Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Minnesota, Tennessee win regional finals

March 31, 2004


— Lindsay Whalen and Minnesota ended Duke's championship dreams.

The seventh-seeded Golden Gophers received 27 points from Whalen and 20 points and 18 rebounds from Janel McCarville to oust the top-seeded Blue Devils, 82-75, in the Mideast Regional final Tuesday night.

Minnesota already had bounced second-seeded Kansas State and third-seeded Boston College on its improbable run to the Final Four.

The Golden Gophers led most of the way and answered every Duke rally.

"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) was turned away in its last bid to win a championship for All-American Alana Beard and fellow senior Iciss Tillis. Beard scored just 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting and was in tears as the game ended.

"You guys don't understand how it feels to go out there every single year thinking you're going to win the national championship and it doesn't go your way," Tillis said. "It hurts. It's really painful."

The Blue Devils had reached the Final Four the last two seasons, but lost in the semifinals each time.

"Going into the game I thought we were very ready to play, but early on I thought it appeared we were all pretty tight," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "It's sometimes easier to be an underdog and just go out and play and understand that nobody expects you to win."

Minnesota (25-8) had never passed the round of 16 before this year. The Golden Gophers will go to New Orleans next week as the highest seed to play in a Final Four since Arkansas reached that far as a ninth seed in 1998.

Whalen, McCarville and the Golden Gophers led most of the game, and by as many as 10, but didn't flinch when Monique Currie's layup with 5:33 left pulled the Blue Devils even at 59.

Working the ball around, the Gophers found Shannon Bolden in the left corner, and her third three-pointer of the half pushed the lead back to three.

"They hit every big shot," Goestenkors said. "It seemed like every time we made a run and cut it to two or tied it, they'd come back and hit a huge three."

Tennessee 62, Stanford 60

Norman, Okla. -- Tasha Butts scored in the lane with 1.7 seconds left, and Tennessee beat Stanford on Tuesday night to advance to the Final Four for the third straight year.

Butts, guarded 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 Vols past Baylor in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

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 three-point attempt toward the basket, but it banged off the rim and out, and she exhaled in disappointment.

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