February 14, 2008

LSU knocks off No. 1 Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- LSU shook off an early 21-2 defecit at No. 1 Tennessee and took sole control of the SEC standings with a 78-62 win over the Lady Vols. It was LSU's second straight win over Tennessee.

Nothing was going well for the Tigers early on as Tennessee's Candace Parker needed only four minutes to break double digit points. It didn't matter where they were on the floor, Tennessee was making shots early, 70 percent in the first five minutes. LSU was forced to call two timeouts to try and stop the Lady Vol run. LSU head coach Van Chancellor encouraged his players to keep playing hard, but after he saw little change he challenged them personally in the second timeout.

"When it was 21-2 I didn't want to answer my cell phone, I thought it may be the athletic director taking my job," Chancellor said after the win.

The 19-point lead quickly evaporated as LSU began to create turnovers and hit their outside shots. At one point late in the first half the Tigers even took a brief lead, before Tennessee went up three at the break.

The second half was back and forth until LSU went up for good 39-38 behind an Allison Hightower jumper from the right baseline with 14 minutes remaining. Hightower finished with 10 points on the night and received praise from her coach after the game.

"She's the best sixth player in the country," Chancellor said. Hightower provided some instant offense off the LSU bench in the second half hitting two straight mid-range jumpers on back-to-back possessions.

Tennessee often seemed frustrated on the offensive end in the second half. There was often very little offensive motion and then a desperate shot to avoid a shot clock violation. Parker had little help from her teammates. Alexis Hornbuckle, Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta Auguste combined to go 6-of-28 from the floor.

LSU stretched the lead to double digits with four minutes remaining and even briefly to 18 behind transition buckets and some late free-throws.

Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt voiced her displeasure with her team after the game.

"I am not happy with much of anything that happened tonight," Summitt said in the post-game press conference. "This is unacceptable." Only three days after her team almost blew a double digit lead against Rutgers the Lady Vols once again let a big lead dwindle.

"This team is not a team that gets excited to play 40 minutes," Summitt said. "They pick and choose when to play hard."

Parker finished with 26 points, but was inaffective offensively for long stretches of the first and second half as LSU made a defensive switch matching her up with Sylvia Fowles. The 6-6 Tigers center was a force in the second half totaling 17 points and 14 rebounds. She managed to get great position on the Lady Vol post players to score around the bucket. LSU had six players finish in double figures.

With the win LSU moves into first place in the SEC standings with a 10-0 record. They hold the tie-breaker for the league regular season title over the Lady Vols.

Player of the game: LSU's Sylvia Fowles who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds dominated the paint in the second half and helped limit Candace Parker for the final 30 minutes of play.

Next up for LSU: Sunday vs. Mississippi

Next up for Tennessee: Sunday at Vanderbilt

No. 1 Tennessee goes down

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Tennessee built a 21-2 lead over LSU early in the first half, then watched everything fall apart. They dropped their first home game of the season to the Tigers 78-62 as LSU went on a 76-41 run to end the game.

Sylvia Fowles controlled the paint in the second half and the Tigers made their free-throws late as they knocked off Tennessee for the second straight time. LSU ended the Lady Vols SEC Tournament last year in Atlanta. Fowles finished with 17 points.

Candace Parker led the Lady Vols with 26 points, but really struggled in most of the second half.

The score does not reflect the play during most of the game. It was actually close throughout the second half, but Tennessee began to foul with two minutes remaining and stretched the lead.

The final update will come after the coaches press conference.

Things not looking good for No. 1 Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- It looks like No. 1 Tennessee will drop its first home game the season. They currently trail No. 7 LSU 69-58 with two minutes left in the game. The Tigers have simply been too tough in the second half for Tennessee and have really limited their touches inside.

LSU stretches lead to double digits

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- LSU has stretched its lead over No. 1 Tennessee to 62-51 behind a 7-0 run over the last minute and a half. There is less than four minutes left in the game.

Lady Vols frustrated by LSU defense

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- No. 1 Tennessee looks frustrated against LSU's defense in the second half as they trail 50-44. The Lady Vols have only scored 11 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half.

One of the biggest problems has been their lack of motion on offense. Their is very little movement, players seem content with standing and watching Candace Parker try to back down her defender in the post.

There is 7:19 remaining in the game.

Hightower, Fowles problems for Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- LSU has extended its lead to 44-40 over No. 1 Tennessee eight minutes into the second half. One of the Lady Vols biggest problems on the defensive end has been defending LSU's Allison Hightower who has been deadly from mid-range. She leads the Tigers with 10 points.

LSU pulls ahead behind its defense

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- LSU has pulled ahead over No. 1 Tennessee 35-34 four minutes into the second half using something it's accusomed to, playing great defense. The Tigers give up less than 50 points a game this year and are really frustrating the Lady Vols tonight. LSU has 12 steals in teh game, four of which came in the second half.

Nicky Anosike has returne dfor Tennessee, she had to switch jerseys from her usual No. 55 to No. 12 because of the elbow she took to the nose in the first half.

Anosike hurt as LSU closes gap at the half

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- LSU was once down 21-2 in the first half, but came storming back to cut the Tennessee lead to 33-30.

At one point the Tigers even led 30-29 when center Sylvia Fowles scored off a miss inside. RaShonta LeBlanc leads LSU with seven points.

Candace Parker did the majority of the scoring for the Lady Vols totaling 17 points early on. She was the only consistant weapon in the first half as she finishe 6-of-11 from the field.

Tennessee could be without center Nicky Anosike who caught an elbow in the nose from Fowles and had to go to the locker room with a minute to go in the half. Her status for the rest of the game is uncertain.

LSU comes storming back

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- LSU was once down 19 points in the first half, but has just used a barrage of 3-pointers to cut the Tennessee lead to 29-28. The Lady Vols have gone ice cold from the floor of late and have more turnovers in teh last 10 minutes than they do points.

Parker outscoring LSU

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Candace Parker has really gotten off to a fast start tonight outscoring LSU by herself 15-12. As a team Tennessee leads the game 27-12. LSU managed to cut the Lady Vol lead to 11 behind a 7-0 run, but Tennessee came right back and scored seven straight to build the lead back up.

