February 11, 2008

Victory, Even In Defeat

There should be no confusion, simply watch the replay.

Watch Candace Parker grab a rebound, turn and put up a shot with the clock plummeting down to triple zeros. Watch that clock carefully. It goes really fast doesn't it? So how come it seems like an eternity before it goes from 0.02 to 0.00?

Rutgers was robbed. They should have become the first school to defeat two No. 1-ranked programs consecutively. They should own wins over the two most storied programs in the history of women's basketball.

C. Vivian Stringer knows that.

Continue reading "Victory, Even In Defeat" »

February 07, 2008

The Worst Thing That Could Happen

For Tennessee, the unthinkable almost happened.

Candace Parker is hurt. The All-American Player of the Year suffered an apparent knee injury - these things have been going around, haven't they? - in tonight's game against Mississippi State.

It wasn't a pretty sight when Parker grimaced, held her left leg in pain and hopped off the court with a trainer under each superstar arm with 3:09 left in a game the Lady Vols won 87-69 but played poorly throughout.

For the Lady Vols, it was downright ugly.

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February 03, 2008

The Most Important Knee

Sylvia Fowles is injured...again.

Super Bowl Sunday wasn't so super for LSU's 6-foot-6 center. Despite her team defeating Florida in Gainesville, 85-71, the All-American was forced to leave the game early in the second half after re-injuring her right knee, the same she recently had surgery to repair.

LSU coach Van Chancellor's heart must have been in his throat when he saw his star go down again. Fortunately, the injury isn't considered too serious, as Fowles attempted to re-enter the game with 4:50 left until Chancellor basically said, "Not on your life," and told her to take a seat.

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January 07, 2008

Kiss Of Death

Happy birthday to me.

Because I don't think Georgia and Stanford will be wishing me good tidings anytime soon.

The last two teams I wrote about, glowing praise for the Cardinal in my December Review, and talking about Georgia like they were the next big thing in the SEC, brought nothing but pain and suffering for each team.

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December 23, 2007

Attention Grabber

When sitting around with friends and family, women's basketball is not usually the preferred choice of television program.

Last night it was.

Saturday's epic overtime battle between No. 1 Tennessee and No. 5 Stanford was so good, so intense, that I personally know two people who never before watched women's basketball, but tuned in to see this one's incredible ending.

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December 16, 2007

Never A Smooth Ride

On any road to greatness, there will be bumps along the way. The bumps make the journey worthwhile. They build character. Without the bumps, there'd be no triumphs later.

Nell Fortner and the Auburn Tigers never expected to go the entire season undefeated. They never even expected to be undefeated after nine games.

But when they put their 9-0 record on the line at No. 12 Texas A&M Saturday, leaving College Station 9-1 has still got to sting a little.

Continue reading "Never A Smooth Ride" »

December 09, 2007

Can't Spell Undefeated Without SEC

While grammatically that is the opposite of being true - for those who don't realize, "undefeated" has no "s" or "c" in the word anywhere - in women's college basketball, if you are still undefeated, chances are you play in the Southeastern Conference.

As of Sunday, Dec. 9 at 3:26 p.m. and 22 seconds (now 23...you get the point...) there are only 10 undefeated Division I teams remaining, and a whopping 40 percent of them come from the nation's best conference - and none of them are LSU, who has been to the last four Final Fours and has already lost twice this year.

No. 1 Tennessee (7-0), No. 7 Georgia (8-0), No. 14 Auburn (9-0) and unranked Arkansas (9-0) have all managed to stay unbeaten well into the season's second month.

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December 05, 2007

Musical Top 25

The Associated Press and Coaches Polls have been released, meaning another week of musical chairs among the Top 10 and bottom portion of the Top 25.

With all the nation's elite squads beating up on each other in big preseason battles, and all the bottom-Top-25 teams proving they don't belong ranked at all, there has certainly been a lot of turnover in the early season.

As always, I have some bones to pick with the voters. And the Maryland Terrapins should too.

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November 29, 2007

What The Devil?

The year started off so promising for Duke. What happened?

Playing through an injury to Abby Waner, the No. 11 Blue Devils reeled off three wins to start the year, two coming over NCAA Tournament teams in Purdue and Temple.

But just as quickly as they won three straight, two consecutive losses have been added to their record.

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November 18, 2007

What Did We Learn?

Two of the big three matchups featuring ranked teams Sunday are over and from their results one can infer two very specific things.

One, Texas is not a Top 25 basketball team, and two, Maryland is really, really good.

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November 13, 2007

Some Network's Basketball Invitational

If you thought the first weekend of action in the 2007-08 season was good, you ain't seen nothing yet. With the WNIT heating up and the ESPNU Basketball Invitational down in Tampa on Thursday, the action is non-stop.

