Thursday, April 3, 2003

Lady Vols relive loss to Duke

By Elizabeth A. Davis
The Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee coach Pat Summitt had a horrible start to her Wednesday morning. She watched a tape of the Lady Vols' 76-55 loss to Duke earlier this season.

"I tortured myself," Summitt said.

It's all part of preparing for her 14th Final Four. Tennessee (32-4) has a chance to erase some of the bad memories when it faces the Blue Devils (35-1) in the national semifinals Saturday in a bid for a seventh national title.

Connecticut and Texas - the only other teams to beat the Lady Vols in the regular season - play in the second game.

The 21-point loss to Duke on Nov. 24 was an embarrassment to Summitt.

"Obviously, we didn't compete very well throughout the course of the game. I thought our game was pretty miserable," Summitt said. "I thought they played super against us."

Duke was ranked No. 1 and Tennessee No. 2 going into the game. The Blue Devils were clearly better, going ahead by five at halftime and stretching the lead to 56-36 midway through the second half.

Tennessee had 23 turnovers and shot 31 percent from the field. The Lady Vols couldn't contain Alana Beard, who had 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals.

Summitt believes the Lady Vols' defense and half-court offense now are vastly improved. They faltered in a 78-62 loss to LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship but have done well in the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee outscored its four tournament opponents by an average of 33.5 points while holding them to 50.3 points a game. The Lady Vols also played all their games at home.

"I think our team right now is playing very well together," Summitt said. "Our team, since the loss in the SEC championship game, has recommitted to the defense that we were playing in January and most of February."

Offensively, the Lady Vols have succeeded with giving the ball to Gwen Jackson and Shyra Ely inside before kicking it out to Kara Lawson or the other guards on the perimeter.

Jackson has averaged 17 points in the NCAA tournament while Ely has 15.5 and Lawson 12.3.

Tennessee also is rebounding well. The Lady Vols have outrebounding opponents in the NCAA tournament by an average of 16.2 a game.

"This is a very unselfish team. My teammates crash the boards. I think the key is that we are leaving it all out there," Jackson said. "Every second that we are out there and every possession, we've got to leave it all out there. We aren't taking anything for granted, and if we do that, there will be no regrets."

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