EYE OF THE TIGERS
The Auburn women's team was ranked No. 3 in the country last season when it went to Tacoma, Wash., for the Final Four, hoping to knock off No. 1 Tennessee for the championship. Instead, the Lady Tigers were upset by Louisiana Tech 56-54 in the final—in part because star center Vickie Orr's knees hurt so much she got only two rebounds.
And so, on Saturday night against No. 1 Tennessee, the Lady Tigers went into the game again ranked No. 3 and buoyed by the knowledge that the second-ranked Lady Techsters had been upset 61-60 by Colorado earlier in the week. If Auburn could beat the Vols, it figured to take the top spot in the polls. At their Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, before 7,150 fans, the Lady Tigers triumphed 67-59 behind Orr, whose 18-point performance indicated that her knees are almost back to normal after off-season surgery.
With Orr and guard Ruthie Bolton the only returning starters, Auburn needed a boost from a newcomer, and it got a huge one from sophomore Carolyn Jones, who sat out last season as a Bylaw 5-1-(j) casualty. Against Tennessee, Jones, who gives Auburn the penetration and perimeter game necessary to keep opponents from collapsing on Orr, matched Orr's 18 points.
Said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, "You don't ever want to lose a game, but we needed to lose this one. Auburn took advantage of us. The Tigers really wanted the game more than Tennessee. They had bigger hearts." The biggest of those, perhaps, belongs to Orr, who still undergoes daily treatment on her knees and averages slightly less than 12 minutes a half.
"She works two hours every day," said Lady Tigers coach Joe Ciampi admiringly. "When you see a two-time All-America do that, you say, 'Hey, if she can do it, why can't I?' She's an over-achiever, and the other kids follow her."
Whether she can lead the Lady Tigers back to Tacoma will depend largely on how her knees hold up in the tough SEC, which last week had six teams ranked in the nation's top 25.
Notre Dame's Tony Rice and Florida State's Brad Johnson are a couple of quarterbacks who have hoops in their blood. But while Johnson, the Seminoles' backup signal caller, has nailed down a spot as the seventh man on Florida State's strong basketball team, Rice's request to try out for the Irish squad was politely rejected by coach Digger Phelps, who recommended that he spend the winter concentrating on his studies instead. Rice has been able to hold his own against the Irish basketball players in summer pickup games, and in the wake of Notre Dame's 79-75 upset loss at San Francisco last week, Phelps just might want to reconsider Rice's bid.
Johnson, a candidate to replace Chip Ferguson as the Seminoles' starting quarterback next season, isn't likely to be available for spring football practice because he figures to be trying to help Florida State pursue a slot in the Final Four. A 6'6", 195-pounder, Johnson is a redshirt freshman football player but a sophomore as a basketball player. On the Thursday before the Sugar Bowl, he spent the morning practicing with the football team in New Orleans and then caught a plane to Orlando for the Seminoles' basketball game against Villanova in the Red Lobster Classic final, arriving in time to score 13 points and get three assists in a 68-67 upset loss. From there, it was back to New Orleans for the bowl game against Auburn, during which he served as holder for both field goals and the extra point in Florida State's 13-7 win.