Bobbitt and Angie Bjorklund were misfiring from long range. Still, both played well on defense.

"A lot better," Summitt said of Bobbitt's play compared to Sunday. "And I was hard on her. I was probably too tough on her. I thought the ball got stuck in her hands too many times. I know I was on her, and I was. I was on her hard."

Bobbitt knows the point guard is in the crosshairs of the coach on the court.

"She just wanted me to push tempo and get everyone involved and just run the team," Bobbitt said.

Bobbitt led all players with 36 minutes logged. Hornbuckle and Anosike both played 35 minutes. After Baugh fouled out with 7:31 left in the game, Parker had to return and ended up playing 30 minutes.

Summitt surveyed that landscape and decided the players needed a day off from the court Wednesday. They left on a charter flight immediately after the game so that they would be back in time for classes Wednesday.

"I'm proud of our team; I'm excited to be moving onto a Sweet 16," Summitt said. "That was our goal. We'll put this one behind us, and we'll wait and see who our next opponent is and start our preparation and get these ladies back home and get them in class and give them a day off."

The next opponent will be Notre Dame, which defeated Oklahoma, 79-75, in overtime in the second game Tuesday at Mackey Arena. That loss denied the Sooners a chance to play in the regional in Oklahoma City. Duke and Texas A&M will be in Oklahoma City in the other semifinal. One of the four teams will punch a spot in a week to the Final Four in Tampa. The first games are Sunday at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Ford Center.

Summitt was asked about possibly facing Oklahoma in its home state – the second game had just tipped when Summitt held her press conference – and she said Tennessee would be ready to face either team.

"I don't have a preference," Summitt said. "The interesting thing is we've played both. They have different styles of play and different strengths.

"We've got the personalities on our team it doesn't matter if it's a sell-out crowd and it's on the road. I think it inspires them to play in an environment where people really care about women's basketball. We've been in a lot of hostile venues, and we've been in a lot of venues where we've had orange throughout so regardless of what happens I want people to be there."

Tennessee has now reached its 27th Sweet 16, a mark the Lady Vols have never missed in NCAA tourney history.

"Never knew that, and I'm glad we didn't start a terrible trend," Hornbuckle said.

Summitt had mentioned the streak to her staff before the game. Although the 7 p.m. tip time was much better for Tennessee – "We're used to the 7 o'clock games," Auguste said – for the coach it was still a long wait.

"It seemed like today was 48 hours long," Summitt said. "I'm excited for this team. I don't think about numbers for me personally, but my thought today was, ‘We've never not been to the Sweet 16, and I don't want this team to be the first.

"My staff said, ‘Are you going to mention anything to them?' And I said, ‘No. We're not talking about that. We're just talking about our scouting report defense for Purdue.' "

The players didn't know about the streak and expressed both joy and shock.

"Never missed?" Bobbitt said. "That's exciting. That means a lot to us."

"Well, I'm glad we won that game," Bjorklund said. "We would have made history right there."

Summitt and Tennessee did make history by winning their 100th NCAA game, a feat no other program, men's or women's, has accomplished.

"Wow," Bjorklund said.

"It says a lot about our commitment and how much coach emphasizes winning and continuing to stay focused," Parker said. "Throughout the 27 years I'm sure there were some teams that could have looked past the Sweet 16, but we stay focused and that's why we have 100 NCAA Tournament wins."

Summitt said the reason for those wins are on the walls in the locker room in the area that honors past teams and players. That area is away from the meeting and film room where Summitt usually gathers the team. The players have run of the rest of the place.

"I think it really speaks to all of the players that chose to wear the orange," Summitt said. "If you look at the history and go in our locker room, I don't do that very often, but when I do I'm reminded of how many teams managed to take us to Final Fours. It's pretty amazing. It all comes down to who you surround yourself with.

"The people that we've had choose to wear the orange, they've been competitive, they've been tough, they've had their heart at Tennessee. I thank my staff, too, because of all the recruiting they've done."

Fuller, a Shelbyville, Tenn., native is familiar with the tradition of Tennessee.

"It just says how hard the women that come here work to have success and to achieve everything," Fuller said. "Anybody that comes in we know we have to play hard on both ends of the court so that says a lot for the players that come through this program."

Tennessee's effort on both ends Tuesday ensured the Boilermaker fans who well out-numbered Lady Vol fans in Mackey Arena didn't have too much to inspire them. When Purdue scored its first basket and later cut the first-half lead from 27 points, 35-8, to 17 points, 37-20, they showed what a force they could have been with a thunderous roar.

"It was loud, especially the beginning of the game," Bjorklund said. "They got their first couple of baskets, and it just exploded in there. I think our defense did a great job of shutting them down and also shutting their crowd down."

Parker had 12 points and three assists by halftime and had established that Purdue could not handle her on the low block.

"We've gone against great players, Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Duke players, ODU players," Purdue Coach Sharon Versyp said. "She's just a kid that has so much length and she can play a one through a five; that's why she's so difficult to guard. When she faces the basket, that's when she's most dangerous.

"Hopefully, down low, you can double-team her a little bit, but she's very uncanny and extremely smooth. Hats off; she's obviously one of the best players that's played the game."

With Parker in control on the offensive end, Hornbuckle took over on the defensive end with some offensive firepower to boot.

