CLEVELAND - Not quite far enough.

That became the epitaph for the Rutgers women's basketball team tonight in the Scarlet Knights' first appearance in the NCAA title game.

Once again, Rutgers' effort to cap its magical season with a happy ending was foiled by Tennessee, 59-46, at Quicken Loans Arena.

That's the same building in which the Vols eliminated the Scarlet Knights a year ago in the regional semifinals.

Candace Parker led the Volunteers (34-3) by scoring 17 points. Shannon Bobbitt added 13 points and Sidney Spencer tallied 11.

Pat Summitt's Vols also received key contributions from Alberta Auguste (10 points) and Nicky Anosike (16 rebounds.

Kia Vaughn paced the Scarlet Knights with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Although Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer had proclaimed her young bunch a "team of destiny," it was Tennessee that ended a seven-year drought and extended its record of NCAA championship trophies to seven.

The Scarlet Knights (27-9) had gotten to the title game after starting this season 2-4.

Along the way, they eliminated national powers Duke and LSU in the tournament.

Before its NCAA run, Rutgers upset Connecticut, 55-47, to take the Big East title.

The Scarlet Knights went on to survive No. 1 Duke, 53-52, in the regional semifinals, and to shock LSU, 59-35, in the national semifinals on Sunday.

Although Rutgers deeply felt tonight's defeat, the Scarlet Knights are well-stocked to make several runs at the championship in the seasons ahead. There are no seniors on their roster.

Rutgers had made a name for itself with its defense, but in this game, Tennessee's defenders made the biggest impact.

Bobbitt, a former high school teammate of Rutgers' Epiphanny Prince in New York, got Tennessee off to a quick start with a three-pointer.

Spencer, who had nine points in the first half, increased the opening margin to 5-0 with an outside shot with 18 minutes, 37 seconds left.

Junior guard Matee Ajavon, who had shot 4 for 4 on three-point attempts in the first half of Sunday night's win over Louisiana State, finally got the Scarlet Knights on the scoreboard with a trey. However, it took a long wait for the referees to look at the TV monitor to determine that she shot from outside the arc.

Parker and Prince exchanged foul shots, each also missing an attempt from the line, to make it 6-4 Tennessee with 16:11 left in the period.

The Scarlet Knights took their first lead at 8-6 when Essence Carson hit a layup with 14:37 left. Carson scored again on a jump shot with 12:48 to go in the half.

Spencer got Tennessee back to a tie with a pair of foul shots at 8-8. The Vols regained the advantage at 12-8 when Parker hit her first two field goals on a layup and a jumper.

Vaughn, Rutgers' 6-foot-4 center, got inside for a pair of shots to knot things up again at 12-12 with 9:39 to play.

But Tennessee guard-forward Auguste put the Vols ahead at 14-12 with a pair of foul shots with 9:26 left.

Tennessee stayed in front for the rest of the period.

Auguste hit a jumper for a four-point lead before freshman center Rashidat Junaid, a Camden Catholic High product, got Rutgers back to within a field goal at 16-14 with 6:01 left in the half.

The Scarlet Knights, however, were not able to sustain any offense over the next stretch. Tennessee took advantage, using a 6-0 run as Parker, Auguste and Spencer hit shots for a 22-14 advantage.

Spencer nailed a trey for a nine-point lead at 27-18 with 2:16 to play.

Tennessee made good on a Rutgers turnover by Ajavon and pushed its advantage to double digits at 29-18 when Anosike powered inside with 12 seconds to play. She was fouled by freshman Myia McCurdy but missed the free throw.

Rutgers had 10 turnovers in the half, while Tennessee had eight.

The big statistic favoring the taller Vols was in control of the boards. Tennessee outmuscled the Scarlet Knights by 23-12 in the first half, including 12-3 on the offensive glass.

That enabled Tennessee to have a 13-2 advantage on second-chance points.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.