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Saturday, July 20, 2019

SECrets: Kentucky, Alone Atop League, Continues Its Roll Despite First-Half Scare at South Carolina

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Photo Caption: In the four years since then-newly named South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley discovered her as a relatively unsought-after high school senior in Trenton, New Jersey, La‘Keshia Sutton has elevated the Gamecocks program with her leadership. Sutton, now a senior posted 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals before fouling out of Sunday’s 58-66 win over league-leading Kentucky, a game South Carolina led at the half, but she was also responsible for eight of her team’s 29 turnovers.

Photo Credit: Courtesy University of South Athletics Media Relations




By Mike Siroky
Correspondent

Just when No. 24/RV South Carolina finally got a taste of the Top 25 – a great accomplishment for a building program – the reality of playing in the toughest women’s conference in the land smacked them hard upside the head with home losses against what at the time were the only two unbeaten teams in the league—traditional power LSU, who handed the Gamecocks a 58-48 defeat on Thursday, Jan. 12, and more recent SEC racehorse, Kentucky, in a 66-58 war of attrition won by the Wildcats on Sunday, Jan. 15.

With LSU losing its Sunday conference match-up with the Florida Gators, 58-62, Kentucky now stands alone at the top of the Southeastern Conference rankings, the sole remaining undefeated team in the league through their first five conference games.

But though Kentucky also owns the league’s most prolific offense, averaging 81.1 points per game, South Carolina, which boasts the SEC’s top defense, giving up only 45.9 points per game, certainly didn’t make the path to victory an easy one for their visitors on Sunday.

At half-time, the outcome of the game was very much in doubt, as the Gamecocks carried a one-point (29-28) lead into the break. And though the Wildcats ultimately pulled out the eight-point win, South Carolina held them well below their customary scoring levels.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at why this particular game proved so difficult for the league leaders, as well as at the emergence of the South Carolina program and its leader, senior La’Keisha Sutton, Sunday’s other SEC action, the current league standings, and the upcoming midweek conference games.

Kentucky was playing the better game for much of the first half as well. The Cats got off to a quick start, running up a seven-point lead in the first four minutes before the Gamecocks finally got their feet under them. The Gamecocks didn’t dig themselves out of the hole for nearly six minutes more, finally tying the score at 18 apiece at the 8:22 mark.

From there, the two sides largely traded blows for the remainder of the period, until with just over a minute to go in the half, Kentucky again pulled ahead, this time by five points, thanks to back-to-back buckets from Samarie Walker.

This time, however, the Gamecocks responded quickly, as Carolina’s Aleighsa Welch gathered up an offensive board and put it back for two. Fouled in the process by Walker, Welch then converted the conventional three-point play.

Then, with 15 seconds left, Charenee Stephens pulled down a Kentucky miss on the defensive end, and sent the ball up-court to Sancheon White, who drained a trey to complete a six-point South Carolina turnaround in the space of 37 seconds.

Curiously, if you looked at the box score alone, you might have thought the Wildcats would be up by double digits at the half. Kentucky totally dominated the paint, 26-12. The Wildcats also gleaned 16 points off South Carolina’s 14 first-half turnovers (Carolina coughed the ball up seven times in the first five minutes alone), while the Gamecocks reaped only five points off Kentucky’s eight first-half ball-handling errors.

The Wildcats also out-shot South Carolina took more shots (28) than the Gamecocks (27) in the opening half, and were more accurate in hitting them, netting 13 of their first-half field-goal attempts to the Gamecocks’10, for a 46.4-percent to 37-percent Kentucky edge in first-half field-goal shooting percentage.

So what, then, was keeping South Carolina not just in the game, but ahead at the break?

There were several factors: First, Kentucky came up empty at the arc, missing all of five of their three-point attempts in the first half. Meanwhile, South Carolina was not exactly shooting the lights out, but did manage to net three long-balls on their five attempts, for nine points from downtown.

