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Vols still hurt over Catchings

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001


It's not like somebody actually died, but the collective grief in Knoxville, Tenn., is so strong it might seem that way.

"Certainly, the entire city has been in mourning," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.

Summitt was referring to the loss of senior Tamika Catchings to an ACL injury Monday during a nationally televised win over Mississippi State.

The two-time All-America forward's college career-ending knee injury stunned the Vols faithful and left a huge void for the rest of the team to fill.

"Obviously it's a big loss for our basketball team," Summitt said. "I really feel for Tamika. She's a terrific person and she has been a great impact player for the team and program and a real factor in our success the last three seasons. But we have to move on."

And move on they have. Using a revised lineup of Kristen "Ace" Clement at point guard, Kara Lawson at the two-guard position, Semeka Randall at the three and Gwen Jackson and Michelle Snow inside, the Vols rebounded with an 85-69 win over No. 4 Georgia on Thursday night.

Summitt said she expects someone such as Clement or Kyra Elzy, who have won national championships, to lead the team.

"For now, we will work by committee, as different individuals will have to accept new responsibilities," Summitt said. "It's an overall team project to overcome Tamika's absence."

A SHOCKER? MAYBE NOT: While third-ranked Notre Dame's win over top-ranked Connecticut might have shocked most of the nation, several coaches who have faced the Fighting Irish this season weren't nearly as surprised.

After the game, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said he believed the loss was good for women's basketball. The Huskies are the defending national champions and had been atop the AP poll for 30 consecutive weeks.

Other coaches agree.

"I'll tell you something, when the game was over I thought thank goodness for Notre Dame," Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. "I was one of those people who thought Connecticut was going to go undefeated because they are so strong, deep and talented. Yeah, I thought it was really good for the women's game. It's still anybody's championship."

US VERSUS THEM: The annual ACC vs. Big 12 Challenge is this weekend with Iowa State (14-1) at North Carolina State (11-6) and Oklahoma (12-4) at North Carolina (10-6).

N.C. State is coming off an overtime loss to UNC on Sunday and another loss Thursday night to Duke. Both games will be televised nationally on ESPN2, which the coaches acknowledge is a good thing.

But playing tough opponents in the middle of conference season is a double-edged sword.

"It's good to be playing this," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "But as competitive as our league is, it's hard to put these games in the middle of our ACC season when every game is a battle that goes down to the very last possession. But it's great for women's basketball and it's great exposure for our conference. A game like that could give you the credibility you need (at NCAA selection time). Playing Oklahoma is like playing some of the great teams in our league."

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

By the numbers

4 -- Teams the Big Ten has in the Top 10.

12 -- Games Florida has won in a row at home.

30 -- Consecutive weeks UConn stayed at No. 1 in the AP poll.

1,000 -- Games coached by Texas' Jody Conradt, the most by any women's coach.

11,418 -- People who witnessed Notre Dame's historic win over Connecticut on Monday. The attendance bettered the Irish's best by 3,284.

Record start

With its 17-0 record, Notre Dame has its best start in history. Its No. 3 ranking also is its highest. The Irish could break that record next week if they move up in the polls as expected.

* * *

A LITTLE ASSISTANCE: At 5 feet, Richmond junior point guard Michele Koclanes isn't the most imposing figure on the court. But Koclanes can more than hold her own.

The shortest Division I player in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Koclanes is second on the team in scoring (10.4 ppg) and leads the Colonial Athletic Association with 7.44 assists per game. With her combined 16 assists in two games in November, Koclanes became Richmond's all-time assists leader. She has 483 and is seventh on the CAA's all-time list. She has led Richmond in assists in the past 30 games.

Games to watch:

Sunday

Big 12/ACC Challenge: Iowa State at N.C. State, 1 p.m.; Oklahoma at North Carolina, 3 p.m., ESPN2.

* * *

THEY SAID IT: "It's a big game for Notre Dame because they are playing the No. 1 team in the country and a team they'll have to beat if they want to win the league. If Notre Dame beats us and doesn't make it to the Final Four they will say big deal about beating Connecticut. They're going to be disappointed knowing that they had the potential to be in the Final Four. It's a funny game and I think it's more about psyche on Monday then anything else. Come NCAA Tournament time, this game will come as a barometer more than anything else. At some point Notre Dame will beat Connecticut, because streaks don't last forever." -- GENO AURIEMMA, Connecticut coach three days before his No. 1 team was upset by Notre Dame

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