LSU regrouping with full roster
By Seth Traub, Special to CNNSI.com
To start the season, the No. 12 Louisiana State women's basketball team did not receive many breaks.
The Tigers played their first five games in 15 days, one of which was home, lost the three games played against ranked teams and injuries hampered chemistry, as they did not play with a full roster in their first eight games.
But the Tigers have regrouped, winning their last five and every player saw minutes in last weekend's upset win against then-No. 6 Purdue.
"We have had so many bad things happen to us, it was time for us to make something good happen and finally it did," LSU coach Sue Gunter said after the game. "The one thing that really stood out is what an outstanding team effort it was."
The Tigers are led by senior Marie Ferdinand, this week's SEC Player of the Week, who rallied her team from a 15-point second-half deficit in the Purdue game and sealed the win with a layup with less than a minute to go.
Ferdinand, first-team All-SEC last season, is one of only two Tigers to play in all 10 games. She is averaging team-highs with 21.5 points and 1.8 steals per game and is shooting 49.8 percent from the field.
Also stepping up for the Tigers are freshmen twins Roneeka and Doneeka Hodges. Roneeka has started seven games and averages 11 points. Doneeka led the team with 14 points in their win against Prairie View on Monday and averages 9.1 points.
LSU will have two more tune-up games, finishing out 2000 against Delaware State and North Texas, before jumping into conference play head first against No. 2 Tennessee in Knoxville and No. 19 Mississippi State in Starkville.
Tough stretch for Vols includes title game rematch
While many teams are preparing for the conference season by playing lesser opponents, Tennessee will continue to play one of the hardest schedules in the country with no relief in sight.
The Vols travel to No. 15 Texas, play outdoors against Arizona State at Bank One Ballpark, visit Hartford to face No. 1 Connecticut and play No. 7 Rutgers at Madison Square Garden. All this in an 11-day stretch before heading into SEC games against LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
With the rematch between last year's NCAA Championship teams in the middle of this tough stretch, UT coach Pat Summit said she is not worried because her current team is deeper and more athletic than any team she has coached.
"Overall, I think we have improved speed and quickness and present a more balanced attack," Summit said. "Our team learned tremendously from how the 1999-2000 season unfolded and what it takes to get to the Final Four. We are better and we have improved depth. Ashley Robinson has made us better inside and has made our front line more opposing. She already gives us a presence defensively and is a potential big rebounding force."
And then there were two.
Last week the SEC had the most undefeated teams in country, but after two upsets and a championship game loss, three teams are no longer unbeaten.
No. 9 Auburn went on its best start since 1988 going 12-0 before losing to Clemson in the SEC-ACC challenge. The loss was the Tigers fourth game in five days, including the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico.
"This is a tired team," Tigers coach Joe Ciampi said after the game. "I take responsibility for that."
Alabama complained about not getting any respect from poll voters, not receiving any votes in either poll, after they went 8-0 but then fell to Oklahoma State in the championship game of the Bahamas Sun Splash Shootout in Nassau.
Florida underestimated Colorado Friday night and it showed as UF lost 98-62, with four Gators fouling out and sending the home team to the line 49 times, of which they made 43. Unable to improve to the best start in program history, UF fell to 9-1.
"We need to learn from this, and see if we can become a better team before our next outing," UF coach Carol Ross said.
Mississippi is 11-0 for the first time since 1988 after a narrow two-point victory over Indiana claimed the Beach Classic championship for the Rebels. Ole Miss only plays one game before beginning conference play on Jan. 7. They may not be in the unbeaten club for very long as the Rebels face their first ranked opposition, No. 11 Texas Tech, on New Year's Eve.
Tennessee also has yet to lose.
Seth Traub is a reporter for the Independent Florida Alligator, the student paper that serves the University of Florida.