From Downtown will be heading down to the Sunshine State for the two-game invitational - not a tournament - that features No. 10 Duke at host South Florida in the first matchup and an amazing No. 1 vs. No. 9 neutral site battle between the Lady Vols of Tennessee and Courtney Paris and Oklahoma.

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November 09, 2007

Solid Start In Gainesville

Last season the Florida Gators started 1-0, and then in their second game they lost, by 16 points, to Xavier. They would go on to finish the season 9-22 and have their coach Carolyn Peck fired.

The Amanda Butler Gators also have started 1-0, but there's a difference. Instead of an opener against a cupcake like North Florida - last year's opponent - Florida began 2007-08 against a very similar Xavier team and defeated the Musketeers by 11 points, 82-71, at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.

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April 01, 2007

LSU-Rutgers: Salute Your Shorts

The shorts that Ashley Thomas just faked you out of, that is -- The Tigers look hesitant in their shooting (in part because Rutgers is climbing all over them on defense) and Thomas found herself at the top of the key with no one to look to. So she juked right and took it inside, laid it up and gave the Tigers six points. We're crawling forward here.

Now if it wasn't for Matee Ajavon's insaneness, LSU could get back in this game.

March 18, 2007

Hartford: Hah-vahd in Hartford

A nod to the big boss over at CSTV.com, Dan Kaufman, whose alma mater Harvard faces Maryland next. I'm sitting next to their coaching staff as they scout TCU and Ole Miss. They seem pretty calm an hour and a half before gametime, taking a fairly casual attitude towards their shot charts and sketching out plays on scrap paper. Journalistic integrity naturally precludes me from sharing further details, but maybe Maryland shouldn't underestimate the Ivy League champs.

Hartford: Inconspicuous

How often can you walk right by Rebecca Lobo and not notice she's there? Her stature, both physically and anywhere within 100 miles of Storrs, CT makes her a bonafide fight-off-the-mob celebrity. But walk by her I did, right past her sitting at the end of the press tables, rehearsing her pregame bit in her best on screen voice. Sitting down and speaking softly, Lobo looks like any of the other tall women here -- you have to wonder how it feels, even years later, to be sitting on the sidelines of a court you used to rule.

(On a seperate note, the NCAA has very strict rules about what beverages are allowed on press row. ALL drinks must be in an NCAA/Dasani paper cup, no cans allowed under ANY circumstances. A very kind event staffer just confiscated my pint-sized Dasani bottle. Talk about total sponsorship!)

March 04, 2007

SEC: All-SEC Tournament Team

Alexis Hornbuckle, Tennessee
Erica White, LSU
Rashonta Leblanc, LSU
Sylvia Fowles, LSU
Christina Wirth, Vanderbilt

And the Tournament MVP: Vanderbilt senior forward Carla Thomas

LSU-Vanderbilt: And the Title Goes To...

VANDERBILT!

Turns out the cruelest line for LSU isn't the charity stripe...it's the three point line. Both Khalilah Mitchell and Rashonta Leblanc missed from three point range to tie it up for the Tigers...and Erica White just lofted one last desperation three -- no good.

Vandy finished 'em off with a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the closing seconds...and now they're setting up the trophy table to celebrate the Commodores' SEC title and 51-45 win.

SEC: No-Charity Stripe

Backcourt violation on the inbounds play turned the ball over to LSU, and Ashley Thomas got herself fouled by Vandy guard Jessica Mooney. Thomas sank the first, putting LSU within two points. LSU just called a time out to get their play ready, but Thomas has another clutch free throw to put up.

29.9 second remain. My blood's pumping...How bout yours?

SEC: Pins and Needles

Three straight LSU misses put Vandy up by three, and a sweet offensive rebound just gave Vandy a chance at their biggest lead of the half with 44 second remaining. Balcomb has called a time out to talk it over, and I have to admit that for the first time this game, I'm on the edge of my seat. It looks like Vandy could take home this SEC title.

LSU-Vanderbilt: White In

Erica White just scored her first points of the game, with six minutes remaining. We're still neck and neck coming down the stretch, and neither team has built more than a three-point lead in this half. If this keeps up, this one will come down to the wire and the clock will make the final call.

LSU-Vanderbilt: Fan of the Game Nominations

From where I'm sitting, here's the best and brightest from the crowd. We'll decide later who get the She's On Fire SEC Fan of the Game award based upon their continued participation and positive sportsmanship. Meanwhile, I will fashion a trophy from discarded SEC plastic cups and popcorn wrappers.

Nominees include:
* The guy with a black-and-gold "V" painted on his bald head. (Mr. Clean, Vandy alum. Who knew!?)
* The group of women with the signs that say "Big Syl is a Big Deal" and "Pokey for Pope"
* The woman with the "No need for HEIGHT, we got ERICA WHITE" sign
* The Mardi-Gras masked person of indeterminate gender wearing a toilet seat around his/her neck that reads: "Flush the Commodores". My kind of humor!
* The kid right behind me with popcorn stuck to his Vanderbilt face paint. Unintentional.
* The woman in the South Carolina sweatshirt. Can't blame her for dreaming.

