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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

Xavier Deals Tennessee Early Exit

March 25, 2001|From Associated Press

There will be no Final Four trip for Tennessee this year. Not even a regional final.

Xavier brought the Lady Vols' season to a stunning end Saturday, sending them to their earliest exit in the NCAA tournament in seven years.

The Musketeers overcame top-seeded Tennessee's height advantage and athleticism and took advantage of 37.8% shooting by the Lady Vols to earn an 80-65 victory in the Mideast Regional semifinals at Birmingham, Ala.

Xavier (31-2) built a 10-point lead in the first half, fought off Tennessee's repeated comeback attempts and won going away for its 21st consecutive victory.

"We didn't want to go into this game intimidated," Xavier's Nicole Levandusky said. "If you go into a game like that, you're already defeated. You've got to go in thinking, 'We can beat this team,' and that's exactly what we did."

Tennessee's unmatched tradition, which includes six national championships, and all of Pat Summitt's coaching acumen could not save the Lady Vols (31-3) in this one.

It was the first time Tennessee failed to reach the round of eight since a 1994 regional semifinal loss to Louisiana Tech.

Instead it will be fourth-seeded Xavier advancing to Monday night's regional championship againstthird-seeded Purdue. The Musketeers had only one NCAA tournament victory before this season.

"We hope this puts us on the map," Xavier's Amy Waugh said. "We've been looking to get some national recognition all year. But we're not satisfied. We want to go to the Final Four."

Sensing defeat, Summitt sat passively on the bench as the final two minutes were played and Xavier made enough free throws to stay safely ahead. Her anger surfaced afterward.

"I am more upset with this team and disappointed in this team than I am for this team," Summitt said. "This team did not deserve anything other than the outcome they got."

Purdue 74, Texas Tech 72--Katie Douglas made a short running jumper with 30 seconds remaining and the Boilermakers held on for a victory in the other Mideast Regional semifinal at Birmingham, Ala.

Purdue (29-6) is trying to duplicate its NCAA title run of two years ago after losing in the second round of the tournament last season.

Texas Tech freshman Jia Perkins scored 18 of her career-high 29 points in the second half to rally the Red Raiders (25-7) from a 10-point deficit. The No. 2-seeded Red Raiders had made the regional final in two of the last three seasons.

EAST REGIONAL

Connecticut 72, North Carolina State 58--Diana Taurasi gave the defending champions a big lead with her three-point shooting and the top-seeded Huskies overcame a skittish second half to reach the regional final at Pittsburgh.

Taurasi, the nation's top high school player at Chino Don Lugo a year ago, had 24 points--19 in a first half in which she made all five of her three-point shots.

"I don't think I've seen a young kid play as well in a tournament game as she did," Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma said.

Sue Bird had 16 and seven assists as Connecticut won its ninth game in a row in the tournament.

The Huskies (31-2) can reach their fifth Final Four since 1991 by beating Louisiana Tech. The two longtime powers have four NCAA titles between them, yet have never met in an NCAA tournament game. The Huskies did win at Louisiana Tech, 71-55, on Jan. 7 in a regular-season game.

North Carolina State upset Connecticut, 60-52, in the 1998 East Regional championship game, a loss Auriemma counts as one of the worst of his career.

This time, the No. 4-seeded Wolfpack (22-11) wasn't about to sneak up on the Huskies. Even though Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph--All-American selections last season--are injured and out for the season, Connecticut opened a 12-0 lead in the first 3 1/2 minutes and led by as many as 20 points before halftime.

Louisiana Tech 78, Missouri 67--Takeisha Lewis took over as Missouri's front line got into foul trouble, scoring 20 of her 27 points in the second half as the No. 3-seeded Lady Techsters (31-4) relied on their tournament experience to win at Pittsburgh.

Brooke Lassiter had 25 points, including five in a quick flurry with just under two minutes remaining after Missouri (22-10)--a 10th-seeded team playing in the round of 16 for the first time since 1982--had closed within four points.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

Notre Dame 69, Utah 54--All-America center Ruth Riley scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half to lead the top-seeded Fighting Irish in the semifinals at Denver.

Riley also had 14 rebounds and six assists. Notre Dame (31-2)--which matched the school record for victories in a season--got 15 points from point guard Niele Ivey and 11 from Alicia Ratay.

Erin Gibbons led No. 5-seeded Utah (28-4) with 14 points.

Vanderbilt 84, Iowa State 65--Chantelle Anderson scored 34 points and Ashley McElhiney had 23 as the third-seeded Commodores (24-9) advanced to the regional final against Notre Dame.

Vanderbilt built a 13-point halftime lead and stretched it to 22 on four occasions in the second half. Anderson, who entered the game as the nation's leading field-goal shooter at 73%, made 16 of 23 shots.

No. 2-seeded Iowa State finished at 27-6.

WEST REGIONAL

Southwest Missouri State 81, Duke 71--Jackie Stiles scored 25 of her 41 points in the second half, as the No. 5-seeded Bears (28-5) stunned the top-seeded Blue Devils in the semifinals at Spokane, Wash.

The 5-foot-8 Stiles, the leading scorer in NCAA women's basketball history who averaged 30.2 points this season, made 15 of 22 field goals with a dazzling repertoire of soft jumpers, spin moves and fearless drives to the basket.

Alana Beard scored 27 for Duke (30-4).

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