PHILADELPHIA — Shyra Ely scrawled her goal on the back of her sneakers: Homeward Bound. With the way Tennessee is playing, Ely might get her wish.
Ely scored 23 points and led the top-seeded Lady Vols into their 20th regional final with a 75-59 win against Texas Tech on Sunday. The Lady Vols (29-4) will play Rutgers in the Philadelphia Regional on Tuesday night for a trip to the Final Four in Ely’s hometown of Indianapolis.
“I plan on going home next week and playing for a national championship,” said Ely, the 2001 Indiana Miss Basketball from Ben Davis High. “It would just be icing on the cake to finish my career where I started and to be in Indianapolis in front of friends and family.”
Ely 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. Those on the fence might want to rush to Philly.
Ely, averaging 17 points in three tournament games, offered a simple explanation for her sharp shooting.
“It’s tournament time. It’s March,” she said.
Certainly, Tennessee knows a thing or two about playing its best in March.
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. She hopes to make it 884 by the end of the tournament.
“I think we’re one of the teams that can win a championship,” Summitt said.
Rutgers 64, Ohio St. 58PHILADELPHIA — Cappie Pondexter scored 24 points, and third-seeded Rutgers turned 15 Ohio State turnovers into 22 points.
Freshman Matee Ajavon added 14 points, and Chelsea Newton had 13 for the Scarlet Knights (28-6). Jessica Davenport had 22 points and 14 rebounds for second-seeded Ohio State (30-5), which beat Rutgers 52-50 in Columbus on Jan. 16.
Michigan St. 76, Vanderbilt 64
KANSAS CITY — Kristin Haynie had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the second triple-double in Michigan State history to help the top-seeded Spartans advance to the regional final against the Stanford-Connecticut winner.
Haynie, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, had just two points in a first half before helping the Spartans (31-3) pull away for their school-record 15th straight victory.
Kelli Roehrig led Michigan State with 18 points.
Carla Thomas had 22 points for Vanderbilt (24-8).