Tradition and transition. That’s what the 17th NCAA women’s basketball tournament will have in its championship game Sunday night.
Tennessee and Louisiana Tech are the only schools never to miss a tournament. They have more victories than any other schools, more Final Four appearances and more trips to the title game.
They also rely on the same frenetic, fast-breaking style.
“They’re a great team and they’re going to run with us,” Tennessee freshman guard Kristen Clement said. “(Coach) Pat (Summitt) told us to get our running shoes on.”
Louisiana Tech (31-3) ran, ran and ran some more for an 84-65 victory over North Carolina State in Friday night’s first national semifinal.
The Volunteers (38-0), seeking an unprecedented third straight championship, followed with an 86-58 victory over Arkansas. Tennessee flustered Arkansas into 28 turnovers and 31 percent shooting.
“I think first, if you’re going to compete with Tennessee, you’re going to have to handle their defensive pressure,” Tech coach Leon Barmore said. “They’re as good as any I’ve seen at trapping the ball, harassing, coming up with steals.”
But Tech’s backcourt of LaQuan Stallworth and Tamicha Jackson showed Friday night they might be able to handle Tennessee’s pressure.
Stallworth, a 5-foot-6 junior, had 18 points and nine assists. Jackson, a 5-5 sophomore, had 16 points and five assists. Both are lightning quick, as are all the Lady Techsters.
“I think overall speed, when you combine speed with quickness, I believe (Louisiana Tech) might be at the top because they have it at all positions,” North Carolina State coach Kay Yow said. “We hadn’t had a problem in transition all year like we had tonight.”
With 756 victories, Tennessee has more than any school in the nation. Tech is next with 677. The Volunteers have been to 11 Final Fours, the Lady Techsters nine.
Sunday will be their fourth final meeting. Tech won in 1982 and ‘88, Tennessee in ‘87.
The teams met at Tennessee on Nov. 21, a 75-61 Vols victory.