In addition, the Wildcats got to the line only three times in the opening half, where they netted just two points. The Gamecocks collected six first-half on points on nine visits to the charity stripe.

But by far the single biggest factor was rebounding, in particular, the Gamecocks’ domination of the offensive glass in the opening period.

Kentucky is one of the SEC’s stronger rebounding programs, especially on the offensive boards where they pull down, on average, a league-best 20.2 rebounds per game.

But South Carolina leads the league in rebounding defense, allowing opponents only 32.5 rebounds per game on average. As a result (and, in part, thanks to their success on the boards in this contest), the Gamecocks actually boast a slightly better rebounding margin (+7.1, based on pulling down 39.5 boards per game to their opponents’ average of 32.5) than Kentucky (+6.5, made up of 41.7 rebounds per game, while allowing opponents 35.2).

The first half of this game proved just how important that rebounding differential can be: In the first half, the Wildcats pulled down a total of 11 rebounds, of which only four came off the offensive boards. Because of their limited offensive-rebounding production, Kentucky garnered only two second-chance points in the first half.

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks went hard to the boards, hauling down 22 first-half rebounds, of which 11 came off the offensive glass. The result: Nine second-chance points, enough, when combined with a 13-point advantage in three-pointers and free-throws, to offset South Carolina’s bad case of butterfingers and its lower field-goal shooting percentage.

The Wildcats turned things around in the second period, but the change in momentum was far from immediate, as the Gamecocks outscored Kentucky 16-8 over the first 10 minutes to stretch their lead to nine.

For the first nine minutes of that span, South Carolina did a far better job of maintaining a handle on the basketball, coughing it up just four times.

But Kentucky’s Keyla Snowden netted a jumper to stop the hemorrhaging, and then a little shy of the halfway point, Ieasia Walker committed two consecutive turnovers in the space of roughly a minute, as Kentucky’s Bria Goss twice picked her pocket. On the first miscue, South Carolina’s Sancheon White was able to recover the rock, but on the second, Walker fouled Goss in her effort to regain possession. Goss went two-for-two from the line, Azia Bishop knocked down a jumper, and the South Carolina surge began to unravel.

Kastine Evans’s three-pointer tying the score at 45 apiece, and Bishop’s jumper a minute-and-a-half later, capping an 11-0 Kentucky run and giving the Wildcats a two-point lead with 6:51 to play, both came off South Carolina turnovers that enabled the Wildcats to get their fast break going.

White answered with a trey, and for the next minute of play, the two sides traded blows. But the Wildcats had another surge left in them, a 7-0 run that put Kentucky up, 56-49 with under four minutes to go, while the home team appeared worn down by the first Kentucky run.

Down the stretch, South Carolina was unable to make any real inroads, as the Wildcats went to work on the offensive boards and did their jobs at the penalty stripe, while the Gamecocks continued to cough up the ball.

By game’s end, South Carolina had given up 28 forced and unforced turnovers, making it Kentucky’s 100th straight game in which opponents have coughed it up more than 10 times. And once again, the Wildcats took full advantage of their opponents’ mistakes, picking up 16 more points off South Carolina’s 15 second-half turnovers, as compared to just six points for South Carolina from Kentucky’s 10 turnovers in the second period.

Rebounding once again had a great deal to do with the turnaround. Though the Gamecocks out-rebounded the Cats, 40-30, for the game as a whole, Kentucky stepped things up on the boards considerably in the second half, pulling down 19 rebounds to South Carolina’s 18 in the period.

Even more importantly, the Cats pulled down 11 offensive rebounds in the second period, yielding 12 second-chance points, to just eight offensive boards, and 11 second-chance points, for the Gamecocks in the second half.

In addition, with Carolina forced to foul down the stretch, Kentucky got to the charity stripe just as often as South Carolina (15 visits) in the second half, but did a far better job when they were there. The Wildcats shot 80 percent from the stripe in the second period for a total of 12 second-half points, while the Gamecocks, shooting just 40 percent at the line, netted only six penalty points in the half.

