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Unsettled lineup may make Vols vulnerable

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2002

Just more than a week ago, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was answering questions about whether she believed the Volunteers might run the table in the Southeastern Conference.

Summitt said she and the team hadn't discussed going undefeated in league play; just winning the title would be good enough.

A league title still is possible. Going undefeated isn't.

Vanderbilt shocked Tennessee on Saturday, bringing to the forefront weaknesses the Vols need to correct with five weeks until selection Sunday.

A big concern is the lack of a proven starting lineup.

"I was hoping that we would have a set lineup by now, but I think any coach would hope that," Summitt said. "I'm still not set on it. It will change this week based on practice, and I anticipate a different lineup. Right now, more than anything, what is important is that the players are committed to doing the right things to make our system effective on both ends."

With the departures of point guard Kristen "Ace" Clement and forward Semeka Randall, LaToya Davis and Tasha Butts were expected to step into those roles. But Summitt said whether it is youth, playing new positions or both, the two haven't been as consistent as she had hoped.

"Eventually, I think we will be able to depend on them night in and night out," Summitt said. "They play very young at times, and experience is the only thing that can help you in those circumstances."

With a 93-65 win over Arkansas on Thursday, it's clear it isn't time to write the Vols off. They still are the SEC's dominant team. But with the rise of so many teams from conferences such as the Big 12 and Big Ten, making it back to the Final Four requires more than just dominating the SEC.

That is one reason the Vols are hosting Texas on Tuesday night. Summitt never backs away playing big-name teams outside the conference, even in the middle of the conference season.

"We wanted to play Texas in December and we just could not work that out," Summitt said. "The weekend that we had hoped to play them we had a home game, and we worked at the schedule until finally, we just had to settle on a date in the middle of both teams' conference schedules. It is not the ideal, but sometimes it is difficult."

STILES JOINS THE RAFTERS: Former Southwest Missouri State star Jackie Stiles, the leading scorer in women's history, had her jersey retired Feb. 2, becoming the third player to have her jersey hang in the rafters of the Hammons Student Center.

Stiles, a member of the WNBA's Portland Fire, had the jersey retired during halftime in front of 8,800.

Jeanette Tendai (1983-86) and Melody Howard (1991-94) also have their jerseys retired.

BEARD HONORED: Duke sophomore guard/forward Alana Beard is the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's national player of the month for January.

Beard led Duke to an 8-0 record and an average margin of victory of 23. Beard averaged 22.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.6 blocks. She scored 20 or more in four games and 30 or more in two. She made 56.7 percent of her field goals, 50 percent of her 3-pointers and 86.5 percent of her free throws. Jan. 2 against Maryland, Beard scored a career-high 35 and missed a triple double by two assists (35 points, 11 rebounds). She scored 31 and had 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists against then-No. 21 North Carolina on Jan. 24.

PORTLAND'S MILESTONE: Penn State's Rene Portland joined the 500-win club Sunday against Ohio State. Portland has coached the Nittany Lions for 22 years.

ALL BY HERSELF: Purdue senior forward Kelly Komara needs the Boilermakers to win five games to become the only member of the winningest class in Big Ten history. Purdue has 106 wins since Komara arrived. Last year's senior class established the mark of 111.

- Antonya English covers women's basketball. She can be reached at (813) 226-3389 or english@sptimes.com.

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