10:40 PM - Lady Vols 64-48
2008 National Champions
"Anything less than a National Championship is a failure." - Candace Parker. Woe to the person who follows Pat Summitt, whether that's next year or in another decade. Or two.
But as we wind it down towards the inevitable, I'm also running out of ways to describe the greatness of the Lady Vols. Pat Summitt will get to 1000 wins next year, which has never been done. 8 National Championships in the last 21 years. ESPN is running down some of this stuff right now, and if anybody does it right, it's us - no rebuilding, only reloading. Five seniors leaving, no tears will be shed.
The press is still on up 14 with 2:00 to play, and you've gotta love it. More people hate UConn than the Lady Vols on a national level because I'm convinced they too are afraid of Pat Summitt, and Geno just has a certain worm-like quality about him.
Here comes Vicki Baugh out onto the bench with crutches, which is great to see and we hope her injury isn't too serious as she feels the love from the orange faithful.
Mike Patrick makes this point too - that the quality and depth of women's college basketball is so much greater than it was in the 90s, and even in the early part of this decade...and yet the Lady Vols still win back to back National Championships.
This doesn't get old.
10:29 PM - 58-44 Lady Vols
Vicki Baugh goes down and Nicky Anosike is crying, which isn't something you see everyday.
Candice Wiggins throws up her second airball of the night, and keeps looking at her hands when she does it like the wide receiver that dropped a wide open pass. They don't have the answers. 23 Stanford turnovers now, and even though the Lady Vols haven't fully pulled away, a lead hovering between 8-12 starts looking a lot better when you get under 6:00. Unless you're Memphis, zing! You get the feeling that one more bucket would put this thing away at 56-44 with 5:00 to play...but even clanging another one, the Lady Vols are there with another offensive rebound. We've leaned on Stanford all night long, and now either the Vols or the clock will push them over.
Looks like it's Candace Parker who'll do it with a free throw line j.
Stanford's getting no more rolls off the rim, the Lady Vols are taking their time, and the orange faithful are getting loud. Time to start making more room in the TBA rafters.
More Meat Loaf!
10:16 PM - 52-43 Lady Vols
I'm running out of ways to say it, and hopefully it won't come back and bite them (and I don't think it will), but the Lady Vols have had several opportunities to put this thing out of reach, and whether it's missed layups or turnovers they haven't been able to do it. This game is quickly moving from entertaining to sloppy. The theme of the second half is "clang".
"Pat Summitt was so mad..." - there's a Chuck Norris comparison in there somewhere. Holly Rowe says she's like a mom. I wasn't nearly as afraid of my mom as a child as I am of Pat Summitt right now.
I wonder if Stanford feels like I did watching the men play Louisville in the Sweet 16 - you're only down single digits, but it feels like a mountain in front of you because you're cold and the other team is making it tough. Copy and paste, we're in the same place.
10:05 PM - 50-40 Lady Vols
Calhoun's of Knoxville > Outback Steakhouse
Eh...Stanford misses free throws, Lady Vols turn it over. UConn is kicking themselves, and good for them. Here's another Stanford turnover (#18), but the Lady Vols can't convert. Stanford is actually out-shooting the Lady Vols at this point, 50% to 46%.
Lady Vols get the short end of the stick on a call, but The Masters soothing music makes everything better. But that's okay, my district decides to call a meeting on Sunday afternoon 90 minutes away from my house. You think pastors don't watch golf?
That might be the first three second call I've seen in basketball on any level this year.
Mike Patrick says that Stanford doesn't get many runs, and to my recollection they haven't had any - six points makes a run, much like three wins makes a streak (see Major League). And unless the Lady Vols decide to be extra good to them, there's been no evidence thus far that one is coming anytime soon. The Lady Vols were up five at the first break and eight at the second one, and thereabouts we remain.
