TAMPA, Fla. - Candace Parker didn't have a gut feeling about what was taking place Sunday night.
And that was a good feeling for the Tennessee All-American and the Lady Vols in a tense struggle with LSU at the Women's Final Four.
"You know when you think you're going to lose and your stomach drops; that never happened,'' she said.
There were plenty of chances, like after Erica White's two free throws with 7.1 seconds left gave LSU a one-point lead. Or after her subsequent headlong dribble drive the length of the court ended with a miss and a follow-up rebound miss by teammate Nicky Anosike.
"I saw the (Anosike) miss come off and I saw Lex coming,'' Parker said. "Then I blanked out."
Her stomach was safe and so was Tennessee. Alexis Hornbuckle's rebound basket with seven-tenths of a second left gave the Lady Vols a dramatic 47-46 victory before a crowd of 21,655 at the St. Pete Times Forum and a spot in the national championship game.
Tennessee (35-2) will face Stanford at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (TV: ESPN). The Cardinal beat Connecticut 82-73 in Sunday's other semifinal.
Hornbuckle, who was 1-for-8 from the floor, had missed badly seconds earlier. Then she fouled White, setting up White's two free throws.
UT's final response was a play that assistant coach Dean Lockwood estimated the Lady Vols had practiced "10 times" this season.
"It's a complete scramble," he said.
All things considered, it was a fitting ending for a game that was a complete struggle. The teams combined for a Final Four-low 93 points
Parker, who twice suffered a dislocated left shoulder against Texas A&M last Tuesday, shot an unsightly 6-for-27 from the floor in scoring a team-high 13 points.
"I'm not going to make excuses,'' Parker said. "I struggled out there on the court. I wanted to give it my all."
She grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds and recorded three blocks.
Between Parker and Hornbuckle, Lady Vol Alberta Auguste, who scored 10 points, had a lot of encouraging to do.
"Sometimes you have to be in their ear,'' Auguste said. " 'We're still here. We still have a chance to win.' ''
Shannon Bobbitt was Tennessee's other double-figure scorer with 11 points.
Sylvia Fowles had 24 points and 20 rebounds for LSU (31-6).
Both teams scored just one basket apiece in the first six minutes, prompting one fan to say "first one to 10 wins."
Parker missed her first five shots, essentially settling for jumpers before hitting a right-handed hook in the lane with 11:22 left in the first half. The basket gave UT a 9-6 lead.
The Lady Vols maintained their lead despite losing center Nicky Anosike, who picked up her second foul with 8:50 left in the first half and sat out the rest of the half.
A play that figured to give LSU a boost actually worked in Tennessee's favor.
LSU's Fowles registered a resounding block on a driving shot attempt by Parker. The force of the blow was such that the basketball bounced off Lady Tigers guard Quianna Chaney's head and created a transition opportunity that Fowles finished with a layup.
Instead of LSU being fired up, Parker responded with three consecutive baskets - two right at the rim - and a block of her own, pushing the Lady Vols' lead to 19-11.
The Lady Vols held their advantage until halftime, leading 22-18 despite shooting 28.6 percent from the floor (10-for-35). Parker had eight points but was shooting 4-for-15.
LSU wasn't much better at 30.8 percent (8-for-26). The 6-foot-6 Fowles also was struggling, needing 13 shots for her 12 first-half points.
The Lady Vols scoring problems were such that they substituted veteran Hornbuckle with freshman Angie Bjorklund for a portion of the second half, sacrificing defense and experience for a shot at some points.
Despite their struggles, the Lady Vols never trailed by more than a point and led for the majority of the game. They expanded their lead to 37-27 after a pretty move by Parker led to a basket and free throw with 11:15 left.
LSU scored the next five baskets to set up the frantic finish.
"Our motto has been if we're not scoring, they better not be scoring,'' Anosike said. "I think that's been our mindset."