LSU struggling to score

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Tenessee has jumped out to a 21-5 lead over LSU nine minutes into the game. The Tigers have had real problems scoring early on. The Lady Vols already have as many steals as LSU has points. The lone bright spot for the Tigers, they are currently on a 3-0 run.

Parker double figures already

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-Candace Parker only needed four mintues to reach double digits tonight. She already has 11 points and has scored in a variety of ways, whether it's free-throws, hook shots or a 3-pointer from the wing. Tennessee leads 16-2 with 15:32 left in the first half.

Lady Vols jump out to early double-digit lead

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Candace Parker and Alexis Hornbuckle have helped No. 1 Tennessee jump out to a 14-2 lead four minutes into the game. Both players have hit 3-pointers and are playing especially well early on. Parker seems to be getting to the basket at will.

Battle for first in SEC standings

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- First place in the SEC standings is on the line tonight as No. 1 Tennessee and No. 7 LSU square off in Thompson-Boling Arena. Both teams are undefeated in league play this season.

The Lady Vols are coming off a controversial last second win over Rutgers Monday night. The clock seemed to freeze with two-tenths of a second remaining when Tennessee's NIcky Anosike had the ball. Rutger's Kia Vaughn fouled Anosike who calmly went to the line and sank both free-throws giving the Lady Vols a 59-58 win.

LSU knocked off No. 1 seed Tennessee in last year's SEC Tournament in Atlanta. In that game Candace Parker was held to a career low four points as the Lady Vols struggled to score.

Players to watch for: Tennessee's Candace Parker, LSU's Sylvia Fowles. The two will battle it out down low all night. The 6-6 Fowles has been a challenge for Parker in the past and could do so again tonight.

Tip off is moments away.

February 11, 2008

Speculation ensues over Lady Vols win

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Nicky Anosike sank two free-throws with two-tenths of a second left after a controversial call to give No. 1 Tennessee a 59-58 victory over No. 5 Rutgers. Video replays showed that the clocik paused for a brief second before Anosike was fouled. Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer voiced her frustration after the game.

"My assistant grabbed me and then all of a sudden out of the blue it was like hello, there's a cruel joke that's been played on you," Stringer said. In the post-game press conference Stringer said without a doubt she believed her team had won the game. Stringer's players were in simular disblief after the game.

"It's unbelievable, I don't understand," guard Essence Carson said. Carson said she was watching the clock at the end of the game and couldn't believe Tennessee was able to get that many shots off with the seconds counting down.

This isn't the first time this season that Rutgers has lost with under a second left on a controversial call. Stanford beat Rutgers 60-58 on the Scarlet Knights' floor in the first game of the season, when Candace Wiggins was fouled with one-tenth of a second left. Wiggins went to the line and sank both free-throws for the win. Stringer did her best to keep her composure during the post-game press conference though it was evident she was not pleased with the outcome.

"Thank god it's not a national championship game or I'd probably lose my job," she said.

Rutgers led for much of the second half because the Lady Vols were simply ice cold from the field. Tennessee held an 11-point halftime lead, which was quickly erased behind a 10-0 Rutgers run. Tennessee missed 14-of-15 shots to start the second half and relied on mainly mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers early on. At one point the Lady Vols had a 22 minute period where they only made two field goal attempts.

Candace Parker was the only Tennessee player who shot a decent percentage on the night, finishing with 27 points on 48 percent shooting. Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt, Alexis Hornbuckle and Alberta Auguste were a combined 2-of-24 from the field. After the Lady Vols struggled for the first 15 minutes of the second half Parker finally started to get Tennessee going with some shots in the paint. At one point Tennessee missed 13 straight 3-point attempts, but Shannon Bobbitt and Angie Bjorklund hit back to back 3s less than a minute apart to erase a five-point Rutgers lead and put the Lady Vols back on top with 49 seconds remaining.

It was short lived as Carson came back down and hit a mid-range jumper over Bobbitt to put Rutgers back on top with 22 seconds left. After that the speculation ensued.

Rutgers was led by Epiphanny Prince with 21 points. Carson added 18 on 6-of-9 shooting.

With the win Rutgers would have beaten two straight No. 1 teams. They upset previously unbeaten Connecticut less than a week ago.

Player of the Game: Nicky Anosike, though Tennessee fans would probably say the guy controlling the clock.

Next up for Rutgers: @ South Florida Saturday

Next up for Tennessee: vs. LSU Thursday in Knoxville

Lady Vols win thriller on last second FTs

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- For 59 minutes Nicky Anosike could hardly get anything to fall, with 0.2 seconds left she gave Tennessee a 59-58 lead over Rutgers and one of the biggest wins of the season.

Rutgers held a 58-57 lead until Anosike was fouled under the basket as time ran down. The referees concluded there was 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock. Thompson-Boling Arena erupted after both of Anosike's free throws.

The final game recap will come after the press conference.

Anosike makes both with 0.2 seconds left

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Nicky Anosike's two-free throws with 0.2 seconds left gives Tennessee a 59-58 lead.

Anosike fouled as time expires

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Tennessee's Nicky Anosike was fouled just before time expires as Rutgers holds a 58-57 lead. Anosike will go to the line for two shots and a chance to win the game.

Bjorklund's 3 gives UT the lead

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- For 30 minutes Tennessee couldn't hit a 3-pointer, in the last 45 seconds they've hit two. Freshman Angie Bjorklund knocked down a 3 with 47 seconds left to give Tennessee a 57-56 lead over Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have the ball.

Rutgers holding on to lead

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Epiphanny Prince and Matee Ajavon have helped keep Rutgers up 52-51 on No. 1 Tennessee.

Candace Parker has tried to give the Lady Vols the lead single-handedly scoring Tennessee's last six points. She has 27 points and nine rebounds so far. There is 2:47 left and Kia Vaughn is going to the line for Rutgers. Parker fouled her hard underneath the basket.

Parker's jumper cuts Rutgers lead to one

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Candace Parker's turn around jumper helps Tennessee cut the Rutgers lead to 50-47. It was only the second basket for the Lady Vols in the half.

Rutgers Epiphanny Prince has played a strong second half and hit an off balanced shot to give the Scarlet Knights a three-point lead.