Hornbuckle got a hug from Summitt when she came out of the game.

"The last two games, both ends, Alexis stepped up her game," Summitt said. "She's been efficient offensively. She's been committed to the defensive board play. She's created a lot of turnovers just off getting in passing lanes and her hustle plays."

Hornbuckle had plenty of pasta before the game. It's a pre-game meal that she might want to repeat.

"I had two big plates of spaghetti," Hornbuckle said. "It gave me a lot of energy. We knew that if we came out here and we gave them any type of momentum on their home court it would be bad news for us. It would be harder to fight back. So we wanted to come out here and set the tone."

Tennessee set the tone right before halftime – when Purdue had trimmed the lead to 17 points – with a steal by Bobbitt, who threw the ball ahead to Parker.

Parker dribbled down the left side of the floor and found Auguste, who had run with her, on the right side of the basket. Auguste scored as time expired and Tennessee led 40-20.

"When you run the floor it gives other people an opportunity to get open, and when I'm running the floor it's a great opportunity for people like Candace to see me and I get an easy basket," Auguste said.

Auguste got another two of her nine points by hustling down the floor with Hornbuckle. She stuck a Hornbuckle miss and got a pat on the back from Hornbuckle on the way back up the court.

"When she's hunting shots, whether it's a layup or a nice little pull-up, that's very important because now you're taking the pressure off Candace and you're taking the pressure off Angie or Shannon," Hornbuckle said. "When you have offensive firepower from all five positions that's definitely helpful."

Bjorklund struggled from the field – she was 1-6 – but she had three assists to just one turnover and two rebounds. She also kept boards alive by tipping the ball and tied up a Purdue player for the ball.

Before the postseason started Summitt asked each player to bring a "dish" to the table. So what is Bjorklund's offering?

"My shooting," Bjorklund with a wry look, "which I'm kind of struggling with right now. If my shot doesn't fall the rest of the tournament, like Coach keeps telling me, I'm going to bring effort. I'm going to bring all I can, and I can't be a defensive liability. I've got to get rebounds, and I've got to do the little things. If I'm not hitting I've got to get the ball inside."

Bjorklund found Hornbuckle all alone in the corner for a three-pointer – she was deep under the basket and curled the pass to the wing – and played solid defense.

For the freshmen the postseason has been eye-opening in terms of the intensity and the crush of media in the locker room.

"I'm very excited," Baugh said. "We're just taking it a game at a time moving up a stage."

"I've never been to Oklahoma," Bjorklund said. "No matter where we're playing I'm excited just to be a part of this. This is the biggest stage of basketball I could play on and this is what I was looking forward to.

"This is what it's all about. I love it."

TRIPLE TEASE: Alexis Hornbuckle had the points, 14, and almost the steals, eight, and rebounds, eight, to record the first triple double in Lady Vol history. After getting seven steals in the first half, the record seemed tantalizing close.

"I'm waiting for her to get the first triple double. If anyone is going to do it she is," Angie Bjorklund said.

Hornbuckle joked that if she had reached double digits in steals, she would have missed two layups to get the offensive boards.

WHERE WAS THE GAME?: Pat Summitt and Alexis Hornbuckle were asked about the possibility of playing Oklahoma by the Oklahoma media before the second game tipped off.

Both obliged, and Hornbuckle recalled the previous game with the Sooners in detail, except for the location. She placed the game in Oklahoma.

"Rebound," Hornbuckle said, using the terminology that players use for a mistake. "My fault."

"It's been a long season," Summitt said with a smile.

Tennessee's game against Oklahoma this season was played in Tampa, the site of the Final Four. To get back to Tampa, the Lady Vols must now win the Oklahoma City Regional.

BEST SIGN: Pat – 1 Raccoon 0. Pat Summitt didn't see the sign in the stands but laughed when told about it. Summitt dislocated her shoulder before the SEC tourney knocking a raccoon off her deck that was menacing her yellow lab.

SCOUTING REPORT: Purdue this season played three of the top four seeds in the NCAA tourney – Tennessee, Connecticut and North Carolina – plus Duke, and Sharon Versyp was asked how the teams compared.

She noted they all had athletes who were lengthy and could get up and down the floor.

"The people that really get down and play defense I think that's going to be the separation as they go further in the tournament," Versyp said.

PLACARD PLACEMENT: The cheerleader placards for the teams were propped against a wall for Tuesday's game. In Sunday's game an Oral Roberts player lunged for the ball near the baseline, buckled her left knee and then slid on a cheerleader's placard as her momentum carried her out of bounds. The placard was on the floor in front of the cheerleader.

CHIP OFF THE BLOCK: Even Pat Summitt's son, Tyler Summitt, was interviewed by the media in West Lafayette. An SI reporter chatted with the teenager Tuesday.

"Tyler started getting interviewed at a very young age," Pat Summitt said. "I think he's pretty grounded. He loves the game. He wants to be a coach someday."

Tyler will get quite an early education and seems to want to take advantage of the available knowledge.

"I had Shannon come in today and we watched tape, and I had Alberta come in and both times he came in and listened and watched," Summitt said.

BEST TEAMWORK: That of an ESPN crew that needed pre-game shots of Candace Parker shooting. While one filmed the forward, the other rebounded for her.


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