LSU-Vanderbilt: Roughing It

If there' s one thing that speaks to the defensive scrappiness of this game, it's the face that both teams are in the bonus with more than eight minutes remaining. Vandy's Carla Thomas just evened the score on a pair of free throws, 32-32.

The other number that will look far more impressive on paper? Lead changes. We had 5 at halftime (not counting 7 seperate ties), and by my count at least 4 since.

LSU-Vanderbilt: About Time

Alrii-ii-iight! [slog fist pump] All it took was a little clock controvery to get people out of their seats. For the second time this game and the umpteenth time this weekend the officials stopped play to correct the game clock. The fans took it as a chance to do a little cross arena shouting.

From one side: L-S-U!
From the other: Go Dores Go!

Looks like the "Dores" might have had the edge -- Vandy's Dee Davis just sank a three-pointer from the baseline to give Vandy the 30-27 edge.

LSU-Vanderbilt: SO I'm Thinking..

that giving Doris Burke bunny ears might have been a brilliant idea. Liven things up around here a bit, maybe inspire these teams to make some offensive moves of their own.

LSU-Vanderbilt: Power Up

At least LSU and Vanderbilt seem energetic out of the locker rooms at halftime. As we huddled over the media snack table, there was plenty of snarky humor about how little this game is giving us to write about. The SEC's media guy in charge of postgame press conferences is discussing new NFL clock rules with the guy next to him, and in the three minutes they've been talking, the score hasn't changed. Where the ferocity, the fire, the SCORING from last night?

As Lara would say,

Stay tuned...25-24 LSU...15:11 remaining

LSU-Vanderbilt: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

A little halftime entertainment of my own, from my travels around town today...

The irony is killer, isn't it?

LSU-Vanderbilt: Jump for Joy!

There is no better antidote to slogger's block than a gem like this hafltime show -- the Georgia Jumpers, a group of four girls around the age of 12 who are jump rope GENIUSES. I mean they're doing things on a jump rope that I haven't seen out of Cirque de Soliel. The fact that they're avoiding getting caught in the ropes to the tune of Madonna's "Hung Up" seems like a particular stroke of genius to me.

Oooh, here comes the double dutch portion...and now they finish with the splits! Incredible! Pardon me while I give the Georgia Jumpers a standing ovation. They rocked WAY more than your average scantily clad dance team...

LSU-Vanderbilt: All Tied Up

I'm having slogger's block -- what do you say about a 24-23 Vandy lead at halftime? These two teams are neck and neck as they try to wring each other's necks on defense...

I'm cautiously he shots are starting to foul. LSU's LeBlanc and Vandy guard Christina Wirth traded field goals right before halftime iwth a couple of nice mid-range jumpers, so there may be good things to come. ..

LSU-Vanderbilt: Pat Your Head, Rub Your Tummy

The combined point total of the first 12 minutes of the game is 23 points, which puts us on pace for a finish somewhere in the 40s for each team. Sure, there's some good defense on the floor, but there's also a lot of silly turnovers keeping the scoring in check.

LSU has two shot clock violations and at least one three-second violation in the lane, while Vanderbilt keeps watching LSU's Rashonta Leblanc and Erica White steal the ball.

Wow -- make that three shot clock violations. This is a defense-lovers' dream.

LSU-Vanderbilt: Eye of the Tigers

I coudn't help the title -- the LSU just played Eye of the Tiger during the time out and I have to admit, I chuckled. Either that means I've been in Duluth, Alabama too long or I've got serious mascot issues and Mike the Tiger is winning me over.

LSU's winning too, and Vanderbilt's plan to get up on their opponent early hasn't come to fruition in any way. Previously seeming invincible in their shooting, they've tossed up more than a couple bricks this evening. LSU has tossed up a few as well, which is why it's only 9-8 in LSU's favor ten minutes into the game.

The Tigers are playing scrappy, hard-nosed basketball -- wheteher they mean to get the Commodores into foul trouble or not, it's working, as Vandy's answer to Sylvia Fowles, senior forward Carla Thomas, already has two fouls. Vanderbilt can definitely run with this team, but unless their hands heat up I'm not sure they can keep up the level of defensive intensity needed to keep the Tigers off the board.

LSU-Vanderbilt: For All The Marbles

Okay, so tonight's game is only for all the SEC marbles, but still, it's definitely a big stage for LSU to announce its return to last year's postseason form or Vanderbilt to climb out of just the top 25 and into the tip of the tops..

The ball is tipped, and it's in LSU's hands... Here we go!