The difference in rebounding and foul-shooting in the second period were enough to allow Kentucky to more than offset a drop-off in its accuracy from the field, where the Cats shot just 38.7 percent (12-31) in the second half to the Gamecocks’40 percent (10-25) from the floor.

Only one Kentucky player, Keyla Snowden, finished in double figures, coming off the bench for a game-high 15 points.  Brittany Henderson and Kastine Evans, who each finished with a team-high six boards, both deserve credit for picking up their rebounding in the second half enough to preserve the Wildcats’ undefeated conference record on a tough shooting day for the Kentucky stars.

Next up for the Cats: The SEC Game of the Week, at No. 19/16 Georgia, on Thursday, Jan.19.

Meanwhile, a South Carolina team that gave the Cats one of their toughest battles of the season was led by junior Ieasia Walker, with 14 points to go with six rebounds, senior La’Keisha Sutton with a dozen, and frosh forward Aleighsa Welch with 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

And speaking of La’Keisha Sutton, we turn next to a look at how she came out of nowhere to end up helping Dawn Staley turn around an ailing South Carolina program.

La’Keisha Sutton and South Carolina: A Perfect, if Unlikely, Fit

Sutton is a child of the urban sprawl of Trenton, N.J.

She played four years for coach Khaliq Lewis El’s Iron Mikes at Trenton Catholic Academy, averaging 19.6 points per game as a senior, leading the team to back-to-back state titles, and collecting a mantle-full of high school basketball honors, foremost among them New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and MVP of the 2008 New Jersey State Championship. She also helped her AAU team, the New Jersey Flames, to consecutive New Jersey State U-17 titles.

But for reasons basketball pundits are now at pains to explain, the 5-8 guard had been largely ignored by scouting services and college recruiters alike. So it was much to Sutton’s surprise when along came former Olympian Dawn Staley, the newly anointed head coach of South Carolina, a school that had known women’s basketball greatness as a member of the Metro Conference in the 1980s, and had seen a glimmer of its storied past in 2001-02, but otherwise had for the most part languished in the middle of the tough SEC pack for close to 20 years.

“There I was, on a small AAU team with not very much exposure,” Sutton said.

“I had been recruited by no one. Maybe some Ivy League schools (which attests to Sutton’s academic acumen.)

“And here came Coach Staley recruiting, with ‘Wow why aren’t you signed somewhere?’ And I was not even thinking of that.”

Staley was actually at a game in New Jersey to see another player.

“She saw me,” Sutton said.

And Staley, obviously, liked what she saw.


“[Coach Staley] asked me how this could be [that I hadn’t been signed elsewhere]. She insisted she needed me at South Carolina.

“Coach said, ‘I am getting a job and I need to have you with me.’ I had heard of her, but had never seen her play or anything. It happened so fast.

“I had not ever heard of South Carolina as a place to be. The culture . . . I had never been here before.”

But Staley’s pitch had found its mark in a player who needed to feel needed.


“I said, ‘What do I need to do?’ and it has been full-speed ever since,” Sutton recalled.


Now in her senior year, many scouting services have to be wondering how it could have been that Sutton was basically unwanted.

Maybe it’s the eternal magic of women’s college basketball, where players seem to arise out of nowhere.

“I never thought I would have this opportunity. Never thought I’d be leading a team this good in this conference,” said Sutton.

But she is.

“I embraced it,” she said.

Sutton has enjoyed learning about the culture of the South, about the differences in people and places, about being blessed with the chance to travel and to learn about life as much as about basketball.

Sutton immediately made her mark at South Carolina. Starting in 14 of her 28 games as a freshman, second on the team in scoring with 11 points per game, she was a unanimous selection to the SEC All-Freshman team.

Now a senior, she has developed her game to such a level that, last season, melding points (10.2 per game) and assists (3.6 per game), she was responsible for nearly a quarter of her team’s scoring.

With 10 nonconference wins and an overall 18-15 record, last year’s Gamecocks matched a school mark for wins before the conference season and the most in the Staley era.

