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College basketball

No title, but a lot of love for Vols' anchors

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 10, 2003

ATLANTA -- Unlike UConn, Tennessee will sustain heavy roster losses.

The Volunteers' senior starters -- forward Gwen Jackson and guard Kara Lawson -- appeared in three Final Fours and will go down among the best players in school history. In Tuesday's 73-68 loss to the Huskies, they combined for 33 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Saying good-bye to them won't be easy.

"I want them to know how much I appreciate them and our Tennessee program appreciates them," coach Pat Summitt said. "They have become like two of my daughters. I hurt for them. I love Gwen and Kara. I know they are going to do great things after they leave here. They have been awesome and role models."

The duo finished with a 125-17 record, 54-2 in the always-tough SEC. Lawson scored 1,950 points, Jackson 1,508. They were part of the fifth Vols senior class since 1982 to not win a title.

"It's tough not to come home with a championship," Lawson said. "Both Gwen and I came to Tennessee to win one and that's hard, but we came a long way this year. I don't think a lot of people expected us to be in the (championship) after losing some of the games that we did."

NEW, NOT BETTER: None of the Final Four coaches were thrilled with the new system where first- and second-round games were played at predetermined sites. In past years, games were at the sites of the 16 highest seeds. Under the new format, some higher seeds played on home courts of lower ones. UConn coach Geno Auriemma matter-of-factly called the idea "stupid."

DeMOSS LEAVING: The Vols will lose longtime assistant Mickie DeMoss, who was hired as Kentucky's coach. She spent 18 years at Tennessee. Two years ago, a survey of the nation's Division I women's coaches tabbed DeMoss as the country's top assistant. From 1979-83, she was head coach at Florida.

LAST WORD: "I don't think there is much difference quite honestly in the two programs. Obviously, (Tuesday) they were the better team for 40 minutes. I'm not going to be making a lot of changes. The only thing that I can tell you is that we are going to continue to compete for the national championship if I have anything to do with it."

-- Vols coach Summitt.

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