On the edge of a milestone
By Seth Traub, Special to CNNSI.com
Over two decades ago and fresh off two seasons as head coach of the U.S Military Academy, Joe Ciampi took over an Auburn squad that was 17-36 in the two prior seasons. In his first year, the Tigers went 17-13 and have not looked back since as Ciampi has eclipsed the 20-win mark 16 times in his 21 seasons.
When No. 9 Auburn (9-0) travels to Puerto Rico this weekend to play P.R-Mayaguez, Ciampi will be looking to do something only two other SEC coaches have done -- reach the 500 win mark at their respective schools. Since 1979, Ciampi has compiled a .756 winning percentage, competed in 15 NCAA Tournaments and finished as the NCAA runner-up three straight years from 1988-1990.
"We take it one game at a time to be successful. This milestone is more a statement of our program and its commitment to success, not just me," Ciampi said.
Only Tennessee's Pat Summitt, with 735, and Georgia's Andy Landers, with 525, won more games in the SEC.
"The wins are quality wins in a quality league, and the competition makes a statement as to how good our program is," Ciampi said. "We are winning at a high level, in the best conference for women's basketball from top to bottom. While some conferences have a few quality teams, the SEC has 12."
In their best start since 1996, Ciampi's Tigers received another award this week as senior tri-captain Tasha Hamilton was named player of the week for the first time in her career.
Hamilton, a native of Bainbridge, Ga., averaged 17 points, five rebounds and four assists in the Tigers' two games last week. Two of Hamilton's field goals late in the game helped Auburn to a 79-71 overtime victory against UAB last Wednesday. She finished 14 points, five rebounds and a season-high six assists. In last Friday's 79-35 victory against Mercer, the 5-10 guard scored 20 points and had five rebounds in 20 minutes of play. She alone outscored Mercer 15-14 until the 1:33 mark of the first half.
Polls showcase SECWith the entrance of Florida last week, there are now six SEC teams ranked in the top 25. That is twice as many as the Big East and Big 10, with four teams representing the Big 12.
Through Thursday's games, just 16 Division I teams remain undefeated and five of them are in the SEC.
With its win over 70-62 Louisiana Tech on Sunday, No. 2 Tennessee (7-0) has now broken three all-time home court winning streaks at Louisiana Tech's Thomas Assembly Center -- 52 games, 39 games and on Sunday, 30 games. The victory moved Summitt up to 11th place on the all-time men's and women's basketball coaches victory list with 735. Dean Smith, former head coach at North Carolina, heads the list with 879 career victories.
Tamika Catchings scored only twp points against the Lady Techsters, leaving the Vols relying on Ashley Robinson and Gwen Jackson, who came up with 14 points each. Catchings came into the game averaging 15 points, but she was 1-for-11 from the field and 0-for-4 in three-pointers.
After starting the year 2-2, No. 4 Georgia (7-2) has now won five straight by an average of 28.6 points. The Bulldogs did not play this week during final exams, returning to action Monday against Dartmouth. After playing six games between Nov. 19 and Dec. 3 -- two against top 5 teams -- the Bulldogs' schedule slows down a bit to end the semester as they play just three games between Dec. 8 and Dec. 18.
No. 18 Florida (7-0) has its best start since 1995 when they won nine straight to open the season. The Gators played just one game last week, defeating Central Florida 85-44 on Saturday. Florida will play only one game this week, against New Mexico on Sunday in Miami. It is just the second game Florida is playing during a 14-day span.
Sunday's game also kicks off a three-game road trip in three different time zones over six days before the Gators return home to host the State Farm Classic and a possible matchup with 2000 Final Four participant Rutgers.
No. 20 Louisiana State (4-3) defeated Tulane 68-61 on Sunday to improve to 4-3 on the season with their second consecutive win. The game marked the return of DeTrina White, an all-SEC center who missed the Tiger's first six games due to a back injury. White contributed three points and a team-best nine rebounds in the victory.
However, they played without starting forward April Brown, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Nov. 30. Brown is expected to be back in the line-up within two weeks.
Through seven games, the Tigers have yet to dress out their complete 10-member squad; the Lady Tigers have dressed as few as seven players and as many as nine thus far.
Seth Traub is a reporter for the Independent Florida Alligator, the student paper that serves the University of Florida.