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 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 Nikki 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 Alexis 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, Nicky 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 shot and Bobbitt nailed a 3 from the corner to make it 51-31.
Alex Fuller came off the bench to hit consecutive 3s to put the Lady Vols up by 26 points. Marist never got closer than 16 again.
The win today--
-Improves UT to 31-3 on the season
-Gives UT its 14th 31+ win season in 33 years under head coach Pat Summitt
-Improves UT to 95-19 in NCAA Tournament games all-time
-Improves UT to 22-4 all-time in Sweet 16 games
-Gives UT a 1-0 lead in the series with Marist and a 2-0 all-time record against teams from the Metro Atlantic Conference
-Gives Summitt a career record of 944-180 in her 33rd season at UT
-Tennessee has held opponents to under 25 points in the first half of all three NCAA Tournament games this season
-Tennessee had a 21-point halftime lead, its largest since a 23-point margin at the break against Kentucky on Feb. 11
-Marist leads the nation in fewest turnovers per game (11.5). The Red Foxes had 10 first-half turnovers and 15 for the game – their most in the NCAA Tournament this season.
-Started in her 92nd career game, tying Loree Moore for the 15th-most by a Lady Vol
-Moved into a tie for fifth place with Michelle Marciniak for single-season steals (107) in the UT record books
-Moved past Latina Davis and Tonya Edwards and into 21st place in the UT career scoring (1,273) record books.
-Scored in double figures for the 31st time this season and the 64th time of her career
-A perfect 7-of-7 from the field in the first half
-Moved into a tie for first place with Teresa Geter for the UT single-season blocks record (93)
-Scored in double figures for the 21st time this season and the 48th time in her career.
-Scored in double figures for the third game in a row and the 14th time this season.
The Lady Vols Next Face Ole' Miss Tuesday At 7:00p On ESPN.
Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information & AP Wire Reports
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