Staley in Huddle
Photo Caption: Coach Dawn Staley (black jacket, center of huddle) has been at the center of the South Carolina building project. The program has seen slow but steady improvement in her four years at the helm, and is now beginning to pay major dividends with the Gamecocks’ return to the Top 25.
Photo Credit: Courtesy University of South Carolina Athletics Media Relations



This year’s Gamecocks are off to an even better start, with an 11-2 nonconference record and a 3-2 run in conference play to date. With this year’s scoring load spread among four players, Sutton’s individual stats have seen a bit of a dip, but she remains a player who can be counted on to put up roughly nine points a night while dishing out another two-to-three assists and she remains one of the team’s most reliable shooters at the charity stripe where she shoots 70.6 percent, second only to senior forward Charenee Stephens’s 78.3 percent.

Yet, as with many great coaches and players, Sutton values defense even more highly than her accomplishments on the offensive side of the ball.

“Scoring, for me, comes easy,” Sutton said. “I am not afraid of contact, of getting my shot blocked. In fact, I started shooting from the outside because a lot of people were just playing my drive.”

She has tested her body in the physical game, having come back from a torn meniscus and an injured spine, each injury taking a summer of recovery.

“I feel aggressive and confident,” she said.

She has just as much confidence in her teammates.

“Markeshia Grant is a great scorer and a hot shooter,” Sutton said. “Ieasia Walker, our point guard puts a lot of pressure on the other team. She gets us going with her defense.”

Not that Sutton is a slouch on defense herself.

“My job is to play defense on the best player on every team. I am pretty much a ‘lock-down’ defender,” Sutton said.

If you come to South Carolina to play women’s basketball, you will start with the Sutton, the team captain, once on campus.

“I lead by example,” Sutton said. “I am very soft-spoken in life.”

But on the court . . . “I pick on the freshmen; I ‘bully’’ them in the summertime,” Sutton said. “Sure, I take some of them aside to talk; everyone can’t take it the same as everyone else.

“But that’s how the SEC is going to work on them. In workouts, I broke them down. I showed them what our practices will be like. I showed them films.

“And defense as much as possible. I play defense on them and make them play defense on me.”

So here is a player in her prime, having helped rebuild a program in the toughest top-to-bottom league ever in women’s basketball.

She is aware of it all, from the inside-the-huddle view to the outreach and support the team receives from the community.

“It is nice to see the same amount of people at every game,” Sutton said. “We are building our fans and we appreciate every one of them.”

“We will get more and more people to our games as we keep making headlines,” she added.


As for her goals for this season, “The league ranked us at No. 7 [in its preseason poll], and we kinda took offense at that,” Sutton said.

“So we have to open some eyes. We can’t wait, and we are really working at it. This team has definitely gotten better every year.”

In four years of helping to restore a program to greatness, Sutton acknowledges that she has learned a lot, and change has come with ever-increasing speed—so much so that nothing seems impossible any longer.

“Just learning Coach Staley and her system, learning about the Tennessees and Kentuckys and learning you no longer have to think you don’t belong here,” Sutton said.

“Now, it’s pretty much, ‘You don’t know what can happen every night unless you make it happen.’”


She knows from where she comes. She dreams of what is happening now and what a degree in Broadcast Communications will hold for the post-playing days ahead of her. And she appreciates the home she has found in a place that once seemed so foreign to her.

“Now I can say I know they care about the whole person.

“You are learning from coaches who have played at the highest level, but they care more about how you grow as a person, how you will deal with life, your grades, what kind of woman you will become.”

The one constant, she said: The Game.

“We do play for one at a time,” Sutton said. “Things fall into place as they may. We’ve proven we belong.”

