Texas Tech swoops into final against Ohio State Swoopes sparks Raiders' 60-46 rout of No. 1 Vanderbilt


ATLANTA -- Down in the West Texas town of Lubbock, the folks talk about suffering from "Swoopla."

That's not the disease of the week from some television movie, but a malady caused by repeated exposures to Texas Tech forward Sheryl Swoopes.

Yesterday, the No. 1 Vanderbilt Commodores caught a severe case of "Swoopla" and were bounced from the NCAA women's Final Four by the fifth-ranked Red Raiders, 60-46.

Swoopes, the National Player of the Year, scored 31 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and made life generally unpleasant for the Commodores.

"Sheryl Swoopes is argueably the best player I've seen in a long time," said Vanderbilt coach Jim Foster. "I don't even know that we saw the best of her today."

If that's the case, then today's national championship game against Ohio State could be one to remember, for Swoopes, who is averaging 32 points in her last five games, including 53 in the Southwest Conference Tournament final, was simply brilliant yesterday.

"I'm pretty pleased," said Swoopes. "So long as we win, I don't care."

There was a lot in Swoopes' play with which to be pleased. The 6-foot senior was dominant on both ends of the floor, going inside and outside on offense and playing excellent wing defense.

And though the Commodores (30-3) were intermittently successful in neutralizing Swoopes, they were unsuccessful at keeping her from scoring at key moments.

For instance, with the Red Raiders (30-3) leading by two at halftime, Swoopes emerged from the dressing room on fire -- hit two free throws, a dazzling reverse layup on a put-back, and a baseline drive where she blew by her defender with a lightning quick first step and kissed a shot off the glass.

"She [Swoopes] has got great quickness in either direction with the right hand or left hand," said Vanderbilt reserve Lisa King, who spent most of the second half guarding Swoopes. "You have to try and be sure and know where she is at all times."

Swoopes wasn't alone. Senior guard Krista Kirkland had 14 points, including a clutch three-pointer near the end of the first half, when Vanderbilt, the Midwest Region champion, had sliced a four-point lead to one.

VTC "We have a lot of composure and poise," said Kirkland. "We knew it would come. We just had to be patient."

Heidi Gillingham, Vanderbilt's 6-10 center, had 24 points as the shorter Red Raiders were unable to deny her the ball down low.

But Gillingham, who made 12 of 18 shots, got absolutely no help from her teammates, who shot just nine of 41.

As a result, the Commodores set a Final Four record for fewest points in a half (20) and tied a record for fewest points scored in a semifinal game.

Vanderbilt shot 3-for-26 from three-point range. Shelley Jarrard, who had made 38 percent of her three-pointers all season, was 1-for-8 and 1-for-11 overall.

"Shelley just didn't make shots. There was no rhythm, reason or rhythm on offense," said Foster. "They did a great job of packing it in on Heidi, and when we kicked it out, they were quick to the shooters."

Vanderbilt did a good job of taking Swoopes out of the flow at first. She was visibly frustrated and could only muster two free throws in the first 8 1/2 minutes. But she made a three-pointer with 11:31 left in the half and that got her started.

After the second television timeout, Swoopes went to work, with a pull-up jumper on the left wing, a baseline drive and another jumper on the baseline to give the Red Raiders a 17-12 lead with 7:41 left.

But Texas Tech had no answer for Gillingham, who anchored down low and dared the Red Raiders to stop her. Most of the time, they couldn't, as she scored 16 points in the first half, with no shot coming from farther than five feet out.

Gillingham got help late in the half when teammates, who missed their first 11 three-pointers, hit two within two minutes to move within one with 1:26 left.

But Kirkland, who scored seven of Tech's last nine points in the half, hit a three-pointer with 50 seconds left and Swoopes scored from the baseline with 19 seconds remaining for a 28-26 lead at halftime.

Women's NCAA championship at a glance


At The Omni, Atlanta No. 3 Ohio State (28-3) vs. No. 5 Texas Tech (30-3) Time: 4 p.m.

TV: Channels 11, 9

Outlook: This is the meeting of the current and future stars of women's basketball -- Texas Tech senior F Sheryl Swoopes and Ohio State freshman F Katie Smith. Swoopes has been brilliant in the tournament, averaging 32.5 points in four games. Smith has been sub-par, with just 11 points yesterday, but her teammates, senior guards Audrey Burcy and Averrill Roberts, have picked up the slack. The Buckeyes' depth and versatility could be the difference if their defense can hold Swoopes in check.

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