CBKB: Tennessee's Parker cleared to play vs. LSU
By BETH RUCKER
Associated Press Writer
By BETH RUCKER
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — All-American Candace Parker was cleared today by Tennessee team doctors to play against LSU in the Final Four, two days after dislocating her shoulder.
Parker will wear a shoulder brace in the national semifinal game Sunday.
Team trainer Jenny Moshak said Parker has good range of motion and strength. Parker dislocated her shoulder twice during the Lady Vols' win Tuesday over Texas A&M, a game in which she returned from injury to finish with 26 points.
Parker scored 28 points against LSU (31-5) in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Her defense is also an important element for Tennessee (34-2).
Freshman guard Angie Bjorklund said today that Parker's blocking ability, guard Alexis Hornbuckle's stealing prowess and Nicky Anosike's defensive rebounding will get the team to its second straight title game appearance.
"I think that the offense, it needs to come from our defense and our intensity on defense in getting steals, getting rebounds and easy layups," Bjorklund said.
Bjorklund is one of several Lady Volunteers struggling from the field, and Hornbuckle said Tennessee cannot rely on its normally excellent shooting skills in the Final Four.
"It always seems to trickle up on us in postseason: Our shooting percentage just seems to go down," Hornbuckle said.
Coach Pat Summitt said she thought Tennessee's poor shooting hurt the team mentally in a 74-64 win over Notre Dame in the regional semifinal, a game in which the Lady Vols trailed at halftime and needed Parker's 34 points and 13 rebounds to win.
She let her players know how disappointed she was after that game, and felt they responded with improved defense against Texas A&M.
Parker isn't struggling with her shooting, but other starters are. In the past two games, Shannon Bobbitt is 5-of-14, Anosike is 5-of-12 and Alberta Auguste is 3-of-15.
Summitt said every team that's good enough to make it to the Final Four knows how to turn up the defensive heat on opponents. On top of that, players often are overwhelmed by the pressure of needing to win to advance.
"I don't think you're as relaxed offensively," Summitt said. "You can try to talk them through it and encourage them. I feel like a cheerleader during postseason more than a coach sometimes."
Summitt said she gave Parker the option to rest Thursday while the rest of her teammates went through a light practice before catching their plane to Tampa. Parker opted to practice to try out the new shoulder brace she'll be wearing this weekend.
"It felt really good on the floor getting some shots up, getting used to the brace," she said. "I was going to play, but you know it was a relief to be able to play and get the OK from the doctors."
Summitt thinks it's just that kind of determination that will earn the Lady Vols an attempt at their eighth national title and first opportunity for back-to-back titles since 1998.
"It's her toughness, it's her focus, it's her desire to win another championship," she said. "I marvel at how mentally strong Candace is."