Lady Vols advance to Final Four

Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2004

NORMAN, Okla. Tasha Butts wants the ball with the game on the line for the Tennessee Lady Vols.

Butts scored in the lane with 1.7 seconds left and the Lady Vols beat Stanford 62-60 on Tuesday night to advance to the Final Four for the third straight year.

Butts, guarded on the left block by All-American Nicole Powell, spun to her right and threw up a right-hander, which banked off the glass and fell through. Two nights earlier, Butts hit two free throws after a disputed end-of-game call to lift the Lady Vols (30-3) past Baylor in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

''It's unbelieveable,'' Butts said. ''The whole season, we've been put in situations like this and it always seems like I have the ball in my hands. I'm very confident I can make a play for our team.''

After the basket Tuesday, Butts ran back on defense, slapped the floor with both hands and got a bear hug from Shyra Ely as Tennessee coach Pat Summitt called a timeout.

Powell caught a long inbounds pass on the right wing and heaved a 3-point attempt toward the basket, but it banged off the rim and out, and she exhaled in disappointment.

Stanford players and coaches questioned whether she was fouled during the shot.

''I felt like I was fouled a lot of times tonight,'' Powell said. ''It's the NCAA tournament and that's the way it is.''

Powell led Stanford (27-7) with 31 points and 10 rebounds, but was the only Cardinal player in double figures.

Summitt said she still thought the Lady Vols limited Powell's touches.

''If we hadn't defended her the way we did, I think she might have had 61,'' Summitt said.

Powell was selected the Most Outstanding Player for the Midwest Regional games in Norman. She had 47 points, 27 rebounds and 11 assists combined in Stanford's two games.

Her right-hander in the lane tied the game at 60 with 44.6 seconds.

Butts missed a layup on the other end, but Tennessee kept possession after Stanford's Chelsea Trotter knocked the rebound out of bounds under the basket with 21.7 seconds left.

Butts ran the clock down to 8.4 seconds before Summitt signaled for a timeout to set up the final play.

Butts charged to the left of the basket and turned her back to Powell.

''I felt like I had good position on her,'' Powell said. ''She just worked her way in, spun and the ball rolled in.''

Butts led Tennessee with 14 points, Ely scored 12 and LaToya Davis had 10. The Lady Vols advanced to play Southeastern Conference rival LSU in the Final Four on Sunday.

Minnesota 82, Duke 75

NORFOLK, Va. Alana Beard never envisioned her college career ending like this: Coming out of a game with 4.6 seconds left and walking into a sad embrace with coach Gail Goestenkors, tears flowing.

The three-time All-American's last chance to win a national championship ended with another disappointment Tuesday night when Lindsay Whalen and Minnesota beat Duke 82-75 in the Mideast Regional final.

Beard was apologetic but stoic later.

"I just had an off night," she said after going 4-for-14 and scoring 10 points. "It happens. That's life. You've got to deal with it.''

The seventh-seeded Golden Gophers got 27 points from Whalen and 20 points and 18 rebounds from Janel McCarville to complete an improbable run to its first Final Four.

Minnesota, which had already bounced second-seeded Kansas State and third-seeded Boston College, will next face Connecticut in New Orleans.

Attacking from the start and playing with the cool of a team with nothing to lose, the Gophers put Duke on its heels early and never let up.

"Coach (Pam) Borton said the most aggressive team was going to win and that's the way we've played all year,'' Whalen said. "Tonight we just got a few things to go for us and we just played loose and played together.''

Duke (30-4) had reached the Final Four the last two seasons, but lost in the semifinals both times. After dismissing that pressure was a factor beforehand, the Blue Devils showed otherwise from the outset.

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