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Tennessee women capture eighth NCAA title

Tennessee's Candace Parker didn't need to be the best player in college basketball Tuesday night. She was happy to settle for the best feeling in the sport: finishing your career as a national champion.

Parker had a game-high 17 points, but her supporting cast stepped up to lead the Volunteers to a 64-48 win against Stanford before a sellout crowd of 21,655 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"I wouldn't change anything about it," said Parker, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "I love my teammates, and I'm just very, very, very fortunate to have won two national championships. We worked hard for it. We deserved it."

As much as the final was billed as a showdown between Parker and fellow All-American Candice Wiggins of Stanford, the Vols won because of their seniors, with 5-foot-2 guard Shannon Bobbitt scoring 13 first-half points and 6-4 center Nicky Anosike keying a stifling Tennessee defense that forced Stanford to commit a season-high 25 turnovers.

Tennessee is the first repeat women's champion since Connecticut won three straight from 2002-04. It's the Vols' eighth title, all under legendary coach Pat Summitt.

"This is a very special night for our program and our basketball team," Summitt said. "I'm extremely excited for what these seniors left, to put another championship win, which is certainly no easy task."

Third-ranked Tennessee (36-2) led the entire second half, with No. 4 Stanford (35-4) getting no closer than six points. Up 53-44 with seven minutes to play, Tennessee scored the next five points to put the game away, including a jumper by Parker, who finished with a game-high 17 points.

"Some players don't get one, and I'm fortunate to have two," Parker said. "It was great to see my teammates come out and play hard the way they did."

Parker took 27 shots in Sunday's semifinal win against LSU, but needed only 10 on Tuesday, adding nine rebounds and four steals. Wiggins finished with 14 points, but went 6-for-16 from the field and committed six turnovers. Center Jayne Appel added 16 points, but went 4-for-10 on free throws.

Parker, nursing an injured left shoulder that she separated twice in last week's region final, didn't have to be the primary scorer.

Bobbitt had two early 3-pointers to set the tone for the Vols, and Anosike had 10 points and six steals in the first half. Both made the all-tournament team, along with Wiggins and LSU's Sylvia Fowles.

Even freshman center Vicki Baugh, who totaled two points in the previous three games, stepped up for eight points, double what Stanford's bench totaled, before leaving the game with a knee injury.

Stanford, in its first final since winning the second of its two titles in 1992, couldn't find the poise they'd shown in upsetting No. 1 Connecticut on Sunday. After just one first-half turnover against the Huskies, Stanford was forced into 14.

Wiggins, who averaged 27.4 points in the first five tournament games, hit a 3-pointer on Stanford's first possession, but didn't score again until less than five minutes were remaining in the half.

Tennessee women capture eighth NCAA title 04/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 6:53pm]
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