Lady Vol Town

By Jeff Lippman - January 22, 2007

During my two hour drive from Nashville--where the airport is--to Knoxville--where the University of Tennessee is--I saw many Tennessee bumper stickers.

This isn't exactly news, but I'd like to point out that at least seven out of every 10 bumper stickers was specifically rooting for the "Lady Vols" and not the Volunteers as a whole.

Don't get me wrong, they love Philip Fulmer and the football team, but Pat Summitt's squad gets more than their share of the love.

And they will be loving them pretty hard tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena where the No. 4 Lady Vols will play host to the nation's number one team, the Duke Blue Devils.

Duke is 19-0 on the season and is coming off a victory against N.C. State in Raleigh in which they didn't completely show up to the arena, fortunately, they didn't have to in order to beat the Wolfpack.

UT is 17-1 on the season, their lone loss coming against another ACC foe from Tabacco Road, at No. 2 North Carolina.

One interesting fact about the series: This is only the second time Tennessee has played host to the Blue Devils.

In fact, it is only the ninth time either team is meeting in their histories. The matchup saw its first installment during the 1998-99 season when Tennessee defeated Duke in Orlando, Fla., at the 1998 Disney Holiday Classic.

Duke would win the next game, and the teams would alternate on neutral courts for the first five games of the series.

In 2004, Duke and Tennessee agreed to start a home-at-home series with each other, and in the first game in Durham--in front of a sold-out crowd--the then-No. 1 Blue Devils were upset by the then-No. 2 Lady Vols and the series became an instant success.

The last and only time Duke came to Knoxville they got revenge for the loss suffered to UT in Durham the year before, defeating the Vols by the close score of 59-57.

The last time these two teams met Duke defeated the Lady Vols in a game that followed a pretty big win in the life of Vols coach Pat Summitt. Tennessee had just come off an emotional come-from-behind victory against Vanderbilt that was Summitt's 900th career victory when the met Duke in Durham and got spanked 75-53.

Tennessee will attempt to upset the No. 1-ranked team in the country for the 15th time in school history. This will mark the 42nd time UT plays against a team ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Duke's Lindsay Harding is widely considered one of the best defenders in America and 6-foot-7 Alison Bales is like trying to shoot over a brick wall, while UT's Candace Parker is perhaps the most complete player to ever wear a Lady Vols jersey. Something has to give when they meet on the court.

Duke's defense in general has been called tops in the nation, averaging 47 points per game allowed all season, scoring is not something done easily against the Blue Devils. Tennessee will attempt to counteract Duke's stingyness with an offense that is averaging almost 76 points per game.

Tennessee beware: Even the nation's top shooting team, former No. 1 and defending champ Maryland could only muster 54 points against the Blue Devils--and that was the most Duke has given up all season.

I like Duke in this matchup, their defense just might be too much for anyone in the country to handle. But at home in Knoxville, you have to like Summitt and the Lady Vols' chances. It will be anybody's game when the teams hit the floor tonight.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 03:48 PM on January 22, 2007

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