Bobbitt called for technical

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Tennessee point guard Shannon Bobbitt was called for a technical after getting fouled by Rutgers' Matee Ajavon. Rutgers made both of their free throws and Bobbitt only made one. Rutgers leads 46-44 with 6:20 left.

Rutgers lead as Lady Vols struggle to score

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Rutgers has built a 44-41 lead behind strong defense and a struggling Tennessee offense. The Lady Vols have only two made field goals in the last 22 minutes of action, a jumper from Angie Bjorklund and a layup from Candace Parker.

Tennessee has been able to get to the free throw line, but has been unable to make jumpers. The Lady Vols are 1-of-15 in the second half and are shooting 26 percent for the game.

Both teams have players with four fouls. Epiphann Prince, Rashidat Junaid and Myia McCurdy have four For Rutgers. Bjorklund and Alexis Hornbuckle have for Tennessee. There is 7:15 left in the game.

Rutgers ties it up

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-Epiphanny Prince's layup tied it up for Rutgers at 37-37. The Lady Vols have been ice cold in the second half going only 1-of-14 from the field, the lone basket being a jumper from freshman Angie Bjorklund.

Rutgers has really stepped up the defense and is forcing Tennessee to only shoot long jumpers and 3-pointers. Tennessee hasn't made a 3 since early in the first half, missing 11 straight.

Rutgers' quick run cuts Lady Vol lead

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Rutgers has started the second half on a 8-0 run to cut Tennessee's lead to 34-31. The Lady Vols have struggled from the outside and Rutgers has been able to get points in the paint in the first three minutes.

Lady Vol fans routinely stand and clap at the begininng of each half until Tennessee scores and they have been standing for over three minutes so far.

Parker helps build halftime lead

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Candace Parker's knee is fine and the Lady Vols have built a 34-23 halftime lead over Rutgers. Parker has scored in almost every way early on as she has 17 points and seven rebounds at the half.

Rutgers was able to stay in the game early on, but their fouls kept building and the Lady Vols were able to take a double digit lead. Essence Carson leads Rutgers with nine points at the break.

After starting out hot from the field the Lady Vols have really cooled off and are only shooting 36 percent. Nicky Anosike, Aberte Auguste and Shannon Bobbitt are a combined 0-of-12 from the field. Luckily for Tennessee they are a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line.

At halftime the Tennessee basketball coaches helped raise money for breast cancer research by auctioning off their kisses in a fundraiser called "Kiss for a Cure." Men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl just sold a kiss for $2,000 and Pat Summitt's kiss just went for $4,000. The auction raised $9,500 for cancer research.

Fouls picking up for Rutgers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- No. 5 Rutgers is having foul problems early on and No. 1 Tennessee is taking advantage of them. Five Rutgers playres have two fouls each including Kia Vaughn, Epiphanny Prince and Matee Ajavon. The Lady Vols have turned those fouls into a 12-of-12 performance from teh free-throw line.

Tennessee leads Rutgers 32-21 with 1:55 left in the first half.

Parker scoring at will early on

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Candace Parker has 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting early on for No. 1 Tennessee. The Lady Vols hold a 26-19 lead over No. 5 Rutgers with 7:51 remaining in the first half. The Lady Vols have cooled off a bit shooting. Parker, Angie Bjorklund and Alex Fuller are 8-of-12 shooting, but the rest of the team is a combined 1-of-7.

Rutgers has three players with two fouls each including seniors Kia Vaughn and Matee Ajavon. Essence Carson and Epiphanny Prince each have seven points to lead Rutgers.

Lady Vols hot early on

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- The Lady Vols have used some strong shooting to jump out to a 19-10 lead over Rutgers with 11:42 left in the first half.

The Lady Vols are shooting 58 percent from the field so far and have hit 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Angie Bjorklund has eight points to lead all scoreres.

Rutgers has one of the best defenses in the country and is only giving up 50 points a game for the season, but Tennessee has hit their jump shots early on. Essence Carson leads Rutgers with five points.

Lady Vols jump out to early lead

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Candace Parker and Angie Bjorklund have Tennessee out to a 9-6 lead over Rutgers. Parker hit her first two shots and Bjorklund has knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Lady Vols the lead.

Rutgers center Rashidat Junaid has been a problem for Tennessee inside and has two rebounds early on.

National Championship rematch in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Candace Parker will start tonight as No. 1 Tennessee and No. 5 Rutgers square off in a rematch of last season's national championship game in Cleveland, Ohio. After wondering about the status of the All-American for days the Lady Vols got word that she wascleared to play by trainer Jenny Moshak.

Parker injured the same knee she has had two surgeries on during last Thursday's game at Mississippi State. Parker has moved around in pre-game shootouts with ease and doesn't seem to be in any pain. Tennessee could use her if they expect to beat Rutgers for the fourth straight time. Parker is averaging 20 points a game this season.

Tennessee has eliminated the Scarlet Knights from the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons, including the last season's national title game which the Lady Vols won 59-46.

Rutgers has a shot of knocking off two straight No. 1 teams, they beat then No. 1 Connecticut 73-71 February 5. The Scarlet Knights trailed by 10 in the second half, but rallied behind 27 second half points from guard Epiphanny Prince. Tennessee moved up to the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press poll earlier today.

Rutgers will be wearing pink jerseys in recognition of the nationwide program "Think Pink," a cause started to raise the awareness of breast cancer across the country. Women's teams throughtout the nation are wearing pink jerseys this week in honor of NC State coach Kay Yow who is currently battling breast cancer. The entire lower bowl of Thompson-Boling arena has been decked otu with pink shirts, which should be quite a sight for ESPN2 viewers.

Tip off is 20 minutes away and updates will occur every timeout.

Players to Watch:
Tennessee: Candace Parker- Not a surprise here. The All-American injured her knee in the last game and her status throughout the game could very well determine the outcome of this game.

Rutgers: Epiphanny Prince- The sophomore is coming off a 33 point performance against Connecticut where she scored 27 points in the second half.

February 10, 2008

No. 3 Tar Heels Sweep Tech With 75-61 Victory in Atlanta

ATLANTA - It was clear from the start that the Jackets would not allow North Carolina to control today's game from start to finish as they did in Chapel Hill earlier this year. However, the Tar Heels never relinquished the lead after picking it up in the last three minutes of the second half.

