Controversial foul call lifts Lady Vols over Rutgers
By: By Beth Rucker, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer thought a game between two top opponents didn’t deserve the controversial ending it got.
“The game did not deserve this. Tennessee didn’t deserve this. (Tennessee coach Pat Summitt) didn’t deserve this. Those players didn’t deserve this and neither did my great team deserve this,” she said.
Nicky Anosike sank two free throws with .2 seconds left as No. 1 Tennessee rallied for the 59-58 win over No. 5 Rutgers on Monday night in a rematch of last season’s national championship game.
Stringer and her Scarlet Knights were already celebrating what they thought was a Rutgers win when officials began reviewing whether Anosike was fouled by Kia Vaughn before time expired.
Television replays showed the game clock seemed to pause at .2 seconds as Anosike came down with an offensive rebound and was grabbed from behind by Vaughn.
Officials ruled the foul came just before the buzzer, and Anosike calmly stepped up and hit the two free throws to take the victory.
Springer attempted to ice Anosike at the line by taking a timeout prior to the free throws, but it was to no avail.
Rutgers did inbound the ball with .2 remaining on the clock, but an attempt to pass the ball half the distance of the cour was unsuccessful.
It has been speculated that the clock at the Thompson-Boling Center is calibrated with the official’s whistle.
“They said that in this circumstance they could not let me see the clock,” Stringer said of her talk with officials. “I might have been able to help them see something that they needed to see.”
Summitt spoke nothing of the controversy, happy that her Lady Vols managed another slim win against the Scarlet Knights.
“We were fortunate to win. I’m just proud we found a way to win,” she said.
Candace Parker, who bruised her knee in the Lady Vols’ last game, showed little sign of an injury during the victory over Rutgers.
Parker had 27 points and 10 rebounds, while teammate Angie Bjorklund — who is playing with a broken nose — added 13.
Epiphanny Prince had 21 points for Rutgers, and Essence Carson added 18.
The Lady Vols (22-1) entered the second half with a 34-23 lead after the Scarlet Knights (19-4) made only two field goals and two free throws in the 11 minutes before the half.
The deficit was Rutgers’ largest of the season.
They had trailed by 10 to both Connecticut and Maryland before coming back to win both games.
Summitt warned her team at halftime that it could happen again and it almost very well did.
“Rutgers is a second half team, all you have to do is look at all their comebacks this year,” she said.
But Tennessee went cold after the break, making only one shot from the field — a 3-pointer from Bjorklund — in the first 141/2 minutes.
Rutgers took a 39-38 lead on a Rashidat Junaid layup with 10:08 to go.
Vaughn’s putback basket put the Scarlet Knights up 56-51 with 1:35.
Coming off a timeout, Shannon Bobbitt nailed a 3-pointer for Tennessee with 1:23 left.
After Matee Ajavon missed a layup on the other end, Alexis Hornbuckle grabbed the rebound, setting up another 3-pointer by Bjorklund to put the Lady Vols up by one point late in the final period of play.
“I was so excited Shannon got that 3,” Parker said. “It gave us a spark.”
Carson responded immediately with a jumper with 26 seconds left that put Rutgers back on top.
Bobbitt and Parker both missed shots on the goal before Anosike was fouled trying to grab the rebound.
Rutgers was coming off an 73-71 upset of previous No. 1 Connecticut and was trying to become the first team to ever beat No. 1 teams in consecutive games.
Tennessee has eliminated Rutgers from the past three NCAA women’s tournaments, including last season’s national championship with a 59-46 win.
It wasn’t the first time this season Rutgers lost a game on a controversial call at the end of a close game.
The Scarlet Knights were beaten by Stanford on two free throws by Candice Wiggins with .1 seconds left when she was fouled by Prince 80 feet from the basket.
“Unfortunately that is human error,” Stringer said. “I just happen to be on the end of human error too many times with too many erasers at the end of my name, and I’m so sorry because these young women deserve better.”