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Ely guides Tennessee closer to first title since 1998

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- 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 over Texas Tech on Sunday. The
Lady Vols (29-4) will play either Ohio State or 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.

Alexis Hornbuckle scored 14 points, and Nicky Anosike added 11
points and 11 rebounds as part of a balanced offense for Tennessee.

Texas Tech entered with four players scoring in double figures,
but never got any offensive rhythm. The Lady Raiders missed their
first eight shots and made only nine baskets on 30 attempts in the
first half. LaToya Davis had 12 points and Judith Smith added 10.

"We got into a big hole in the first five minutes and never
recovered," Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said. "My job is to get
them ready and we didn't handle the first five minutes well. It
probably shook our confidence a little."

The Lady Raiders briefly snapped out of their slump in the
second half, and Darrice Griffin's basket in the lane pulled the
Lady Raiders to 52-41 with just over 9 minutes left.

But Ely made a couple of free throws and Hornbuckle hit a jumper
to push the lead back to 15.

Ely exited to a standing ovation with 1:10 left in the game. Of
course, it only seemed appropriate in the city of Rocky, there was
"Rocky Top." These Lady Vols, though, were no underdogs.

In what was supposed to be a battle of the point guards,
Tennessee's Loree Moore outplayed Erin Grant. Grant said a day
earlier she hoped to be the key to the game. Instead, she was
pretty much a non-factor, with a season-high six turnovers and only
five assists.

On Texas Tech's first possession, Grant had her dribble picked
clean by Hornbuckle, who scored the easy layup. Grant entered with
213 assists to only 60 turnovers.

"They just pressured the ball like we knew they would," Grant
said.

Tennessee, which has won six national championships but none
since 1998, cruised to easy wins in the first two rounds of the
NCAA tournament, and Ely led the way in this one.

She got the Lady Vols going midway through the first half,
scoring six straight points to help build a 15-point lead. When Ely
scored another easy inside basket late in the half, the couple
hundred orange-clad fans who made the nearly 625-mile trip erupted.
Tennessee led 40-26 at the break.

Ely finished 8-for-11 from the floor and made eight of 11 free
throws.

"Shyra was outstanding at finishing, as was her inside play,"
Summitt said.

The Lady Vols improved to 5-0 against Texas Tech, including a
win in the 2000 regional final that sent them to Philadelphia.