LSU-Vanderbilt: What Title Game?

Both Friday and Saturday nights when I drove in to the Gwinnett Center an hour before game time, there were traffic cops and cones and parking directions stretched as far back as the exit off I-85. Tonight I had to convince myself I hadn't taken the wrong exit, since the road leading to the arena looked relatively dead and the parking lot more so...Where's all the orange?

The Tennessee fan contingent might have been obnoxious at times, but man they did put bodies in the seats. The one advantage to all the title-night attrition? My seat on press row has moved up in the world. Any closer to the prime seating at center court and I'd be giving Doris Burke bunny ears.

Continue reading "LSU-Vanderbilt: What Title Game?" »

Showdown Sunday

I figure as long as we're slapping themes on every week of the men's college basketball season, the women might as well get their dramatic-sounding promo titles as well.

So here we are on Showdown Sunday, hours before two of the biggest conference tournaments will decide their champion, and the matchups are hardly what anyone expected. Duke looked like a forgone conclusion to play today, but N.C. State dramatically took their spot. Tennessee ran the table in the SEC and is conspicuously absent from tonight's fight card in Duluth (you gotta wonder how that affects title game attendance). Vanderbilt is anything but a glamour pick, often overlooked in favor of flashier teams in its own conference, but they're successfully running in Survivor mode: Outrun, Outscore, Outlast.

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March 03, 2007

Vanderbilt-Georgia: Stick A Fork In 'Em

Georgia's done. They never had the lead and not long after the first media time out, they didn't look at all likely to grab it. Why the Bulldogs experienced such total system failure is a mystery to me, though on paper their miserable shooting is the most obvious reason.

Vanderbilt wins, 81-56. On to see what they have both teams have to say.

Vanderbilt-Georgia: It's Come To This

So the Vanderbilt fans are about the only bunch in this arena with a pulse right now, but I can't help wishing that leading by 29 they'd let up on the refs a little bit. As a former intramural referee, the abuse still stings.

In one bit of slightly exciting news, my slogging may get spotty because this memo was just handed out to everyone on Press Row:

"A burst pipe has shorted out equipment that is essential to the wireless connection. It may advisable for you to file from your hotel or find a Wi-Fi location such as Starbucks."

This brings to mind a realization -- this past 48 hours might be the longest time I haven't caught sight of Starbucks since I moved to New York a couple of years ago. Where is this Starbucks to file from? Now, if they had wireless at the Waffle House, we'd be in business. They've got one of those at EVERY exit out here. No matter, I shall slog on.

Vanderbilt-Georgia: Prepare For Total Domination

More like total yawnination. The Vanderbilt lead is hovering between 25 and 30 points, and they're dropping like flies in the Gwinnett Center. Bolstered by Diet Dr. Pepper, I hope I'm not next. But when Andy Landers finally sits down and holds his head in his hand, the gallows humor of "in the Dawghouse" jokes seems slightly less funny.

For all of us, Georgia, let's make this a game. 7 minutes remain.

Vanderbilt-Georgia: Sink 'Em or You're Sunk

Credit Vanderbilt's balance with the fact that they had 37 points in the first half and not one of their players is scoring in double figures. And their 54 percent accuracy is low by Vandy standards, but almost doubles' the Dawgs' shooting percentage at 25.9.

Georgia's gonna have to start sinking some shots if they want to keep me interested. And really, what's important?

Vanderbilt-Georgia: Gone from the Dawgs?

Look, a slow start doesn't HAVE to be a disaster.

Just look at Maryland-UNC earlier today. Jeff could tell you, it turned out to be a pretty exciting match in the end. And LSU knows the overcomeability (yes, I just made that word up) of an early deficit against Tennessee. But Georgia is now down 19 to Vanderbilt at the half, and they've hardly shown a sign of life this game.

It's a shame, especially because their fans outnumber Vanderbilt's 2-to-1, and yet the black and gold is making far more noise. An impressive number of Tennessee fans stuck around for the first half of this game, but they seem to be clearing out during halftime, and it's hard to blame them. A late-game blowout is bad for business all around.

Vanderbilt-Georgia: Gone from the Dawgs?

Look, a slow start doesn't HAVE to be a disaster.

Just look at Maryland-UNC earlier today. Jeff could tell you, it turned out to be a pretty exciting match in the end. And LSU knows the overcomeability (yes, I just made that word up) of an early deficit against Tennessee. But Georgia is now down 19 to Vanderbilt at the half, and they've hardly shown a sign of life this game.

It's a shame, especially because their fans outnumber Vanderbilt's 2-to-1, and yet the black and gold is making far more noise. An impressive number of Tennessee fans stuck around for the first half of this game, but they seem to be clearing out during halftime, and it's hard to blame them. A late-game blowout is bad for business all around.

