April 6, 2008
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Many people already have Tennessee and Candace Parker in the title game, bum shoulder and all.
LSU coach Van Chancellor doesn't like it one bit. The Hall of Famer is tired at the lack of regard his team has been getting even though it beat Tennessee during the regular season with a healthy Parker.
"I'm amazed that a team that's been to five straight Final Fours in a row has very little respect," Chancellor said. "I think this team deserves a little more respect than what it's getting. I turn on the television and I see a guy saying it's going to be a great game between Tennessee and Connecticut on Tuesday."
Parker's been rehabbing her left shoulder constantly the last few days after dislocating it twice in the Oklahoma City Regional final and is ready to play against LSU on Sunday night in the national semifinals.
"I have all the confidence in the world in the medical staff," Parker said. "My shoulder feels strong and it's getting better every day. I'm happy we play the late game on Sunday because it gives us more time to rehab."
The winner will play Connecticut or Stanford on Tuesday night for the national championship.
LSU has been a Final Four staple the last five seasons, reaching the national semifinals each time. But the Lady Tigers have yet to make it to the championship game. LSU is only the second team to play in five straight Final Fours, matching the feat accomplished by Connecticut from 2000-04.
Tennessee's Pat Summitt can sympathize with LSU's Final Four plight.
"We went to seven Final Fours and seven national championship games before we won one, I know how they feel," Summitt said. "Are we ever going to get there? But I think if you get there enough times, eventually you're going to be able to get a break or make your own breaks."
Chancellor found it funny that to end LSU's skid the Lady Tigers would have to get by their conference rival.
"I look up and LSU's trying to win their first game at the Final Four, and you got to beat Tennessee to do it, that's pretty ironic."
Every since winning their first title in 1987, Tennessee has gone on to win six more, including last season's victory over Rutgers.
LSU and its eight seniors are still looking for their first.
The biggest change Chancellor has made this season was trying to get the team to play looser on offense and not succumb to the pressure of playing in the Final Four.
"He didn't come in and change a lot of things," Fowles said, referring to Chancellor. "He adjusted to us."
Parker has played exceptionally well against LSU. She is averaging 21.3 points, including 27 points in the two games this season.
"We are both blessed with tremendous talent," Fowles said. "Going up against her only makes you better. You have to go at her and do all the things that you're capable of doing. On the defensive end you've got to do everything that's possible to slow her down."
While the spotlight will definitely be on the All-American center matchup between Parker and Fowles, the deciding factor may be the supporting players.
When LSU beat Tennessee in Knoxville in February, Quianna Chaney, Erica White and RaShonta LeBlanc combined for 41 points. In the rematch at the SEC tournament championship, they only had 27.
"We don't want Sylvia carrying the load by herself," Chaney said. "It's very important for everybody else to step up and give some help."
Even without Parker 100 percent, Chancellor knows Tennessee will be fine with all its talent.
"They don't recruit anything but All-Americans at Tennessee, so the other players are pretty nice, too. They've got pretty good players to fall back on when Parker gets hurt."
Tennessee played DePaul earlier in the season and Parker sat out the first half for missing curfew the night before. The Lady Vols had no problem dispatching of the Blue Demons without their star.
Having met twice already and many times over the last few years the SEC foes know each other well. LSU won the regular-season meeting, beating Tennessee 78-62 in Knoxville as the Lady Tigers rallied from a 19-point first-half deficit. Tennessee took the SEC tournament title, topping LSU 61-55.
"I don't think there will be a lot of surprises," Summitt said. "I think that we know them and they know us."