Saturday, March 24, 2001

Xavier 80, Tennessee 65


Musketeers stun 6-time champ

By CHUCK SCHOFFNER
AP Sports Writer

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Taru Tuukkanen (5) celebrates with Amy Waugh (3).
(AP photos)
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        BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Xavier pulled off a stunning upset, knocking Tennessee out of the NCAA tournament, sending the Lady Vols to their earliest exit in seven years.

        The Musketeers overcame top-seeded Tennessee's height advantage and athleticism with sharp shooting and outstanding team play to earn an 80-65 victory Saturday in the Mideast Regional semifinals. The Musketeers play Purdue at 8:10 p.m. Monday night for a berth in the Final Four.

        Xavier (31-2) built a 10-point lead in the first half, fought off Tennessee's repeated comeback attempts and, remarkably, won going away for its 21st straight victory.

        “We didn't want to go into this game intimidated,” Xavier's Nicole Levandusky said. “If you go into a game like that, you're already defeated. You've got to go in with positive thinking, "We can beat this team,' and that's exactly what we did.”

        “We hope this puts us on the map,” Xavier's Amy Waugh said. “We've been looking to get some national recognition all year. But we're not satisfied. We want to go to the Final Four.”

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Nicole Levandusky had 19 points.
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Jennifer Phillips scored 17.
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Tuukkanen had 12.
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        Xavier's Jennifer Phillips injured a knee late in the game but returned. She was to undergo an MRI Saturday to determine the extent of her injury. She said she expected to play Monday night.

        Tennessee's unmatched tradition, which includes six national championships, and all of Pat Summitt's coaching acumen could not save the Lady Vols (30-3) in this one. It was the earliest Tennessee has been eliminated from the tournament since a loss to Louisiana Tech in the 1994 regional semifinals.

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Tennessee coach Pat Summit accepts her fate.
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        Sensing defeat, Summitt sat passively on the bench as the final two minutes were played and Xavier made enough free throws to stay safely ahead. Her anger surfaced afterward.

        “I am more upset with this team and disappointed in this team than I am (sorry) for this team,” Summitt said. “This team did not deserve anything other than the outcome they got.”

        Some of her players cried on the bench as Levandusky dribbled out the final seconds, and moments later as Xavier players celebrated at midcourt.

        It was, indeed, a victory to get excited about. Consider this: When Tennessee won its fifth national title at Cincinnati in 1997, Xavier was one of the host schools and had just completed a 10-17 season.

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Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb
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        “Our rap is that we're slow and we're non-athletic,” Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I don't think we're that slow and I don't think we're that non-athletic.”

        Tennessee had made five Final Four trips in the past six years and won three national titles. But there won't be another for seniors Semeka Randall and Kristen Clement, who were part of a ballyhooed freshman class that helped the Lady Vols go undefeated in winning the 1998 title.

        The third member of that class and the team's best player, Tamika Catchings, has not played since tearing a knee ligament Jan. 15. Summitt had hoped to get Catchings on the floor for a few seconds if the Lady Vols made it to the national championship. That won't be possible now.

        “They beat us in transition. We got killed,” said Randall, who was 0-for-9 and scoreless in her final game. “Things happen for a reason. For some odd reason, this happened to us.”

        As usual, Xavier had balanced scoring. Levandusky led with 19 points, Phillips scored 17, Waugh had 14, Tuukkanen 12 and Reeta Piipari 10. Piipari had six assists and Waugh five.

        “When you play a team like that, you can't have breakdowns on defense,” Summitt said. “They made us pay every time we had a mental breakdown.

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Waugh charges.
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        Tennessee outrebounded Xavier 43-33 but shot only 38 percent. Clement scored only three and Randall went 0-for-9 from the field while going scoreless. Gwen Jackson led Tennessee with 16 points. Ashley Robinson added 12, while Kara Lawson and Tasha Butts had 10 each.

        Xavier went ahead to stay when Levandusky hit a baseline jumper with 7:58 remaining, breaking a tie at 58. Waugh then was fouled by Lawson on a 3-point shot that was partially blocked and she made all three free throws for a 63-58 lead.

        Michelle Snow's putback drew Tennessee within 63-60, but that's as close as the Lady Vols would get.

