Parker, UT Size Up Cinderella Marist
The Lady Vols run their record to 95-19 in the tournament
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Marist fans held signs that read "Believe." Candace Parker and top-seeded Tennessee were simply unbelievable.
Parker hit her first eight shots and the Lady Vols used a 14-0 first-half run to take control, ending Marist's great tournament run with a 65-46 victory Sunday in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinals.
Parker roamed the lane, frequently leaping over the smaller Red Foxes, for 16 points. Shannon Bobbitt and Sidney Spencer each had 11 for Tennessee (31-3), which improved its record to 22-4 in regional semifinals. The Lady Vols, a part of all 26 NCAA tournaments, ran their record to 95-19 in the tournament.
Meg Dahlman had 16 points and Rachele Fitz 13 for Marist (29-6), which had never won an NCAA tournament game until last weekend. The Red Foxes stunned fourth-seeded Ohio State 67-63 in the first round and fifth-seeded Middle Tennessee 73-59 in the second round, ending the Blue Raiders' 27-game winning streak.
The 4,000-student school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was just the third No. 13 seed to make it to the round of 16 in NCAA history.
Tennessee looked crisp and exacting while tuning up for a regional championship against Mississippi or Oklahoma on Tuesday night.
Parker finished 8-of-10 from the field with nine rebounds. The Lady Vols shot 58 percent while holding Marist to just 39 percent.
Marist came in as the national leader with just 11.5 turnovers a game. But the Lady Vols had seven steals and forced 10 turnovers in the first half, and the Red Foxes ended up with 15 turnovers thanks to Tennessee's trapping half-court pressure.
Despite a solid turnout of Red Foxes supporters, the arena was still mostly orange. Tennessee travels as well if not better than any team in the country, and Lady Vols fans had no trouble making the 260-mile trip from Knoxville to Dayton.
A slow start was about the last thing the Red Foxes needed against such a high-powered team. Trailing 8-5 after Dahlman scored inside off an assist from Flores, they didn't score again for 8 1/2 minutes.
In the meantime, Tennessee's harassing defense was its old methodical self at the other end. On offense, the Lady Vols would hit a 3 or pound the ball inside to Parker. Tennessee did not turn the ball over during its 14-0 run.
Spencer hit a jumper and then a 3-pointer before Hornbuckle stepped in a passing lane and completed a breakaway layup. Bobbitt then threaded a pass to Parker to make it 17-5. After Bobbitt's free throw, Anosike and Hornbuckle each scored inside to make it 22-5.
The Red Foxes didn't break through until Lynzee Johnson's 3-pointer, ending a string of eight consecutive misses from the field with six turnovers.
By halftime it was 42-21. Parker took over after the Lady Vols built the big early lead, finishing the half a flawless 7-for-7 from the field for 14 points in 14 minutes.
That didn't spare her the wrath of coach Pat Summitt. When Parker didn't fight through a pick that resulted in Fitz's layup early in the second half, Summitt called timeout and glared at her all the way to the bench before giving her a stern talk.
Marist didn't go quietly. The Red Foxes cut the gap to 15 with a 10-4 spurt to start the second half, but Anosike powered in a follow and Bobbitt nailed a 3 from the right corner to make it 51-31.
Alex Fuller later came off the bench to hit consecutive 3s to put the Lady Vols up by 26 points. Marist never got closer than 16 again.