Senior forward Elena Larkins was the key to today's game. She had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Combine that with junior guard Rashanda McCants' 18 points and you have a recipe for success.

For the game, the Tar Heels shot 52% including going 5-9 from behind the 3-point arc. Time and time again, Carolina was able to beat Georgia Tech's full court press and create open looks.

Tech would make adjustments to momentarily slow down Carolina's momentum, but the Tar Heels size advantage combined with their shooting effort was just too much to handle.

On the other hand, the Jackets shot just 37% from the field and struggled at times to drive the ball inside. Thus, Tech had to settle for the outside jump shot on multiple occasions. Forward Janie Mitchell was the Jackets' leading scorer with 22, but guard Chioma Nnamaka was really Tech's leader in this game.

She scored 15 for Tech, including four three pointers. Nnamaka was able to help keep the Jackets in the game at crucial points in both the first and second halves. She gutted out an apparent ankle injury that she suffered in the first half after coming down awkwardly on her left ankle following a made three point jumper.

With the victory, North Carolina's record moves to 22-2 overall, and a perfect 9-0 in conference. Now the Tar Heels will move up at least one slot in the next poll with Connecticut's loss to Rutgers this week.

The Tar Heels play again this Friday in Charlottesville, against another tough ACC opponent in Virginia.

Georgia Tech's record falls to 18-6 overall, and 5-5 in conference. The Jackets have proven that they are a worthy opponent this season, but still lack a marquis win to staple to their resume.

Tech resumes the rest of their schedule with Savannah State at home on Tuesday, and their next ACC opponent coming next Monday in Chestnut Hill, Ma. against Boston College.

Tar Heels Taking Over

ATLANTA - With 8:34 left to play, this game has reached a critical point. The Tar Heels lead 64-52 and it looks like the Jackets may have run out of answers. They have been relying heavily on the 3-ball with Chioma Nnamaka doing most of the shooting.

At this point, the Tar Heels appear to have taken away Tech's transition game advantage and have forced to Tech to rely completely on the outside jumper.

Tar Heels Respond

ATLANTA - After Tech closed the game up, North Carolina has responded by pushing the advantage back to eight. This battle has turned into a game of streaks. When the Tar Heels get out to a big lead, Tech pushes the game's tempo and is able to close that gap.

However, they have not been able to sustain it. Thus, North Carolina has just responded by bringing the game back into the half court giving them the distinct advantage.

With over 15 minutes remaining, North Carolina leads 53-47.

Carolina Regains Temp

ATLANTA - Alex Montgomery hit a three to open up the second half and bring the Jackets within one.

For the next two minutes, it was all North Carolina after they scored seven straight points to take a 49-41 advantage. The Tar Heels are now playing their style of game, and causing havoc inside the paint once more.

Jackets Close Gap Before Half

ATLANTA - At halftime, North Carolina leads Tech 42-38. After leading by as many as 11, the Jackets forced the pace back up again. By keeping the game in transition, Carolina was not able to use its size advantage at the end of the half.

While North Carolina has the speed and depth to run up and down the floor with Georgia Tech, it is clear that pushing the pace of the game gives the Jackets their best chance at an upset. Before today, North Carolina has won 11 straight games against the Jackets.

The Tar Heels have extra incentive to win today's contest as they could be move up in the polls with a win. Connecticut dropped a close decision to Rutgers earlier this week, and Tennessee will be playing that same Rutgers team tomorrow without the help of Candace Parker. With a Vols loss, the Tar Heels would move into the #1 slot.

Carolina's Run Continues

ATLANTA - The Tar Heels now lead 37-29 with 3:15 to play in the half. North Carolina is now on a 14-4 run with the only Tech points coming on two free throws from Iasia Hemingway and ...

It is clear that North Carolina is making use of their size advantage on offense. As a result, Tech has used more double teams leaving open shots on the perimeter. Needless to say, this has caused a lot of havoc for Tech's halfcourt defense. Look for Tech coach MaChelle Joseph to try and make some adjustments going into the locker room.

Tar Heels Take 1st Lead

ATLANTA - With under six minutes to play, the Tar Heels have the 30-27 lead on the strength of an 11-2 run.

Jackets Lead, Nnamaka Injured

ATLANTA - The Jackets lead 25-21 with just under eight minutes to play. Chioma Nnamaka hit a key three pointer to give Tech a six point advantage before Carolina picked up a bucket before the timeout.

While Nnamaka was able to hit that key three, she landed awkwardly on her left foot and turned her ankle. She is now sitting on the bench, but should return.

Pink Jackets Continue to Lead

ATLANTA - After the first timeout, it is clear that both coaches told their teams that the fast paced game they had played for the first five minutes could not be sustained. Both teams are getting more and more into their half court sets, with fewer transition opportunities.

With Chioma Nnamaka's three pointer, the Jackets have their largest lead at 16-10 with 13:14 to go. The Jackets never led in the rout that occured in Chapel Hill earlier this season, outside of picking up the first bucket of the game.

In today's contest, Georgia Tech is showing their support for breast cancer awareness with a "Think Pink" promotion today. The team is wearing pink jerseys and shorts, while many members of the crowd are donning pink t-shirts.

The score at the second media timeout is now Georgia Tech 17, North Carolina 13 withover 11 minutes to play.

Jackets, Tar Heels Underway

ATLANTA - In the first few minutes of this game, the Jackets and Tar Heels are content with running the floor. There have been many buckets in transition.

With 17:27 left in the first half, the game changed as the Jackets' Janie Mitchell was charged with an intentional foul after fouling Rashanda McCants from behind. With the score being 8-4 in Tech's favor, the intentional foul changed the game as

At the first media timeout, the game finally takes a break and allows everyone to take a collective breather. Georgia Tech leads North Carolina 13-10 with 15:15 to play in the first half.

February 05, 2008

Warrior Knights

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Fourteen people got a hell of a show on CSTV. OK, so the women's hoops blog folks underestimated the amount of viewers that CSTV gets, but our network sure did air a great Big East battle.

No. 1 Connecticut is undefeated no longer and to make matters worse, the loss comes at the hands of their nemesis, No. 7 Rutgers, 73-71, at the RAC

The Huskies played down to Rutgers' speed in the first half and still managed to take a nine-point lead into the break. They extended that lead after halftime to 40-30, but that is when Epiphanny Prince went to work.