Vanderbilt-Georgia: Commodoring the Lead

Maybe I slogged too soon about Georgia's ability to resist Vanderbilt's offensive power. We've hit the ten-minute mark and the Dawgs are trailing by 17 points, as Vandy's balanced scoring and sweet outside shooting takes its toll. Georgia's sleepwalking, except for cool-as-a-cucumber Tasha Humphrey, who has six of her team's eight points.

Vandy's band is pretty darn obnoxious too...Did I mistakenly write that I liked that earlier today? What was I thinking!?

Vanderbilt-Georgia: Commodoring the Lead

Maybe I slogged too soon about Georgia's ability to resist Vanderbilt's offensive power. We've hit the ten-minute mark and the Dawgs are trailing by 17 points, as Vandy's balanced scoring and sweet outside shooting takes its toll. Georgia's sleepwalking, except for cool-as-a-cucumber Tasha Humphrey, who has six of her team's eight points.

Vandy's band is pretty darn obnoxious too...Did I mistakenly write that I liked that earlier today? What was I thinking!?

Vanderbilt-Georgia: According to Plan

Vanderbilt's players talked last night about their standard opening game plan, and against Georgia it almost worked. The Commodores' M.O.? Come out shooting, run up the score early, and force the opponent to call a time out before the first media time out.

Maybe Georgia coach Andy Landers was listening, maybe he wasn't. Either way, his team withstood the storm. Vandy may be ahead 9-2, but Landers didn't feel unsteady enough to call a time out before this, the first commercial break. We'll see if he uses this gift of time to light a little offensive fire under the Bulldogs.

LSU-Tennessee: By The Numbers

54-63: Final Score, sending LSU to the tournament final to face the winner of Vanderbilt-Georgia.

19 points, 20 rebounds: LSU center Sylvia Fowles's stat line on the night. Plus three blocks and only one turnover.

29: Points scored by Alexis Hornbuckle, a new career high (previously 19).

4: Points scored by Candace Parker, a career low.

1: Week that Lady Vols will now wait to find out how this early exit from the conference tournament affects their NCAA seeding.

LSU-Tennessee: Womp Womp

Alexis Hornbuckle just fouled out, LSU's Chaney sank the free throws, and The Tigers inbounded the ball to finish the clock and take the 63-54 win over the top-seeded Lady Vols.

If LSU can bring this kind of fire to its NCAA tournament run, they might make good on more of last year's promise in Seimone Augustus' wake. Here's hoping, for the Tigers' sake that this wasn't an entirely rivalry-inspired romp and that Chatman has a legit squad awakening at exactly the right time.

As for Tennessee, I'm interested to see this post-game press conference. What do they have to say for themselves?

LSU-Tennessee: Simply Spectacular

Move of the tournament just happened, people, and you can read it right here:

Erica White streaks towards the basket, blasting past two Tennessee players, running right into Candace Parker under the basket. White recovers her footing in a millisecond, ducks around Parker's back and hurls the hook right into the basket as Parker feebly smacks her arm. Whistle, and one, White's on the ground and her team's jumping around her in excitement. She sinks the and-one, and LSU's up by five with a minute left.

If this lead holds, Parker's going to have to answer for her apparent cruise-control performance. Did I mention that Parker's a full 13 inches taller than White? Wow.

LSU-Tennessee: Nothing But A Hound Dog

Disturbingly, the mascot I deemed "cute" and found quite endearing changed at halftime out of his overalls and into what appears to be an orange velour pimp costume. (The trim is a tribute to Hatchell's outfit from the ACC tournament today).

After a bit of research, I have determined that the dog's name is Smokey, and though he is the Lady Vols' mascot, he is not a volunteer. He is purebred hound dog, and in that outfit, it's obvious.

LSU-Tennessee: CP3 Woah...

Where the heck is Candace Parker? I mean, she's on the court, but she's not making much noise. I don't see any particularly stunning defensive moves that LSU is taking against her besides a standard double-team, but here she is with only four points heading into the last five minutes of this game. Sure, the Tigers are sticking tight, but I'm beginning to wonder if Tennessee didn't expect less of this LSU team. They almost look tired, while the Tigers are tearing up and down the court with the ferocity that earned them this 10-point lead -- make that a 12 point lead, on a layup from Quiana Chaney right out of the time out.

LSU-Tennessee: Roarrrrrr...

Meanwhile, LSU is hanging on to its halftime lead and is up 45-37 coming out of the second media time out of the second half. The best part? As inspired as LSU is playing, you get the sense that they've got a little something more up their sleeve if they need it, and against Tennesesse they very well might. But with Fowles rebounding, Hightower sinking outside shots, White running and pumping up the crowd (very Ivory-Latta-esque at moments) LSU has managed to take Tennessee entirely out of its rhythm.

