ShareThis Page
Home

Tasha Butts keeps Tennessee title drive in gear

| Sunday, April 4, 2004

NEW ORLEANS -- Throughout their journey to the Final Four, the Tennessee Lady Vols have had plenty of close calls.

Thanks to Tasha Butts' last-second, game-winning shots, they've managed to survive them and are in the running for a seventh NCAA championship. But Tennessee's next showdown -- in the semifinals tonight -- will be against an LSU team that has been in top form lately.

Butts isn't too worried about the matchup with the Southeastern Conference rival.

"I think we're a much better team than a last-second shot," said the 5-foot-11 senior guard. "I think our team deserves to win. We've been though so much this year, a lot of hard work and adversity. We faced so much and dealt with it all."

Especally Butts.

Against Baylor in the Midwest Regional semifinal, she hit two free throws with 0.2 seconds left to put Tennessee on top. In the final, she won the game with a leaning shot around Stanford All-American Nicole Powell with 1.7 seconds remaining.

Her rise didn't come quickly. She's been working hard for three-and-a-half years while waiting in the shadows of more established players such as Kara Lawson and this season's starting point guard, Loree Moore.

Butts' time came when Moore tore up her knee Jan. 24 at Duke, and she's made the most of it. Butts averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists in her last five regular-season games. And she did it while moving into the less-familiar point guard position.

"I'm comfortable at point guard now," Butts said. "But it took a while and a lot of work to get there."

Now, she will be asked to do even more.

In order to help Tennessee (30-3) advance to the championship game, Butts will have to shut down Seimone Augustus, LSU's hot-shooting guard who is averaging an NCAA Tournament-best 26.3 points in LSU's four games.

"I think anytime you guard a great player you have to make it hard for them to touch the ball or make them take the most difficult shot," Butts said. "She's a scorer, she's going to score. We just have to try to limit her touches and play our game."

LSU (27-7) has had its own share of adversity this season, including the loss of coach Sue Gunter, who was forced to take medical leave in February.

The Tigers lost to Tennessee, 85-62, in the regular season. Two games later, Vanderbilt knocked them out of the SEC tournament. Acting coach Pokey Chatman called that loss the best thing that could have happened to LSU.

A players-only meeting was held and the team emerged refocused.

"It gave us an opportunity to express ourselves and allow everybody to get an understanding of how we felt," point guard Temeka Johnson said. "We really needed just to come together on our own and try to get things squared away before the NCAA tournament started."

Mission accomplished. The Tigers won four straight to get to the first Final Four in school history.

"We've worked really hard, but we know the job isn't done yet," forward Tillie Willis said. "Tennessee is a good team, but we aren't intimidated by anyone. We want this a lot. I think it's going to be a really great game."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me