"I don't think we doubled her enough," said UConn coach Geno Auriemma in response to Prince's night. "It wasn't like she made easy shots. They were tough shots."

The sophomore guard erupted, scoring 12 points in a decisive 16-4 run that brought the Knights all the way back from down 10 to up by two, 46-44. Prince finished the game with a career-high 33 points, the first time a Rutgers player scored 30 or more since All-American Cappie Poindexter in 2004.

The game was like night and day between the two halves. In the opening stanza, the Knights forced UConn to play a slow-down game and lost. The second half saw the warriors from Jersey speed up their games thanks to the vaunted 55 defense, creating turnovers and turning them into easy buckets.

"If you are trying to speed up the game, then we'll go 55 [defense], and the more you go, it's like kerosene on fire," said Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer. "It had more to do with the pressure we were putting on their two main scorers."

In fact, Rutgers outscored Connecticut 19-4 off turnovers, easily the difference in the game. Prince - who else? - led the Knights with six steals.

The Scarlet Knights (19-3, 9-1 Big East) led by as much as 70-63 with 1:47 to play, but UConn's Maya Moore wouldn't say die. The freshman, who struggled with her offense most of the game and failed to score in the first half, finished with 15 points and combined with junior guard Renee Montgomery to score UConn's last 17 points.

Moore hit a three from the corner to make it 70-66 and, after senior Matee Ajavon hit both ends of a one-and-one, Moore again hit a big three to close within three points. UConn had one last shot with 30 seconds to play.

After a timeout, coach Auriemma had his play diagrammed and ready to go, the inbounds went to Renee Montgomery, who was to catch and shoot the three that would tie the score. But it never came as Montgomery let the ball trickle through her fingers for a turnover.

"I thought we had something pretty good set up," Auriemma said of the final play. "Renee came off the double and it might hust have been a little bit rushed. She was open. We'll probably do it again tomorrow [in practice]."

Senior Essence Carson sank one of two free throws on the next possession to put the game out of reach.

For Connecticut (21-1, 8-1 Big East), the loss couldn't come at a better time. How's that, you ask? Well, the Huskies still have one, if not two, more games against Rutgers, so they have plently of season left in which to make up for this folly.

The Huskies played very well throughout and coach Auriemma said he thought his team played solid defense. He gave all the credit to C. Vivian Stringer and company, whose warrior never-say-die mentality has been passed to her players. The Scarlet Knights never quit.

Montgomery led UConn's charge scoring 24 points on 8-for-19 shooting. Tina Charles played well, finishing with 16 points and 10 boards, but seemed to disappear at the end of the game.

Player Of The Game: Epiphanny Prince, Rutgers
Prince scored 33 points in the game of her career. She was outstanding from the floor, shooting 10-of-20 and hitting 2-of-6 from deep. She was incredible on defense, as well, grabbing six steals.

In the second half, Stringer let her sophomore loose and boy, did she deliver.

Play Of The Game:
With 16:19 to play and the score 40-30 Connecticut, Rutgers went on a 16-4 run spurred on by 12 points from Prince to turn a 10-point deficit into a two-point lead. Although the Huskies would take the lead back eventually, this run completely changed the outlook of the game.

Quote Of The Game:
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer on the possible outcomes of the game
"I told the team before the game, we can either find out who we are, or we can find out who we are. And we found out who we are."

That was Stringer's eloquent way of saying that the Scarlet Knights could have evolved into one of two teams. One that can overcome the deficit staring them in the face or one that would wither and die. And fortunately for the Piscataway faitful, it was the first of the two that took place.

Up Next:
For Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights don't have any time to celebrate this huge victory as next up for them six days from now is a date with No. 2 Tennessee. How's that for a reward, you just beat the No. 1 team in the nation, and you get the No. 2 team next.

For Connecticut: UConn continues its New York-New Jersey trip with a date at Seton Hall on Feb. 9.

Unbeaten No Longer

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Essence Carson was just fouled with 6.9 seconds to play. She hit one of two foul shots to make the score 73-69. A four point game means this could be out of reach for UConn.

The nation's No. 1 team looks like it has been beaten. Rutgers does it to coach Geno Auriemma again and the Huskies are unbeaten no longer.

The star of the night was just what her name suggests for Rutgers, an epihany. Epiphanny Prince scored 33 points and the Scarlet Knights, ranked No. 7, upset the previously unbeaten Huskies, 73-71 in front of 8,026 jubilant Rutgers fans.

More to come...

Rutgers' Epiphanny

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Who knew how great a game this would turn out to be.

But with 3:55 left, the score is tied at 61. It's basically the Epiphanny Prince show here at the RAC. The sophomore has almost single-handedly brought her Scarlet Knights back into this game. She has 29 points with no signs of letting up.

C. Viv better hope she doesn't let up.

The lead has now begun changing hands quicker than a cross-over dribble.

Kia Versus Tina

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The game has turned into the Kia versus Tina show.

Tina Charles and Kia Vaughn have traded the last three baskets and with 8:44 to play, Connecticut still leads by three, 55-52.

But, the good news is, this one is going to have a good finish. Or so it seems...

Tie Goes To The RAC

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Epiphanny Prince has taken over.

After my last post, the sophomore continued her great play, hitting a three, making steals and getting to the line for and one's, and has brought the Scarlet Knights all the way back. The game is tied at 46 with 11:42 to play.

Prince has 22 points for Rutgers taking over the game lead from Montgomery, who has 19.

RU Back In The Game

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Epiphanny Prince is responsible for bringing her Scarlet Knights back into this ball game.

The sophomore guard nailed a three and then after Renee Montgomery had her shot blocked, the Knights went down and couldn't convert. But Prince was there to save the day, stealing the ball off the rebound and putting it back up and in, getting fouled on the play.

The Knight's 5-foot-9 spark plug hit the free throw and Rutgers is back to within three, 44-41, with 14:00 to play, sending the Scarlet Knight's crowd into a frenzy.

We've also had an Essence Carson and Maya Moore sighting. It seems one needed the other to get things started.

Essence Carson hit her first field goal, from just inside the three point line at the top of the key, with 15:20 to play and Moore immediately followed on the other end for her first points.