Sartorially Concerned

For you fashionistas and fashionistos out there, a few awards of the day so far:

Best dresed fan: The guy in full Mardi Gras regalia. He could be marching beind a float on Fat Tuesday with his giant pointed mask and all the glitter, feathers and beads he's got on. Geaux Tigers, indeed.

Loudest dressed fan: The guy dressed heat to toe in what appear to be Tennessee T-printed pajamas. That's a LOT of orange, pal.

Snappiest dressed band: Tennessee's pep band. They've got the shiny orange polo shirts and crisp black dress pants. Let's hope the refined dress doesn't make their cheers too boring. I count on those obnoxious, wacky band types when things start to drag.

Most questionable fashion decision: For this one I have to step out of the SEC and give a nod to our girl Sylvia Hatchell, coach at UNC for the Carolina blue tiger-print ensemble that got plenty of chuckles out of the media here as we watched the end of today's ACC games. I suppose when you're on your way to the ACC title game you can wear what you want.

Best dressed coach, male division: Though he doesn't have a lot of competition in this conference, Andy Landers knows how to put himself together, and he's made abotu eight trips back and forth down press row behind me in his tasteful plaid blazer, crisp pleated pants and well-shined shoes. The gigantic championship-looking ring on his hand (Final Four? SEC title? I'll get to the bottom of it.) doesn't hurt the ensemble either.

LSU-Tennessee: Halftime Hocus Pocus

What my crystal ball tells me the coaches are probably yelling about in the locker rooms right now...

Pat Summitt: "We have TOO MANY TURNOVERS!!! How do you expect to hold a lead when you're just GIVING it away!? Slow it down in transition, pick your shots and look before you pass. And D up, while you're at it, don't you see the name on the front of your jersey!?"

Pokey Chatman: "They're right where we want them, but they're gonna give us hell trying to keep it that way. They're going to come out firing, so keep the pressure on Parker and an extra eye on Spencer and Hornbuckle outside. Forget you ever had the jitters, forget the name on the front of their jerseys and go for blood. GO!"

Mind you, this prescient glimpse is brought to you by the special powers endowed us media types by the press food -- or in my case, the leftover pretzles and massive amounts of Diet Dr. Pepper still available.

LSU-Tennessee: The Fans are Getting Restless

So Tennessee fans are obviously not used to being down at halftime -- or ever, for that matter. The frustration is starting to show, as an orange clad Vol-ite is right behind me, loudly chewing out the Event Staff guy behind me about the LSU cheerleaders being on the court while Tennessee is shooting free throws on the other end of the court. Apparently, she spoke to "someone at the SEC" about it last night and was promised that it would not happen again tonight. Harumph.

(The best part is watching the southern charm mix with the anger. Apparently she "wouldn't dream of blaming" the event staff guy and "is terribly sorry to be such a pill" but it is "absolutely unacceptable". People kill me.)

LSU-Tennessee: Oh, it's ON.

Just added to the list of people I would not want to get into a fistfight with, ever: Alexis Hornbuckle. I've always thought there was something tough about her, and she has this stone-cold killer face on her when she's making a clutch shot. She made one just a second ago, too, sinking a three to regain the Tennessee lead.

Even so, LSU's looking inspired. They're making Tennessee turn the ball over, and they're making the Vols pay for every one of them. Fowles has it going on under the basket and 14 points to show for her effort, while LSU deifinitely has the momentum and a five point lead. After last night's blowout second game, this is the kind of excitement we needed.

LSU-Tennessee: Out of the Jungle...

...and into the lead. Erica White made good on an and-one situation and LSU turned another Tennessee turnover into an Allison Hightower three-pointer that tied the game at 26 and forced Tennessee to take its first time out. Now White has LSU in the lead by 2 on another breakaway layup. Did I mention how speedy she is?

LSU-Tennessee: Left Hook

Finally, LSU's Sylvia Fowles did what her physique practically demands of her -- she dominated inside. She went strong to the basket and scored on a left hook that no other player nearby could have possibly blocked. She's grabbing rebounds on both ends, too, and she'll have to do better even than last night's double-double to beat the Vols. But you're 6-6 woman, play like it!

SEC: Yeah Dawg!

So last night was trash-the-mascot night here on the Garrison end of the blog. Lest you think I am generally mascot-averse, I'd like to offer this -- Tennessee's blue dog in orange overalls is the cutest mascot I've ever seen. And he just body surfed over rolling male cheerleaders across the entire court. Cool. I must find out his name, and whether he has any mascot relatives -- think of the adorable puppies!

SEC: Feel Like Chikin Tonight?

The only real tragedy of my road trip to Atlanta so far is the fact that I never made it to Chik-fil-A today. And now, considering that I leave Sunday night, I won't get Chik-fil-A at all, since their owner's faith keeps all stores closed on Sundays. And yet their chicken reigns supreme among fast food places, and Atlanta's like Mecca for the Chik-fil-A deprived. They also happen to have one of the funniest ad campaigns I've ever seen, with their cows-touting-chicken theme. (Basketball connection? They're a sponsor here of the SEC Tournament.)

