Panthers Fall to Top-Seeded Tennessee in NCAA Second Round

Pittsburgh loses 68-54 to the Lady Vols.

March 20, 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Unaccustomed to playing an early round NCAA women's game on an opposing home court, Tennessee needed a big game from its best player to preserve the Lady Vols' perfect record in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Candace Parker gave them exactly that, wearing out persistent Pittsburgh at both ends of the court with 30 points, 12 rebounds and a series of rally halting plays that carried the Vols to a 68-54 victory Tuesday night and the NCAA round of 16 for a 26th consecutive season.

Sidney Spencer helped Parker slow down Pitt's muscular Marcedes Walker and scored 11 points, and Nicky Anosike and Shannon Bobbitt added 10 points each as Tennessee remained the only team to reach the final 16 in every season of the tournament's 26-year history.

While this was a team the Vols (30-3) were favored to beat - they were playing their 113th game in tournament history to Pitt's second - the six-time champions rarely have played an early round game under such difficult circumstances. Pitt nearly filled its arena with fans, and the 6-foot-3, 257-pound Walker presented a difficult matchup problem.

To perhaps any player but Parker, the smooth and athletic star who had something to prove after being limited to four points in the Vols' 63-54 loss to LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament on March 3. And she proved it, missing only three of her 16 shots and adding three assists and four blocks.

Parker was everywhere - dropping jumpers from the wings, gliding along the baseline or outworking the Panthers under the basket for putbacks. And every time Pittsburgh (24-9) tried making a run, led by Walker (19 points, 9 rebounds) and Shavonte Zellous (18 points), she halted it.

The last threat came when Pitt, down by as many as 17, cut it to 54-45 with 8:17 remaining after Walker made three of four free throws on consecutive possessions. Parker immediately answered by scoring three consecutive baskets, halting the rally and pushing the lead back to a comfortable 15 at 60-45.
 

 

Pitt, a six-game winner only four seasons ago but surging under coach Agnus Berenato, got back into the game by starting the second half with an 8-0 that made it 40-32. At that point, the Petersen Events Center was nearly as loud as it would have been for a Pitt men's game.

Parker, who Pitt never managed to slow, halted this comeback by making two free throws and hitting a jump hook from the lane to push the Vols' lead back to 12.

Pitt, with far more fans in the stands than watched its 71-61 late-night victory over James Madison on Sunday in which Walker scored 20 points, made one more push as Zellous hit a jumper and Walker her three free throws to get it to 54-45. The Vols certainly aren't accustomed to such slim leads in first- or second-round games - they are 40-0 in such games in NCAA tournament history.

Tennessee enjoyed a fast start - something coach Pat Summitt wanted to neutralize any Pitt home-court advantage - by seizing leads of 7-2, 19-7 and 28-14. Later in the first half, the Vols put together a quick 6-0 run that made it 38-21, with Anosike scoring from the baseline, Parker converting a layup off Alexis Hornbuckle's feed and Parker hitting a jumper from the right wing.

Summitt now has a 94-19 record in NCAA tournament games.

Shavonte Zellous goes up for a shot behind Tennessee's Alex Fuller in the first half. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)