Meighan Simmons talks Sweet 16, win over Creighton
Jimmy Delaney tells a good story about Tennessee’s last NCAA women’s basketball tournament trip to Oklahoma City.
The Lady Vols assistant athletics director for marketing and sales found the spare shoulder sleeve that enabled star player Candace Parker to return from a shoulder injury during the 2008 Midwest Regional final.
Delaney located the sleeve by rummaging through a dirty laundry bag in the undercarriage of the VIP bus. He took off on the run with it, bursting into the team’s locker room as if he was holding a winning lottery ticket.
The tale has stood the test of time. Delaney told it again last Saturday and noted the wide-eyed response. While the essentials need no embellishment, Delaney can’t resist occasionally blurring the dramatics.
“I think I’ve told people that I hurdled a turnstile,” he said this week. “And I don’t even remember if a turnstile was there.”
Delaney’s assist enabled Parker to top off her 26-point performance, and Tennessee to continue toward its second consecutive national championship with a 53-45 victory over Texas A&M.
The good memory is worth sharing as No. 2 seed Tennessee (26-7) returns to face No. 6 Oklahoma (20-14) in the semifinals of the Oklahoma City regional. Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena (TV:ESPN2). Defending national champion Baylor (34-1) faces No.5 Louisville (26-8) in the second game of the doubleheader.
The winners meet at 9 p.m. Tuesday for a trip to the Women’s Final Four.
The Lady Vols are better served by reminiscing about the regional experience, rather than their last actual visit to Oklahoma City. They played here Feb. 2, 2009, losing to Oklahoma 80-70 before a boisterous crowd of 12,552 at the arena, which then was called the Ford Center.
The loss delayed then-UT coach Pat Summitt’s quest for career victory No. 1,000. She would have to wait three more days for a home game against Georgia to achieve the milestone.
To make matters worse, forward Vicki Baugh limped away from a layup in the final minutes having suffered the second torn anterior cruciate knee ligament of her career.
About all Tennessee accomplished that night was ending Sooners center Courtney Paris’ NCAA-record streak of double-doubles for points and rebounds at 112. She fouled out with 38 seconds left, having scored nine points.
Tennessee and Oklahoma were on a collision course for the 2008 regional semifinals here. But Notre Dame beat the Sooners 79-75 in overtime in the second round.
UT beat Notre Dame 74-64 in the regional semifinals. The victory over Texas A&M wasn’t safe until Alexis Hornbuckle, who had missed two prior layup attempts, swished a 24-footer with 50 seconds left.
Delaney received a rousing ovation and pats on the back when he returned to the athletic department offices after that regional. A few co-workers also asked if he could help them find their lost gym shorts.
Delaney said that he’s part of the traveling crew this weekend. If needed, he’s ready.
“I’ve been practicing,” he said, “in case I have to hurdle a turnstile.”