I'm considering standing up to scream for a Chikin sandwich for the in-arena promotion in a second. Jeff is right, we don't get enough of the good stuff here on press row.

LSU-Tennessee: Robbed

LSU point guard Erica White is FAST. I mean lickety-split, whoosh, zoom, swish fast, and she's turned it into four points early. LSU's really cranked it up in transition and they're climbing back into the games after looking a little out of sorts to start.

I also just realized that our arena announcer here is female. Pretty rare in my experience, to have a woman's voice booming over the loudspeaker on play calls and promotions. She looks to be an otherwise unassuming white-haired lady, but she's holding it down on the microphone. Considering FSN has two men calling the game for TV, it's nice to have another woman in a sideline chair.

LSU-Tennessee: Off and Running

Tennessee has LSU right where they want them -- back on their heels, looking a bit stunned at their eight-point deficit less than five minutes into the game. It took LSU almost four minutes to score. Junior guard Rashonta LeBlanc finally hit the first field goal just before the 16 minute mark. LSU's already called a time out and Pokey Chatman has her jaw set in that way that tells me I wouldn't want to be a player in her huddle for all the sweet tea in Georgia.

Looks like it worked...LeBlanc just scored again. Now it's just 10-4, Vols.

LSU-Tennessee: Orange You Glad...

...that you don't have to play Tennessee tonight? I sure am. You should have heard it -- when they called the opening lineups, there was a decent cheer for LSU, an extra round of applause for LSU forward Porsha Phillips from nearby Stone Mountain, Ga., and then a ROAR for Tennessee...this team knows how to travel.

SEC: Game On!

Remember the scene from Wayne's World, where Garth and Wayne score backstage passes, and parade their way backstage, "schwinging" their passes into anyone's face they can find? I just had much the same experience getting into the Gwinnett Center with my media parking pass. After navigating my way through a serious traffic backup and mobs of excited fans crossing the street at will (and this is at least an hour before tip-off!), I found my way to the loading dock of the Gwinnett Center, snagged a spot and shwinged my way inside with my press pass.

There is orange EVERYWHERE -- hanging on flags out the windows of cars, on sweaters and hats and pants and socks of the thousands of people streaming into the game. I was unimpressed with the attendance at the second game last night. Looks like my impression couldn't have been more wrong -- at least when Tennessee's going to take the court. In fact, the only shred of purple I saw in the parking lot was an RV twice the size of most houses I saw on my drive south this morning decorated with "Geaux Tigers" signs and an admirable tailgate spread. I thought about stopping to supplement the media grub, but I was eager to see whether the atmosphere would hold when I got inside.

March 02, 2007

Florida-Vanderbilt: The Fat Lady's Singing

It's all over here on Friday night at the SECs...LSU edged out and now Vanderbilt demolished Florida, 105-77. It's no way to end a season, much less Carolyn Peck's Florida coaching career, but it does make me interested to see what these Commodores can manage against Georgia tomorrow night.

The band is chanting "We love Peck", and here comes Carolyn, for a postgame interview with the ESPN crew. And there she goes, walking off the court and into the locker room for the last time...for now.

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Florida-Vanderbilt: Yay Sha!

If Florida goes home tonight, it won't be for lack of effort on the part of sophomore guard Sha Brooks. She's going all out, diving after balls and leading the Gators in scoring with 12 points. If the Gators have any glimmer of hope down 21 with 13 minutes left, it may be because Brooks sparks a similar effort from her teammates. Dotson isn't far behind with 11 points of her own, but two Gators do not a winning team make.

Florida-Vanderbilt: Eaten Alive?

Not only trailing by 20 points at halftime but hampered by foul trouble (including four on junior guard Depree Bowden), Florida's in a bad way, though they did show signs of life before the half...

Speaking of signs of life, I can't say that I'm a huge dance team fan in most cases, but Florida's dance team just hit the halftime show wearing striped tube socks and oversized white buttondowns -- think Tom Cruise in Risky Business -- and performed to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll". Tongue-in-cheek. Well done.

Florida-Vanderbilt: Lacking Luster

It's 40-24 with five minutes to go in the first half, and I can't say I'm any better than the crowd here at mustering enthusiasm about this game right now. (In all fairness, at least 50% of them are wearing Tennessee orange.) Florida is starting to look like a team that lost 13 straight, and Vnaderbilt isn't having to work especially hard to outpace them.

Here's hoping Peck has one more great big halftime speech up her sleeve -- the Gators could use it.

Florida-Vanderbilt: Mascot Update

Vanderbilt's mascot has to be the shortest thing I've ever seen. The Commodore's head is at least half of its total height. At least it's not wearing a bow, like "Alberta" the female Gator.