Maya And Essence

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers came out in the second half like they went out in the first. Cold shooting.

They did, however, manage to cut into UConn's lead immediately, but then Renee Montgomery took over. The junior guard scored five points on a free throws and a long-range bomb and the Huskies widened their lead, 38-28, with 17:25 to play.

A developing storyline remains the poor play of Maya Moore and Essence Carson. UConn's Moore is now 0-for-4 for the night with no points and Carson is 0-for-5, also without a point to her name.

It's Hot In Here

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - And I don't mean the shooting, kid.

While the temperature inside the RAC is sweltering, the offense for Rutgers is fizzling. And the No. 1 Huskies haven't been much better.

The Scarlet Knights have actually gotten their way, forcing the Huskies into a slow down offensive scheme and playing great defense so as to not allow them to get easy points. One thing that is certain, none of the points gotten have come easy. For either team.

The problem for the Knights is they just can't put the ball in the basket, either, and so UConn leads at halftime, 33-24.

It's been a roughly played half, as the refs have let a lot of contact go uncalled. These two teams are out for blood and they are hustling up and down the court to prove it. Again, scoring is another story.

I said before the game that Rutgers needed a healthy dose of Kia Vaughn to survive. Vaughn has showed up, scoring eight points and hitting 4-of-5 shots. But I guess I forgot to mention that Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson would have to show up as well.

Carson finished the half an abysmal 0-for-3 and scored zero points. She's been completely a non-factor. Ajavon has been involved in the offense, but hasn't hit. She's got just six points on 1-for-7 shooting and she even looked terrible at the free throw line.

Epiphanny Prince is second on Rutgers in scoring with six points, but she's only 2-of-8 and has missed all three three-pointers she's taken. The Knights as a team are shooting a poor 34.6 percent.

For the Huskies, the shooting doesn't get much better - in fact, the two schools combined to shoot 2-for-16 from deep. Freshman sensation Maya Moore doesn't have a point and Lorin Dixon and Ketia Swanier are a combined 0-for-5 shooting.

Renee Montgomery has been relatively spot on, scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 2-for-5 from long range. Tina Charles has 10 points and has been very solid inside. She also has a team-high six boards. And Charde Houston, in coach Auriemma's dog house for most of the year, has six points and has played well.

The turnovers were actually kept to a minimum. But it was a rough and tumble first half played in Rutgers' style. But UConn is winning playing Rutgers' style, proving they are the most dangerous and talented team in the nation.

Even on a bad night on the road against a team that usually makes its opponents' games look silly, Connecticut looks good playing in a style of which they are largely unfamiliar.

Rutgers Gains Mo

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Epiphanny Prince just ignited the crowd, somewhat.

UConn still leads, 25-20, with five minutes to play, but Prince drove to the right side of the rim, through traffic and put up a beautiful finger roll amid lots of Connecticut height.

The Huskies called time out and the place erupted. A good sign for a team that was just down nine, going on nineteen.

Now, even Renee Montgomery is missing for UConn. See how important momentum is...

Watching Renee

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Montgomery's three pointer is perhaps the smoothest shot in the nation. It looks simply effortless when it leaves her hands. She stops and pops better than any woman I've seen.

And she's so quick on the perimeter. I'm convinced, if Montgomery played for a team that let her use her scoring talents to the best of her ability, she's be pouring in over 25 a game. She's offense and defense, dribbling, passing and shooting all in one package.

Meanwhile, back within the game, with 7:41 to play, the Huskies continue to lead the No. 7 Knights, 23-14. Maya Moore has two fouls already and is sitting on the bench as I write. The one shining moment for Rutgers to this point.

If the Scarlet Knights don't figure out how to put the ball in the basket, and soon, it could be goodnight for Rutgers.

Connecticut scores like the Tasmanian Devil, quickly and in a whirlwind. They steal passes in the lanes, convert on transition and hit their open shots. This offense is a thing of beauty.

Where's Kia?

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Where has Kia Vaughn been? The junior is only averaging over nine points and under nine rebounds per game this season.

Where is the 20-point scorer from last season's NCAA Tournament?

The Scarlet Knights need Vaughn, and lots of her, against UConn tonight, and so far, she's delivering. The 6-foot-4 center has six early points - tied for the game-high with UConn's Tina Charles - and has established her position down low.

But, for Rutgers, that is the end of the good news.

The Scarlet Knights are forcing the Huskies into playing their style of basketball. Unfortunately for C. Vivian Stringer, her players just aren't hitting their open shots. And at other times, are making poor shot selections, opting for the outside look, rather than getting it in to the aforementioned Vaughn.

You can't miss shots for too long against UConn, because eventually they will catch fire. And Renee Montgomery did just that. The junior spark plug hit a three from the corner and the Huskies have the lead, 18-12, with just over 10 minutes remaining.

Where's Kia?

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Where has Kia Vaughn been? The junior is only averaging over nine points and under nine rebounds per game this season.

Where is the 20-point scorer from last season's NCAA Tournament?

The Scarlet Knights need Vaughn, and lots of her, against UConn tonight, and so far, she's delivering. The 6-foot-4 center has six early points - tied for the game-high with UConn's Tina Charles - and has established her position down low.

But, for Rutgers, that is the end of the good news.

The Scarlet Knights are forcing the Huskies into playing their style of basketball. Unfortunately for C. Vivian Stringer, her players just aren't hitting their open shots. And at other times, are making poor shot selections, opting for the outside look, rather than getting it in to the aforementioned Vaughn.

You can't miss shots for too long against UConn, because eventually they will catch fire. And Renee Montgomery did just that. The junior spark plug hit a three from the corner and the Huskies have the lead, 18-12, with just over 10 minutes remaining.

That's What I Thought

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - After five minutes of play here at the RAC, it is safe to say that this game is turning out just how I expected.

Rutgers came out fast and forced UConn into two consecutive turnovers, taking a 4-0 lead. Then UConn regrouped, stormed back and now lead the Scarlet Knights, 9-6, with 15:06 left in the first half.

Right now, Rutgers is being successful in getting UConn to play a slower paced game, however, they were sloppy with the ball at the top of the key, which led to a Renee Montgomery pick and lay up.