9:56 PM - 46-35 Lady Vols
See...score, halftime, score, rebound, foul shots. Just like that, this thing goes from "Tennessee is killing them" to "we've got a ballgame!" in about thirty seconds. But Auguste puts in a big answer, and Shannon Bobbitt should've made it worse, but she was the classic "too open" and misses on the three. You still just feel like Tennessee is playing so much better than Stanford, but they just can't quite pull away.
I'll say this, and it's been true for years - nobody celebrates a drawn charge or a loose ball hustle play like the Lady Vols, floor to bench, who still huddle up with the best of them, and with their own score-steal-score, it's back to 10.
Then Candace Parker gets pissed after not getting a call, and goes right back at it for an and-one. I bet other teams hate to play us. Make up call on the other end...same story for 25 minutes, can the Lady Vols push this lead out towards 15+ and put Stanford away, or will the Cardinal keep hanging around?
9:30 PM - Halftime - 37-29 Lady Vols
To clarify, I meant jump shots for Anosike, who's clearly capable of getting points inside. The Lady Vols have held this 5-10 point lead throughout, which breeds false comfort. You'd love to see them pull further away, because Stanford remains a score-steal-score away from being right there.
But it's really defense that's making that even a possibility. Appel has been the best player on the floor for Stanford thus far, as they keep making just enough plays to stay close. But they're making Stanford pay for doubling down on Parker, mostly via Shannon Bobbitt. It's scary to think what the Lady Vols do if Parker's not wearing long sleeves.
During the break, I also read that Ben Hansbrough is transferring from Mississippi State. I tell you, it's getting to be like football round these parts as soon as the season ends with all these defections.
Tennessee is hitting plenty of free throws and, again, keeping this thing at a healthy distance. As I'm sure you've heard plenty of over the last month, the first five minutes of the second half will be crucial (though it was interesting over on the men's side the way, on Saturday, Kansas kept walloping on UNC thru the first five minutes of the second half, then Carolina made their comeback), but unless they come out of the locker room aflame, you've gotta like everything about this one so far. Except that Stanford shot at the buzzer.
Nicky Anosike is a triple major?! What are they, Mike? Don't leave me hanging!
Maybe Tara Vanderveer will punch Rebecca Lobo for me.
9:09 PM - 21-15 Lady Vols
I think it's a shame that less than 24 hours after Kansas wins its first National Championship in two decades, the lead story is about their coach wanting "security" from the program. Some would view that as a thinly veiled threat to the KU administration to pay up. And not that Bill Self hasn't earned it, clearly. But it's still unfortunate - their one shining moment is already over.
Looks like Summitt and Pearl have been working together on guarding that inbounds pass, down to putting a big on the inbounds (wo)man.
The Bottom Line tells me that Ronald Steele, Marreese Speights, and Anthony Randolph are all leaving the SEC for the NBA, which right away makes me think "Tyler Smith is better than all those guys". Only Randolph hired an agent, so who knows. The men were ranked #10 in Luke Winn's off the cuff Top 10 for 2009, assuming Tyler Smith returns, so even though we lose Lofton and JaJuan, there's plenty still left in the cupboard.
It's a shame that while fewer folks are tuning in for this tonight with UConn back home, you've got an entertaining ballgame thus far with plenty of points and few bad shots. Nicky Anosike reminds me of Torry Harris in Kevin O'Neill's offense. "Shoot under no circumstances."
8:58 PM - 17-9 Lady Vols
Meat Loaf in an AT&T commercial! His name was Robert Paulson, and he needs work.
Look at the size on the floor for Stanford...and a nice catch by ESPN on the shot clock accidentally being reset when a shot didn't hit the rim.
First horrendous call of the night - if that's a jump ball, my name is Robert Paulson. Neither team is taking full advantage of the other's mistakes, but you still have to like where the Lady Vols are right now. Great point about Stanford, down seven, facing their biggest hole of the tournament thus far. I always wonder in situations like this if a team gets down double digits early to the Lady Vols, if there's a part of them that panics even more because it's the Lady Vols.