Good thing they're not short on the scoreboard -- they're up 14-7 five minutes in -- Florida's got to get into a rhythm, quick, to keep this tournament run going.

And speaking of height, holy cow is Carolyn Peck tall in person. Put it this way: I wouldn't mess with her.

Florida-Vandy: Gator-Aid

Florida just took the court along with their the Gator mascot, garishly outfitted in an orange dress and bow. Barring the fashion faux pas, I've never liked the idea of a female mascot as an alternative to the standard mascot. First of all, mascots should be utterly without gender (Really, imagine Mrs. Buckeye). Second, I can't help feeling marginalized -- was the usual Gator too important to make it over here? Sure the ladies aren't defending champs like the men, but let's give 'em a little credit.

Admittedly, this a topic too serious for pregamre chatter. The arena has cleared out considerably, but Florida's raring to go on its bid to regain relevance and Vanderbilt wouldn't mind "Commandeering" a win of its own.

(Sorry, couldn't help it.)

Ole Miss-LSU: Photo Finish

The SEC didn't waste any time getting my heart rate up -- I walked in to what looked like a confident 10-point LSU lead, and ended up on the edge of my seat as Ole Miss tied the game at 46 with 44 seconds remaining. (The Florida band was elated.) LSU's shooting was abyssmal in the second half, just like their cold start to the game, but their defense kept them in it. When Sylvia Fowles threw up a couple of free-throw bricks the Tigers were rightfully worried, but Erica White sank a pair of free throws and got a breakaway layup to put LSU back up by 4 inside 10 seconds. (The Gator band looked deflated.)

LSU emerged triumphant, 52-46, but coach Pokey Chatman and White had their jaws clenched tight in the press conference. 52 points and at least 10 minutes of play without field goals doesn't bode well when all tomorrow holds is a showdown with Tennessee. I have a feeling tomorrow's LSU walkthrough will be anything but casual.

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SEC: Tooting their Horn

I'll give props to the Gwinnett Center's color scheme -- beats the heck out of teal and purple -- but I can't say much for the layout -- There's tons of open floor space around the court, and you'd have to have an insane crowd to get this place good and loud. The LSU fan contingent is doing its darndest, but you can definitely sense that this is a hockey-sized arena with a little too much room to spare.

What IS great about the floor layout is that there are four marching bands present at any given time, each with their own corner behind the basket. Tonight of course, we have the Gator band closest to me, the Ole Miss bunch next to them, and LSU holding down the other side in anticipation of the Vanderbilt band's arrival. The Gator band is most obviously rooting for Ole Miss -- and for good reason. If my team had just gotten a second lease on life in the SEC tournament, I'd want the biggest, baddest center in the league out of the way before I had to deal with her. LSU's Sylvia Fowles isn't dominating tonight, with only four points and five rebounds in the first half (she hasn't added to her point total since) but it doesn't mean the orange-and-blue wouldn't stand a better chance against the Rebels tomorrow -- if they make it past Vanderbilt tonight...

Welcome to Duluth

So I'm here in the bowels of the Gwinnett Center, what looks to be a beautiful facility. I have to say,however, that I was disappointed that I couldn't find the Ole Miss-LSU game currently in progress (LSU's up 7 in the second half) on the radio on the drive up from the airport. All I got was the Georgia Tech-Maryland pregame from the ACC women's tournament, courtesy of WREK 91.1 FM -- as if we needed any more ACC updates with Lippman on the trail.

So here comes the scoop from the SECs. Let's go see if the Rebels can crack this Tiger lead.

Flying South

Just so that Jeff doesn't get ALL the fun this morning, I thought I'd check in with the scoop from Atlanta. Now, this would be better if I actually WERE in Atlanta, but the fact is I'm still in soggy New York City. Man, I can't WAIT to feel the balmy 63 degree sunshine in the Peach State and soak up a little SEC action.

More to the point, last night's games mean that tonight I get to see LSU take on Ole Miss (can't WAIT to see Sylvia Fowles turn on the postseason jets) and Vanderbilt take on a certain upstart 11 seed -- the alma mater of a certain CSTV women's basketball editor

Embattled Florida became only the fifth 11th seed to defeat the 6 seed in the SEC women's tournament witha 67-60 win over Mississippi State on the back of 25 points from sophomore Marshae Dotson. Carolyn Peck may be the lame duck coach at Florida, but she's going down swinging.

October 25, 2006

SEC: Welcome To Birmingham

She's On Fire has landed in the city that is the home to the SEC headquarters, and after a full day of interviews and presentations, it's almost time for sleep (before rounds 3 and 4 in the morning). But first I thought I would share All-SEC players, new rules, facts and figures before i hit the sack. So here it goes.

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