The Huskies have been missing their shots, however, and might have a big lead if one or both of Montgomery's missed three-point attempts went in.

Feel The Love

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - It's almost tip time and the RAC isn't even full. What gives? Come on people, this is the biggest women's basketball game on the calendar. Come and support.

It's safe to say that the Rutgers faithful hate UConn coach Geno Auriemma with a burning passion as hot as a blazing inferno.

When the coach set foot on the court for the first time, the place erupted with boos and jeers that filled the room. It was like venom was in the air. Then they announced his name, get outta here, you couldn't hear "Auriemma" over the boos.

Rutgers-UConn: Round One

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Ahh, Jersey, I remember you fondley.

And No. 1 Connecticut remembers Rutgers as well, but none too fondley. The last time these two powerhouses met, the Scarlet Knights upset the Huskies to win the Big East tournament.

In what is turning into perhaps the most entertaining and ferocious rivalry in women's basketball - no more Tennessee-UConn, alas - the Huskies have historically owned the Scarlet Knights, but no longer is Rutgers a Big East pushover. They are national title contenders through and through.

On their home floor at the RAC, the Knights and especially coach C. Vivian Stringer know this is the most important game of their season. A win on their home floor over undefeated UConn and they gain back all the respect they ever had and more.

But standing in their way is quite possibly the best Connecticut team that coach Geno Auriemma has ever assembled, and leading the way is the fantastic freshman, Maya Moore.

Moore is UConn's leading scorer at 17 points per game, but don't forget about point guard-turned-sometimes-wing-scorer Renee Montgomery. She can light it up from long and drive to the hoop and finish at the basket.

With Montgomery shifting to the two, this is the fastest UConn team in recent memory. When you couple that with Rutgers' slow-down-the-ball strategy you get a recipe for basketball disaster.

The outcome could go one of two ways: Either the Huskies' offense is too superior for the Scarlet Knights to overcome and they simply run Rutgers ragged, or the Knights can inflict their pain on Auriemma's plans and can hold the Husky scorers at bay.

But with Moore, Montgomery, Charles and an energized Charde Houston, that is much easier said than done.

If Connecticut pulls it out, the Huskies will simply solidify - even more so - their place atop the rankings at the head of the class in the Big East. But, if the Knights can pull it out, they will tie the Huskies atop the standings and will own the tiebreaker, at least for a short time.

These two teams - and they don't like each other, much - still have one more, if not two - Big East tournament - more meetings, and this is only the beginning.

As far as this season goes, you won't find a better matchup than this one.

February 04, 2008

Heels take down Duke with offensive assault

DURHAM, N.C. - Near the end of the first half, the Cameron Crazies -- in an apparent fit of potato chip-inspired trash talk -- regaled North Carolina forward LaToya Pringle with a chant of "Lay's are better!"

But Pringle and No. 3 North Carolina got the last laugh, rolling past ninth-ranked Duke 93-76.

After getting swept last year by the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels were looking for some revenge, too.

"I'm not used to losing," Pringle said. "It's not something that happens to Carolina basketball."

It did happen to the Tar Heels earlier this season against Tennessee and Connecticut, so they wanted to make sure it didn't happen against Duke.

And now that they own victories against Duke and Maryland, UNC is firmly in control of the ACC race.

Duke came into the game with the ACC's top scoring defense, giving up an average of 55.5 points per game.

But the Tar Heels, who lead the nation in scoring, made quick work of that mark, eclipsing it in the opening minutes of the second half.

The Blue Devils tried everything -- zone defense, trapping, full-court pressure -- but couldn't stop the Tar Heels.

In the end, Carolina got its most points in Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1997, its most points against Duke since 1995 and its biggest win in Cameron since a 21-point victory in 1993.

"I would call that very bad defense, and they were opportunistic," Duke coach Joanne McCallie said. "We didn't do anything to change the tempo when they were being aggressive.

"We cannot be giving up 93 points -- I don't care who we play."

Inside, Duke did manage to limit Erlana Larkins to 13 points, but Pringle and point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid each had 18, while Pringle also added 11 rebounds.

The attention on Larkins certainly helps Pringle, who has had a breakout season.

"Toya just keeps doing her thing," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said.

DeGraffenreid, a freshman, was also huge for the Tar Heels in holding off the relentless Duke defense and keeping her composure in the hostile environment.

While she only had one assist, she consistently drove on the Duke defense, getting to the basket -- and to the line. DeGraffenreid was 8 for 9 on free throws, and also hit a pair of 3-pointers as the Blue Devils respected her ability to get into the paint.

"Growing up, this is one of the games you're ready for," DeGraffenreid said. "Now that it's here, it's everything I dreamed of."

While the Tar Heels' point guard was living a dream, it was a nightmare for the Blue Devils, who have now lost to the nation's top four teams.

It hurt them even more to have the game be a blowout.

And at the end of the game, Pringle once again found herself getting the better of the crowd as they razzed UNC forward Jessica Breland for air-balling a free-throw in the final seconds.

As the Crazies hooted, Pringle shook her head and pointed up at the scoreboard.

Up there, there was no doubt who the winner was.

Player of the Game:
Yes, DeGraffenreid had four turnovers and just one assist, but her relative consistency -- and her ability to confound the Duke defense -- was absolutely crucial to the Tar Heels winning this game.

Play of the Game:
Late in the first half, Pringle dove into a passing lane to make a steal on her knees. The Tar Heels ran down the court, and Pringle was the last to get there. But no one guarded her when she arrived, so she took advantage of the open look and sank her first career 3-pointer.

Quote of the Game:
"There's a lot of ways to get the milk in the jug."
-Hatchell, on Pringle's 3-pointer

Up Next:
The Tar Heels return home to host Clemson on three days rest.

The Blue Devils, also on three days rest, will travel north to take on Boston College.

Final: UNC 93, Duke 76

DURHAM, N.C. - Heather Claytor picked up her fifth foul with 2:41 to go. But not before knocking down a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer that put UNC up 85-69. More shot-clock beating Carolina work led to an Erlana Larkins layup to make it 89-71 with 90 seconds to go. There was nothing Duke could do to stop the Tar Heels, who leave Cameron with a crucial win. And the Carolina fans got to enjoy a chant of "Heels house!" before hitting the road.

