(9) DePaul (23-6) vs. (1) Tennessee (27-3)
Game Info: 9:00 pm EST Mon Mar 22, 2004
Leon County Civic Center (Tallahassee, FL)
Pat Summitt knows Ashley Robinson can carry Tennessee to its seventh national championship.
The senior center hopes to prove her Hall of Fame coach right as the Lady Vols continue their drive to the title in a second-round matchup with DePaul.
Robinson helped Tennessee storm past Colgate 77-54 in Saturday's opening-round game. She had 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in 22 dominating minutes, bouncing back nicely from a dismal performance in last week's SEC tournament semifinals, when she managed two points in a loss to Georgia.
``When she plays at that level, we are a team that can go to another level,'' Summitt said of Robinson. ``This is an athlete we are going to continue to see.''
Robinson scored 11 first-half points as Tennessee coasted to its 33rd consecutive win in first- and second-round play in the NCAA tournament.
``I just wanted to play well on the offensive end today because I usually do a pretty good job on the defensive end,'' Robinson said. ``I feel like the last few games I haven't played up to my potential.''
Though the Lady Vols have won a record six national titles, they are seeking their first crown since 1998. Tennessee, which has been in the tournament every year since 1982, is playing the opening rounds on the road for the first time.
Summitt believes they have adjusted well thus far.
``They were on top of it,'' she said. ``That just speaks to their focus. They knew it was the postseason.''
DePaul entered the tournament on a four-game losing streak, but stopped its skid with Saturday's 83-46 rout of George Washington. Charlene Smith scored 24 points and Khara Smith added 16 for the Blue Demons, who advanced past the first round for the fourth time in school history.
``It's been five weeks tomorrow since we've had a victory,'' DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. ``So for them to come out and resurrect their ability to play the way we played in the early part of the season was absolutely huge. I can't tell you how proud I was of them because of their ability to stay strong through this adversity.''
The Blue Demons won 18 of their first 19 games this season, with the lone loss during that stretch coming in a 96-89 overtime setback to Tennessee in Chicago on Dec. 17.
Robinson was the key factor in that matchup, scoring 16 of her 18 points after halftime, including the game-tying basket in regulation and the first two points of overtime.
The Lady Vols have won all 14 previous meetings in the series.
The winner meets Florida or Baylor in the regional semifinals next Sunday in Norman, Okla.
PROBABLE STARTERS: DePaul - F Khara Smith (20.8 ppg, 11.9 rpg), F Sarah Kustok (6.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), F Charlene Smith (17.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg), G Jenni Dant (14.3 ppg, 3.1 apg), G Ashley Duke (12.7 ppg, 4.7 apg). Tennessee - F LaToya Davis, (4.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg), F Shyra Ely (15.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg), C Robinson (8.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G Tasha Butts (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), G Shanna Zolman (12.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: DePaul - At-large berth; beat George Washington 83-46, first round. Tennessee - At-large berth; beat Colgate 77-54, first round.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: DePaul - 4-8, 9 years. Tennessee - 81-16, 23 years.