TAMPA — Nicky Anosike had absolutely no intention of leaving Tampa without an NCAA championship.
So from the moment the ball was tipped in Tuesday's final against Stanford, the Vols' senior center was on a mission.
Anosike set the defensive tone in the first half with six steals, four rebounds and one block to help lead Tennessee to a 64-48 victory. She also was 5-of-8 from the field in the half for 10 points.
"My mind-set coming into the game was I wasn't going home without a championship," Anosike said. "If we lost, I was going to live here. I wasn't going home. No one was going to deny me a national championship, and I did whatever we needed to do to make sure we would win."
The player coach Pat Summitt has referred to as "my coach on the floor" finished her career with 133 starts, third in school history, among her 146 games. Tuesday, she finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and the six steals, which tied a career high and tied for second most in a title game.
"She's one of the most fierce competitors I've ever coached," Summitt said. "She works hard on every possession. She inspires this team. She's the one that gets them together. She's the one that comes up with our plan of attack a lot. And she's the one always calling the meetings and really holding people accountable. She's going to be very successful in life because that's who she is."
Anosike was named to the All-Tournament team, an honor her teammates said no one deserved more.
"She was the reason we won the national championship," teammate Candace Parker said. "We looked at her eyes, and we weren't going to lose after that."
In the second half, Anosike led an effort that held Stanford to four points in a span of seven minutes. Anosike said she and the Vols were out to prove something.
"No one believed in us," she said. "We were the defending national champions, and still no one believed. I told myself we have to make them believe in us, no matter what. Every single second we're on the floor, we have to prove to the nation we're the best. And I think we did that."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org