Carolina in full control

DURHAM, N.C. - Duke just absolutely can not stop the Tar Heels in the paint. Whether it's off a rebound or just out of the half-court offense, UNC has had no trouble getting themselves layups, leaving the Blue Devils scrambling to make up scoring ground. The Tar Heels went up by 19 points with four and a half to go in this game. Barring a big Duke run, this game is Carolina's.

Just like Tyler?

DURHAM, N.C. - Erlana Larkins got a big rebound, layup and foul, prompting a chant from the UNC portion of the crowd of "Just like Tyler" -- a reference to UNC men's hoops All-American Tyler Hansbrough. Needless to say, that didn't make the Cameron Crazies very happy, and neither did the fact that Larkins' free throw put UNC up 74-57 with less than seven minutes to go. But Duke will get three free throws in a moment thanks to LaToya Pringle's fourth foul of the game.

UNC still up by double digits

DURHAM, N.C. - Not much has changed here in the last few minutes, save for the chanting back and forth between Carolina and Duke fans, the former mocking the latter's basketball scoring prowess, and the latter mocking the former's choice of academic institutions. Otherwise, it's still UNC by double digits, 70-57 with 7:57 to go.

UNC keeps answering Duke's scoring

DURHAM, N.C. - Wanisha Smith hit a big three for the Blue Devils, who pulled within 10 points of the Tar Heels for the first time since the half. Problem is, even with all of their trapping and pressing, the Blue Devils just can't seem to keep the Tar Heels off the scoreboard. UNC is up 67-55 with 11:30 to go, and it's going to take an all-out defensive blitz -- assuming Duke hasn't already exhausted that option -- to cut into the advantage.

Pringle, Heels in control

DURHAM, N.C. - LaToya Pringle is a one-woman wrecking crew for the Tar Heels right now, and she is all over the glass. Pringle just got a rebound and layup -- and now has 18 points -- to put the Tar Heels up 59-45 almost five minutes into the second half. While the Blue Devils have managed to keep Erlana Larkins somewhat in check, controlling both of UNC's forwards seems to be a bit too much to ask at the moment. If that keeps up, Carolina is going to pull away even farther than this.

Halftime: UNC 48, Duke 38

DURHAM, N.C. - Theoretically, things could be worse for Duke than the 10-point deficit they currently have to North Carolina. But when you consider that the Blue Devils' success so far this season has come from the fact that opponents are averaging 55 points per game against them, it certainly doesn't bode well that Carolina has 48 at half.

More specific number than that will have to wait, as we just learned that the stats program went down, so no halftime box scores for us writer types. Oh well. The bottom line is the Blue Devils have to figure out how to stop the Tar Heels from scoring, or the UNC lead is only likely to grow larger in the second half.

Ow! My ears....

DURHAM, N.C. - My left ear has been ringing for two days, and you know what's not helping? The girl sitting behind me who screams her head off every time Erlana Larkins touches the ball for UNC. Either the Tar Heels have to stop passing inside or this girl's vocal cords have to give out. Otherwise I might not make it. Of course, the Crazies have plenty else to yell about, since the Blue Devils have cut the Carolina lead to 37-35 with three and a half minutes to go in the first.

Low blow from UNC fans

DURHAM, N.C. - Gotta give the Carolina fans on hand credit, they're giving the Cameron Crazies a run for their money. But the Tar Heel faithful took a bit of a cheap shot with Abby Waner at the line, starting a chant of "Greg Paulus" -- Duke's starting point guard, who also just happens to be Waner's ex-boyfriend. Hey, it's a rivalry. I guess all bets are off. Just for the record, Waner nailed both free throws, but UNC leads by seven with under six to go.

Waner hit and miss, but the game is close

DURHAM, N.C. - If Waner was having trouble with her offense, she sure knew how to fix it -- with defense. Waner stole a UNC pass, went to the other end for a layup and drew a foul from Heather Claytor to cut the Carolina lead to four with 10 minutes left. Two possessions later, it was Keturah Jackson who got the layup to tie the game at 25. So what does Carolina do to answer? A pair of 15-footers from Jessica Breland. Of course, in between those, Waner missed an ill-advised 26-foot shot, so maybe she's not out of the woods just yet. Either way, it looks like this game is just going to go back and forth all night.

Gray splashes one from deep for UNC

DURHAM, N.C. - Man, things are tough for Blue Devils guard Abby Waner, who can't seem to buy a bucket. She shot a three that would've put Duke up two points, but it made two full trips around the rim before finally sneaking out. The rest of the Blue Devils, though, have managed to answer most of UNC's buckets.

Of course, they might have a tough time matching the shot UNC's Rebecca Gray just made, a 25-footer to put the Heels up 22-16 with 11:44 to go in the half.

UNC starts off hot

DURHAM, N.C. - It's a brisk start to this game with both teams scoring quickly and often. But the Tar Heels were the ones who jumped out to an early 13-6 lead, prompting a Duke timeout. Both teams seem focused on going inside, so we'll see which one succeeds more.

Tar Heels, Blue Devils renew rivalry

DURHAM, N.C. - While the college basketball world eagerly awaits the Duke-North Carolina men's game on Wednesday in Chapel Hill, the 2008 version of the rivalry between the two schools tips off tonight here at Cameron Indoor Stadium between the UNC and Duke women's teams.

Not that there's any pressure on the third-ranked Tar Heels (19-2, 6-0 in the ACC) or No. 9 Blue Devils (16-5, 5-1), but for the last seven years, the team that has won the first game in the matchup has swept the season series. Carolina comes into the game as winner of 10 of its last 11, while Duke has won three of its last four, the lone loss to Tennessee.

The Tar Heels have five players averaging double figures, led by Rashanda McCants' 16 points per game. But the inside tandem of Erlana Larkins and LaToya Pringle has really given opponents fits this season.

On the Duke side, Chante Black is the leading scorer, but what might be even more important is having Abby Waner get out of her slump. The junior is shooting 33 percent from the field, and Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie -- who is getting her first taste of the rivalry tonight -- will need a big night from Waner.

Tonight marks the first meeting between these two teams since March 6, 2000 -- a span of 18 games -- in which Duke is not ranked in the top five nationally. But don't let that fool you. It's rivalry time, and this game should be a good one.