March 27, 2005
By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Tennessee's Shyra Ely is one win away from a happy homecoming.
Ely scored 23 points and led the top-seeded Lady Vols into their 20th regional final with a 75-59 win over Texas Tech on Sunday.
The Lady Vols (29-4) will play No. 3 Rutgers in the Philadelphia Regional on Monday night for a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis. Rutgers advanced by way of No. 2 Ohio State, 64-58. The Scarlet Knights defeated Tennessee 65-51 on December 29 at Rutgers.
Ely can't wait to get there. The 2001 Indiana Miss Basketball from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis has set a goal of playing her final game in her home state. She already told her parents they can dole out tickets only to fans who have been to a Tennessee game this year - not a bandwagon jumper.
With the way Tennessee is playing, Ely might get her wish.
The Lady Vols used a smothering defense to shut down the fourth-seeded Lady Raiders (24-8) and help coach Pat Summitt build on her NCAA record with her 881st career victory.
"I thought Shyra really stepped up and played like an All-American," Summitt said. "She had a lot of help, too."
Texas Tech entered with four players scoring in double figures, but never got any offensive rhythm. The Lady Raiders missed their first eight shots and made only nine baskets in the first half. LaToya Davis had 12 points and Judith Smith added 10.
The Lady Raiders briefly snapped out of their slump in the second half, and Darrice Griffin's basket in the lane pulled the Lady Raiders to 52-41 with just over 9 minutes left.
But Ely made a couple of free throws and Hornbuckle hit a jumper to push the lead back to 15.
Ely exited to a standing ovation with 1:10 left in the game. Of course, it only seemed appropriate in the city of Rocky, there was "Rocky Top." These Lady Vols, though, were no underdogs.
Tennessee, which has won six national championships but none since 1998, cruised to easy wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, and Ely led the way in this one.
She got the Lady Vols going midway through the first half, scoring six straight points to help build a 15-point lead. When Ely scored another easy inside basket late in the half, the couple hundred orange-clad fans who made the nearly 625-mile trip erupted. Tennessee led 40-26 at the break.
Ely finished 8-for-11 from the floor and made eight of 11 free throws.
The Lady Vols improved to 5-0 against Texas Tech, including a win in the 2000 regional final that sent them to Philadelphia.