Tennessee, Duke first to Final Four
The Lady Vols routed Villanova and the Blue Devils defeated Texas Tech.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee has overwhelmed its opponents in the NCAA tournament with its defense, and coach Pat Summitt wouldn't have it any other way.
The top-seeded Lady Vols (32-4) overcame a frustrating first half and applied more defensive pressure after halftime to advance to their 14th Final Four by beating No. 2-seed Villanova 73-49 in the Mideast Regional final Monday night.
"Our defensive intensity, recognition on defense, when to help [on defense] have improved. We are more physical," Summitt said.
Gwen Jackson scored 20 points, Kara Lawson had 15 and Shyra Ely added 14 and nine rebounds for Tennessee, which played both the sub-regional and regional on its home court and improved its home record in NCAA tournament games to 44-0.
Villanova (28-6), playing in its first NCAA regional final, trailed the entire game but controlled the tempo in the first half with its trademark motion offense.
The Wildcats cut the lead to one with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining before halftime.
Reeled off 23-3 run
Tennessee looked frustrated, but figured it out at halftime. The Lady Vols began the second half with a 23-3 run and held Villanova scoreless for a span of 7:15.
Loree Moore had a pull-up jumper, and Tennessee got its transition offense going. Moore stole the ball at the other end and bounced it to Lawson, who made the fast-break layup. Jackson scored eight inside baskets during the spurt, and another basket by Moore capped it with 11:33 remaining and gave Tennessee a 55-32 lead.
"In the first half, it was close. When we went to the locker room at halftime, Coach challenged us. She said our defensive intensity was not the same," Tennessee's Tasha Butts said. "We made a pact to each other. We committed to playing Tennessee defense."
Trish Juhline hit a 3-pointer with 18:32 to go, but Villanova missed its next nine shots before Courtney Mix ended the drought with 11:17 remaining. By then, it was too late for a rally.
Duke 57, Texas Tech 51
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Alana Beard scored 28 points as the top-seeded Blue Devils rallied in the Midwest Regional final.
Duke (35-1) won its 15th straight.
Besides scoring nearly half of Duke's points, Beard had eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
Her three-point play with 1:55 remaining broke a 51-51 tie, and Duke forced three Texas Tech turnovers in the final minute. Iciss Tillis blocked a shot by Tech's Plenette Pierson with 30 seconds left to ensure Duke's third trip to the Final Four in the last five years.
Pierson, who missed two free throws with 40.5 seconds remaining, led Texas Tech (29-6) with 17 points and 17 rebounds.