Tonight Tennessee plays Rutgers for the National Championship in Women’s basketball. The Vols will look to run a high tempo offense to tire their opponent, while Rutgers looks to stop them with their suffocating team defense in the halfcourt. Their game against LSU was a clinic on how to stop the fast break, and tonight they look to do the same. Whether or not they can pull it off will determine who wins this game.
8:28 pm: It’s official: Gail Goestenkors is leaving Duke to replace retiring legendary coach Jody Conradt at Texas. WHOOOO!!!
8:43 pm: Bobbitt vs. Ajavon and Anosike vs. Vaughn could go a long way to determine this game. All four players are from the New York metro area. Small world. Now would be a I time I should say something awkward like, NYC REPRESENT!!! But I think I’ll resist.
8:46 pm: 3-0, Tenn. The Vols win the tip. Anosike makes a great offensive rebound, and ultimately Shannon Bobbitt hits a three from the right wing.
Both teams are showing their cards early. Tennessee is trying to dictate a pace akin to a track meet, and Rutgers wants to make me watch paint dry.
8:47 pm: 5-0, Tenn. Sidney Spencer hits a turnaround jumper.
8:49 pm: 5-3, Tenn. We’ve already got controversy two minutes in. The refs are trying to determine whether a jumper by Ajavon hit a two or three point jumper. Ultimately it was called a three, which was a good call. But come on, refs, Ed Hochuli could make a call faster than that!
8:51 pm: If Rutgers wants to dictate the pace of this game, they need to get their defensive rebounds and prevent the Lady Vols from getting second chance points. They’ve already given up three or four offensive rebounds.
8:53 pm: 6-4, Tenn. Tennessee is running a full court press, trying to force turnovers. But the Scarlet Knights have thus far done a good job of offensive ball control. If only they can rebound now.
Official timeout, as we’re treated to a little of “The Message” by the Furious Five. A rare move in coolness by ESPN.
8:59 pm: 6-6. Essence Carson hits a nice midrange jumper to tie the game.
9:01 pm: Tennessee continues to dominate the boards, but they’re having a hard time making their shots.
9:02 pm: 8-6, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights force a turnover, and are rewarded with a quick basket to take the lead.
Rutgers’ offense is decidedly faster tonight than I had expected, at least in their scoring possessions.
9:03 pm: 8-8. As we hit an official timeout, the fouls are already starting to pile up on Rutgers.
9:07 pm: 12-8, Tenn. The Vols take the lead as Candace Parker hits two straight jumpers, the first an easy one off a great inbound pass.
9:08 pm: 12-12. Kia Vaughn gets two straight baskets of her own to tie the game. Both of them came off offensive rebounds.
9:11 pm: 14-12, Tenn. The Vols take the lead off of free throws, but their press is paying off, as Rutgers commits two consecutive turnovers.
9:14 pm: 16-14, Tenn. Official timeout. The Scarlet Knights are going to reap the rewards of consistently attacking the inside, which Tennessee isn’t doing enough of right now.
9:18 pm: 18-14, Tenn. Parker gets a tough basket in the paint, but how does Horn buckle not shoot that open three?
Rutgers has done a good job of slowing the pace of the game, but their turnovers (7 so far) and lack of rebounding prevent them from taking full advantage.
9:21 pm: 22-14, Tenn. Alberta Auguste is playing well off the bench for Tennessee.
Sidney Spencer’s jumper extends the lead to 8.
9:22 pm: 22-16, Tenn. Ajavon hits a tough shot before the official timeout.
9:26 pm: 27-18, Tenn. Vaughn’s return to the lineup is helping Rutgers on offense, but Tennessee continues to win the battle in the offensive glass. The last one by Anosike leads to a three pointer by Spencer. The Vols have 13 second chance points.
9:33 pm: As the first half ends, Tennessee leads, 29-18, at halftime. Candace Parker is doing a good job of passing the ball, even if she isn’t shooting lights out. The Lady Vols are playing great defense, and while Rutgers has dictated tempo, they haven’t used it to their advantage, going cold on offense (they stopped attacking the inside) and letting Tennessee dominate the glass. For the Scarlet Knights to come back they will need to get rebounds and start hitting the three.
10:00 pm: 35-24, Tenn. I missed the first four minutes of the second half. Fortunately for me, not much has changed.
10:01 pm: 35-26, Tenn. Kia Vaughn gets another basket inside. She needs to get the ball more.
10:04 pm: More referee controversy, as Rutgers is wrongly called for a shot clock violation. The call is ultimately corrected, but Rutgers was denied an opportunity at second chance points.
10:05 pm: 35-28, Tenn. Vaughn scores again, this time off a putback. She has 12 tonight.
10:06 pm: 38-28, Tenn. More offensive rebounding by Tennessee leads to an open three by Bobbitt, and the Vols have a double digit lead once again.
10:08 pm: 43-28, Tenn. More great play by Bobbitt (a three, a steal, and an assist) gives Tennessee a 15 point lead with less than 12 points, and C. Vivian Stringer is forced to call a timeout. The wheels are starting to come off of Rutgers.
10:16 pm: 46-30, Tenn. Shannon Bobbitt cannot be stopped. She is on fire from the bonusphere, as Tennessee is finally beginning to dictate their tempo.
10:19 pm: 46-33, Tenn. The biggest reason why Tennessee is winning: 20 offensive rebounds. Even if they slow the game down, they aren’t in control is they can’t win the battle of the boards.
10:25 pm: 48-35, Tenn. Vaughn gets the basket and the foul but Rutgers isn’t setting up their offense fast enough.
At this point I think that the Final Four’s MOP would be Nicky Anosike of the Lady Vols. She has done everything that’s been asked of her and more.
10:27 pm: 50-35, Tenn, 5:00 left. The Vols steal it, Hornbuckle hits the jumper, and the lead is back to 15. Against Rutgers’ gameplan, Tennessee has this game sealed.
10:29 pm: 50-39, Tenn, 3:44 left. Rutgers hits two straight baskets, the latest by Essence Carson, to bring the Scarlet Knights within 11. However, it’s likely too little, too late.
10:31 pm: 50-42, Tenn, 2:00 left. Matee Ajavon hits a three, but Tennessee’s offensive rebounds continue to kill Rutgers.
10:37 pm: 56-44, Tenn, 1:08 left. Wow. I just heard that the Russian Women’s Professional league is willing to play players like Parker over a million dollars per year. Meanwhile, as of 2004 the maximum salary of a WNBA player is $90,000. This has to change. Players like Lisa Leslie, Ivory Latta, Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker are worth a lot more than $90,000. I don’t care what you think about women’s basketball, these girls are that talented.
10:43 pm: 59-46, Tennessee, Final. The Lady Vols win their 7th Women’s National Championship, and their first since 1998. Even though Rutgers slowed the game down, the Lady Vols dominated this game from start to finish, not allowing the Scarlet Knights to get comfortable at all. In particular, Tennessee dominate the boards, which is why I think Anosikie should be the Final Four MOP. Congratulations to Tennessee for winning the National Championship, but I can’t but wonder what could have been, if UNC had managed to hold on to their lead in the end on Sunday night.