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Vols book usual Final Four trip

Tennessee earned this Final Four trip the old-fashioned way. With defense.

The second-seeded Volunteers beat No. 1 seed Vanderbilt 68-63 in the Midwest Region final Monday night, ensuring a 13th trip to the Final Four.

"I thought through the course of the game we really guarded people," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "We just tried to take them somewhat out their rhythm."

Tennessee (29-4) built a 15-point lead early in the second half against its Southeastern Conference rival, then survived a rally that got the Commodores (30-7) within two points. Gwen Jackson led Tennessee with 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Michelle Snow hit three key shots down the stretch.

Chantelle Anderson's 35 points and 12 rebounds weren't enough to get Vanderbilt to the Final Four for the second time.

Now Tennessee, a six-time national champion, gets another crack at unbeaten and top-ranked Connecticut, the Mideast Region champion. They meet in the national semifinals Friday night in San Antonio. Connecticut beat Tennessee 86-72 in Knoxville on Jan. 5.

Monday, a first-half scoring drought left the Commodores in an early 10-point hole and forced them to play catchup the rest of the game.

"We picked up our dribble a lot, and when you pick up your dribble, their pressure gets in your face," Anderson said. "You have to keep your dribble to keep the pressure off you, and we didn't do that."

Tennessee was up 57-47 after Jackson scored on a drive. Vanderbilt then made its run. Zuzana Klimesova scored six straight points and Anderson got a basket inside, drawing the Commodores to 57-55 with 5:29 left. They got no closer.

Snow, who had only two points until then, hit consecutive turnaround jumpers to make it 61-55. After Anderson sank two free throws, Jackson made a jump shot from the free-throw line for a 63-57 lead.

Anderson's layup left Vanderbilt trailing 63-60 with 1:14 to play, but Snow came through again, hitting another turnaround jump shot to make it 65-60 with 48.3 seconds left.

After Klimesova missed a 3-pointer, Brittany Jackson made two free throws with 20.3 seconds left and the Vols could start celebrating.

Klimesova finished with 18 points for Vanderbilt. Jackson scored 10 and Snow added eight.

The victory was No. 788 for Summitt, tying her with Jody Conradt of Texas for first among women's coaches.

Tennessee tried to make it difficult for Vanderbilt to run its offense by pressuring the perimeter players so they'd have to work to get the ball to the 6-foot-6 Anderson inside.

That pressure started to take a toll midway through the first half, when Vanderbilt went more then five minutes without a basket. Jackson scored two baskets as the Vols outscored Vanderbilt 10-2 during that stretch to open a 20-10 lead.

Snow scored inside against Anderson and Loree Moore hit a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 34-21 before Vanderbilt pulled to within 34-25.