Nice, nice up and under by Appel. Off a steal there were about three fouls on both sides that some officiating crews would've called, but I like that they're letting them play. I also like 5'2" Bobbitt going to the hole on 6'4" Appel.
8:48 PM - 12-7 Lady Vols
Stanford has a 6'4" presence to matchup well with Anosike. That'll be a huge matchup. Also huge was Hornbuckle hitting a shot early to avoid the doughnut until the final seconds again tonight. Stanford's controlling the pace early, and I wonder if Pat wanted them to run right with them or try and slow it down.
At 7-7, Parker takes a bad shot (which is actually noted, which almost never happens in the women's game), but right now the Lady Vols pretty well without her with two threes from Bobbitt...
...and then they get a steal and did a psuedo-alley-oop to her. The Lady Vols are on pace to score 100 points.
8:32 PM - Tip-Off
Speaking of uniforms, while I do think Stanford's black is solid, it goes against the point about knowing who you're watching when you turn it on. This is why if the Vols - ladies or men, basketball or football - ever go to something in black, it needs to be a "one night only" sort of deal. Because as cool as it would look - and it would, especially black pants with black helmets - there's nothing better than the orange. Four months later, I'm over it and I hope the football team breaks out the orange pants again soon. Because you can't get enough.
We'll have to see if Candace Parker has that Daniel-son thing going again tonight where when she gets hit, she's obviously in pain and you feel it with her.
I have no idea who Sarah Lenore is, but I bet the Stanford people are pissed because she's putting the country twang on the anthem. I especially liked the part about the land of the fray.
Alexis Hornbuckle is 5'11" and plays guard. So does Wiggins. I remember when a 5'11" girl played post, and I'm not that old.
And Holly Rowe isn't wearing her Janet Jackson hat, so I'm disappointed. And I still want to punch Rebecca Lobo in the face. You know women's basketball has gained some equality when I'll use a sentence like "punch her in the face" without thinking twice. Taurasi too.
Here we go...
8:15 PM - Pregame
I love the fact that Tennessee is one of those teams that have their own color that clearly stands out in an arena or a crowd - no one else and no other fans wear our orange, so you know who you're dealing with when you see it.
This is the 13th time we've seen the orange in the National Championship Game, playing for their 8th championship. A stroll down memory lane:
Lady Vols in the National Championship Game
1984 - 1 Southern Cal 72 - 3 Tennessee 61
1987 - 2 Tennessee 67 - 1 Louisiana Tech 44
1989 - 1 Tennessee 76 - 1 Auburn 60
1991 - 1 Tennessee 70 - 1 Virginia 67 (OT)
1995 - 1 UConn 70 - 1 Tennessee 64
1996 - 1 Tennessee 83 - 1 Georgia 65
1997 - 3 Tennessee 68 - 1 Old Dominion 59
1998 - 1 Tennessee 93 - 3 Louisiana Tech 75
2000 - 1 UConn 71 - 1 Tennessee 52
2003 - 1 UConn 73 - 1 Tennessee 68
2004 - 2 UConn 70 - 1 Tennessee 61
2007 - 1 Tennessee 59 - 4 Rutgers 46
You can see, for one, why we'd like to see UConn again...although the Lady Vols have taken them out in some memorable tournament games along the way, the Huskies are 4-0 in their four title game meetings against Tennessee.
But that's for another day, because tonight it's Stanford, who beat the Lady Vols 73-69 in overtime back in December. Perhaps the Lady Vols can get hot and build the second part to another streak of three tonight. Maybe Candace Parker is better than Candice Wiggins. 'Ace vs. 'Ice, as ESPN is showing, is nice. (Holy crap, they just showed Tyler Summitt! That dude is shaving!) But more than individual talent, can the Lady Vols be the best team on the floor tonight? This is the first women's basketball game to ever make the TiVo - hopefully we're 40 minutes away from the University of Tennessee feeling all good about herself once again.