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Cardinal crushed

Stanford's Kayla Pedersen, right, and JJ Hones (10) sit in the locker room after Stanford lost to Tennessee 64-48 in the championship game at the Final Four in the NCAA women's basketball tournament Tuesday, April 8, 2008, in Tampa, Fla.
Stanford's Kayla Pedersen, right, and JJ Hones (10) sit in the locker room after Stanford lost to Tennessee 64-48 in the championship game at the Final Four in the NCAA women's basketball tournament Tuesday, April 8, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- Candice Wiggins tossed up an airball from the top of the 3-point arc early and Tennessee's swarming defense never let the star senior find any sort of groove.

With its emotional leader out of sync, so went Stanford.

The Cardinal's bid for an NCAA championship ended Tuesday night with a sloppy 64-48 loss to repeat winner Tennessee, the college finale of a spectacular career for Wiggins.

Wiggins finished with 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting, four rebounds and four steals, one night before she will be a high selection in the WNBA draft. Stanford couldn't make it two wins this season over the gutsy Lady Vols after an overtime victory back home at Maples Pavilion in December.

"We were more composed with the pressure," Wiggins said of the first matchup. "We didn't allow it to get to us. Today, for whatever reason, there were a lot of turnovers, turnovers that would never happen -- missed passes, miscues. The whole course of the year, no team's really pressed us or pressured us.

"That was their game plan to really be tight and aggressive on us. When we haven't seen it in I don't know how many games, you're not used to it. The pace of the game was different. We weren't able to establish a rhythm."

Tennesse star Candace Parker scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Lady Vols captured their eighth NCAA women's basketball title and became the first repeat champs since Connecticut won three in a row from 2002-04.

"No. 8, it's all about this team," Vols coach Pat Summitt said. "I've been very blessed with this team, these people I have around me."

Stanford (35-4), a No. 2 seed, had its nation's-best winning streak snapped at 23 games. Coach Tara VanDerveer went to her bench with 1:13 remaining and Wiggins exited for the last time. After the final buzzer, Wiggins embraced the only other Stanford senior, Cissy Pierce.

The emotion of it all will likely hit VanDerveer today, as is typically the case for the 22nd-year Cardinal coach. She has been in denial about Wiggins' departure for months, repeatedly saying she won't let the beloved All-American guard graduate and say goodbye.

All Wiggins asked of herself was to leave everything she had on the court in her last game, so she could at least walk away proud of her performance and her teammates.

"I don't think it has set in yet," Wiggins said, crying. "I told the guys in the locker room I couldn't be any prouder of them.

"I wouldn't want to be on any other team in the country. It happens that we ended our season with a loss, and that hurts."

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