ND Women’s Basketball: Parker scores 34 to knock out Irish in Sweet 16
Deirdre Krasula | Monday, March 31, 2008
OKLAHOMA CITY – How do you stop a 6-foot-4, All-American forward from taking over a game and ending your season?
That was Notre Dame’s problem – it couldn’t.
Tennessee’s Candace Parker poured in 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Lady Vols’ 74-64 win over Notre Dame in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Sunday.
But the Irish never planned to try and completely shut down Parker. They knew they couldn’t and instead they focused on defending the three.
“We were trying to guard the 3-point line and we didn’t really think that [Parker] would get that many because we didn’t want to guard her inside,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “But we did a nice job in the first half of guarding the 3-point line. I was really pleased with that at half time.”
Defending the three worked for the Irish in the first half – they kept the Lady Vols to 1-for-5 from the arc to enter the locker room with the 33-31 lead.
“We felt great [going into the second half], we felt that we could play with them. We believed in each other we believed in ourselves,” Irish senior guard Charel Allen said. “We just lost the game.”
Lindsay Schrader put in a lay-up in the first minute of the second half and the Irish defense continued to guard the three as Tennessee missed its first two shots from beyond the arc.
But a lay-up by Parker at 18:09 put the Lady Vols right back in it and they trailed by two at 37-35. Under a minute later, the Irish defense managed to drive Parker out of lane only to have her answer with two as she drew a foul from Schrader for the tie at 37-37.
Parker grabbed the go-ahead point from the line and Notre Dame never regained the lead.
Parker’s layup at 18:09 was the beginning of a 14-0 Tennessee run that diminished Notre Dame’s chances of getting back in the game.
Tennessee senior Shannon Bobbitt – who couldn’t be more unlike Parker, measuring 5-foot-2 – managed to break through the Irish defense beyond the arc and shoot 2-for-4 from the 3-point line in the second half.
“Bobbitt’s threes really were kind of like daggers for us,” McGraw said.
If Parker’s presence at the low post and Bobbitt’s shot from beyond the arc weren’t enough for the Irish defense could contain. Tennessee found another force in senior center Nicky Anosike. It seemed as though every time Notre Dame’s defense denied Parker the layup, Anosike answered with a jumper from the paint. Anosike had for 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Irish squad refused to back down, nearly matching the Lady Vols in rebounds. (Tennessee grabbed 45 to Notre Dame’s 42). Notre Dame pulled down 11 offensive boards and 31 defensive boards in comparison with Tennessee’s 14 and 31.
Even with Notre Dame threatening at the end of the first half, Tennessee never lost its composure – that speaks to the team’s experience.
“This team is full of seniors. We’ve been in the same positions that we’ve been in before,” Parker said. “Against North Carolina we were down by 12 with eight minutes to go. There’s no panic, we just come together, figure out what’s broken, and fix it.”
Without Parker on the court in the first half, Tennessee would have done little damage to the Irish – Parker had 19 of the teams 31 points in the half.
“I think [Parker] just knows that’s her role on our team. She’s the best offensive player,” Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said. “She has the size, skills, mindset to take over a game. She wants it.
“She’s willing to step up and make the plays for us. She’s obviously talented enough and has the size inside to make the type of plays that obviously you have to have at certain moments.”
It was Tennessee’s ability to remain composed that allowed it to stay in the game. Once Bobbitt started hitting the three in the second half and the rest of the Lady Vols offense responded, there was no looking back.
The Irish just couldn’t stop Parker from reaching over the top and continuing to put it away.
u Attendance at the game was 10,032 – the highest in the 2008 Tournament so far.