Tennessee capped the perfect season by playing the nearly perfect game.
In a masterful, dominating display of running, shooting, passing and rebounding, Tennessee overwhelmed Louisiana Tech 93-75 Sunday night to win a record third straight NCAA title.
The Volunteers’ 45th straight victory dating back to last season produced their sixth title, all in the last 12 years, and they finished 39-0 - the most victories ever for a women’s team in NCAA play.
The dominating performance added further backing to the claim that this Tennessee team might be the best of all time - and there’s not likely to be any letup next season. Coach Pat Summitt’s team has only one senior.
“They were just awesome tonight,” Summitt said. “They were really ready to play.”
Louisiana Tech (31-4) also brought a rich tradition to the championship game, as well as a quick, talented starting five that looked to be good enough to challenge the Vols.
Not on this night, though, not on a night when Tennessee was at the top of its game. The Vols jumped to a 13-point lead 5-1/2 minutes into the game and never looked back.
Chamique Holdsclaw pulled up for jump shots, drove to the basket, passed off to teammates for easy buckets when she was double-teamed and did pretty much what she wanted in scoring 25 points.
“We wanted to win a championship for this team - forget about the history,” Holdsclaw said.
Freshmen Tamika Catchings and Semeka Randall keyed the Vols’ smothering defense that forced the shorter Techsters to take tough shots and rarely gave them a second try.
Catchings scored 27 points, mostly by slashing to the basket or getting offensive rebounds. Randall flew down the court time and time again on Tennessee’s devastating fastbreak and finished with 10 points.
And when Louisiana Tech was completely occupied with the three “Meeks,” Kellie Jolly would hit a wide open 3-pointer. Jolly scored 20, including four 3-pointers.
Tennessee set a championship game record of points in a half (55) and missed the record for points in a game by four.
Holdsclaw, named the most outstanding player in the Final Four, is now 7-for-7 in championships - four state titles at Christ the King High School in New York and three NCAA crowns at Tennessee.
Asked what she thought about making it 8-for-8, Holdsclaw said, “I’m going to be working on that, working hard on that over the summer.”
Holdsclaw’s summer will include playing for the U.S. team in the world championships in Germany.
All of Tennessee’s titles have come under Summitt, who has more NCAA basketball championships than any Division I coach, men’s or women’s, except UCLA’s John Wooden. Wooden won 10.
Tennessee is the third unbeaten NCAA champion in Division I women’s play, following Connecticut (35-0) in 1995 and Texas (34-0) in 1986. Connecticut’s 35 victories had been the previous high, a figure that also has been reached by Tennessee (1989), Louisiana Tech (1982) and Texas (1982).
Tamicha Jackson led Louisiana Tech with 26 points, Alisa Burras scored 19 and Monica Maxwell 15. But for the longest time, Jackson was the only consistent threat for the Techsters, who were as quick as Tennessee but not nearly as big. Memo: Tennessee won the rebounding battle, 49-34.
Louisiana Tech was in the game only in the first couple of minutes.
Burras got three baskets inside in the opening 2:10 and Tech trailed just 8-6. Summitt then replaced her center, LaShonda Stephens, with freshman Teresa Geter, Burras went the next 13-1/2 minutes without scoring and Tennessee took off with a lot of dash and plenty of flash, too.