        Waugh, who missed the first 19 games because of a ruptured Achilles' tendon, hit a baseline jumper with the shot clock about to expire and Xavier went on to score the next seven points, opening a 70-60 lead .

        Soon, Xavier was starting a parade to the free throw line as Tennessee fouled in a desperate attempt to cut into the lead. Xavier made 6-of-10 at the line in the final 1:38 and Tennessee couldn't convert at the other end.

        Xavier was in the round of 16 for the first time, but Tennessee looked like the newcomer for much of the first half. The Lady Vols rushed their shots against Xavier's zone defense, threw the ball away and got beat down the floor in transition.

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The Musketeers celebrate.
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        The Musketeers, passing and cutting with precision, made nine of their first 12 shots, including four straight in a 9-0 run that gave them a 21-11 lead. With Xavier having so many shooters, Tennessee couldn't cheat off anyone, forcing Summitt to try a zone, something she almost never does. That stalled Xavier long enough for Tennessee to catch up.

        Lawson and Butts each hit a 3-pointer to get the Lady Vols back in it, and another 3 by Butts gave Tennessee a 29-28 lead. Xavier answered with Waugh's driving shot and 3-pointers by Levandusky and Waugh, and the Musketeers led 40-36 at halftime.

        Jackson scored the first four points of the second half to bring Tennessee into a tie at 40. But Xavier answered every time Tennessee scored and the Lady Vols never got ahead.

        Xavier's five-member senior class -- Levandusky, Phillips, Tuukkenan, Jennifer Parr and Erin Hall -- is now 98-28 in four years.

        “I don't think we got a lot of national respect before,” Tuukkenan said. “Nationally, all I read after Selection Sunday was how Tennessee had the easy bracket and blow out everybody and get to the Final Four.

        “I think we're a really confident team, and we have five seniors are not ready to be done yet. Hopefully, we'll get some national respect after this.”

Complete tournament coverage at Cincinnati.com


XAVIER (80)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Phillips        35  8-14   1-3   2-5  0  2   17
Levandusky      37  7-16   2-4   0-6  1  3   19
Tuukkanen       28  4-10   4-5   2-8  0  3   12
Piipari         37   3-9   2-4   0-4  6  2   10
Parr            12   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Waugh           27   4-7   5-7   0-3  5  2   14
Kreager         17   2-2   0-0   1-1  2  2    4
Bell             7   1-2   2-2   0-1  1  1    4
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 29-61 16-25  5-28 15 15   80
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.475, FT-.640. 3-Point Goals:
6-19, .316 (Levandusky 3-8, Piipari 2-7, Waugh
1-4). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 1
(Phillips). Turnovers: 9 (Phillips 2, Tuukkanen
2, Waugh 2, Bell, Kreager, Piipari). Steals: 11
(Levandusky 4, Tuukkanen 4, Waugh 2, Bell).


TENNESSEE (65)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Jackson         28  6-10   3-4   5-9  0  2   16
Randall         22   0-9   0-0   2-5  0  1    0
Robinson        21  5-10   2-3   4-6  0  3   12
Lawson          38  4-14   0-0   0-7  3  2   10
Clement         14   1-3   1-1   0-1  2  2    3
Butts           15   3-4   2-3   1-4  0  3   10
Snow            23   4-9   1-2   1-5  0  4    9
A Mcdivitt      29   1-6   0-0   1-3  4  2    3
Canon            1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Edwards          1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
C Mcdaniel       1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Pillow           7   1-1   0-0   1-2  0  2    2
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 25-66  9-13 15-42  9 22   65
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.379, FT-.692. 3-Point Goals:
6-23, .261 (Jackson 1-2, Randall 0-2, Robinson
0-1, Lawson 2-9, Clement 0-1, Butts 2-3, A
Mcdivitt 1-5). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 6
(Jackson 2, Robinson, Butts, Snow, A Mcdivitt).
Turnovers: 19 (Butts 4, Lawson 4, A Mcdivitt 3,
Randall 3, Jackson 2, Pillow, Robinson, Snow).
Steals: 4 (A Mcdivitt 3, Robinson).
__________________________________
Xavier             40   40  -   80
Tennessee          36   29  -   65
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None. Officials: Teresa Dahlem,
Bryan Enterline, Kim Watt.


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