Summing Up the Weekend’s SEC Results: Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012

  • No. 9/8 Kentucky 66 @ No. 24/NR South Carolina 58
  • LSU 58 @ Florida 62
  • No. 24/25 Vanderbilt 64 @ No. 6/7 Tennessee 87
  • Auburn 39 @ Arkansas 59
  • No. 20/16 Georgia 68 @ Mississippi State 51
  • Ole Miss 69 @ Alabama 55

Looking Back at the Weekend’s SEC Highlights: Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012

  • No. 24/25 Vanderbilt 64 @ No. 6/7 Tennessee 87

    Tennessee got back on track with another Top 25 win against visiting Vanderbilt, 87-64.

    But the victory may have been a costly one. Shekinna Stricklen, the Lady Vols’ top scorer, injured her knee with three minutes left.

    Stricklen had already amassed a team-high 20 points when she collided with a Vandy player as both were pursuing a rebound along the baseline. Stricklen, her knee buckled beneath her, fell to the floor, clutching the knee and crying out in obvious pain. Unable to place weight on the injured limb, she had to be carried off the court by trainers and was on crutches after the game.

    “Diagnostic testing and further evaluation confirmed that Shekinna suffered a right knee sprain in the game yesterday,” announced Jenny Moshak, University of Tennessee Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, Monday. “We have already started the rehab process and her status is listed as day-to-day.”

    Indeed, the Tennessee locker room may be beginning to resemble an orthopedic ward, since teammate Glory Johnson went down in the waning minutes of the first half with an apparent shoulder injury after tangling with the ‘Dores Elan Brown in a chase for a loose ball. But despite a sore shoulder and hip, Johnson was able to return to the game in the second half, finishing with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds.

    The first half was far from what Tennessee fans had been hoping for, as the Lady Vols pulled out to a 35-26 lead with 3:34 remaining in the period only to see much of the advantage disappear by intermission.

    Vanderbilt’s Christina Foggie, the best three-point sharpshooter (50 percent from the arc) on the best three-point shooting team in the league (Vandy entered the game with an SEC-best 44.1-percent field-goal shooting average), drained two in a row from beyond the arc, cutting the Tennessee advantage to three points.

    Ariel Massengale’s next two attempts to answer in kind both missed the mark, but Stricklen pushed the advantage back to five with a pair from the charity stripe.

    Vanderbilt’s Stephanie Holzer dropped in a lay-up with a little over a minute to go before the break. Then, Tennessee’s Isabelle Harrison turned the ball over, leading to another Holzer run-out that cut the Tennessee lead to just one, 37-36.

    Harrison redeemed herself, netting a jumper with 12 seconds left, but a three-point edge was not the kind of comfortable lead the Tennessee coaching staff had in mind as they attempted to bounce back from their one-point loss at Kentucky in Thursday’s midweek game. Indeed, the fragility of their three-point advantage was evident moments later when Foggie lofted another three-ball that missed the mark at the buzzer.

    “If you question that Pat Summitt does not have an influence on this team, at halftime she had a major influence,” associate head coach Holly Warlick said. “She challenged them the way Pat Summitt challenges them. They were inspired when they left the locker room.”

    The Lady Vols hit 55.6 percent of their second-half shots, as fueled by a 21-4 second-half run, they won the period by a 48-28 margin.

    Foggie led the Commodores with a career-best 27 points. Holzer added 14 before fouling out of the game.

    In addition to Stricklen’s 20 and Johnson’s double-double, Vicki Baugh contributed 16 points and seven rebounds and Meighan Simmons chipped in 10 points for Tennessee.

    Ariel Massengale dished out a career-best 12 assists in addition to six points of her own. The 12 dishes tie the school record for fifth-most assists in a game, a mark set by Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick as a player.


  • No. 20/16 Georgia 68 @ Mississippi State 51.

    Georgia had little trouble at Mississippi State, starting out quickly in a 13-4 spurt and scoring exactly 34 in each half of a 68-51 runaway.

    Georgia’s Anne Marie Armstrong finished with 22; Khaalidah Miller scored 17; and Jasmine Hassell added 12 points and nine boards.

    Porscha Porter notched a team-high 12 points for Mississippi State as Diamber Johnson and Kendra Grant pitched in 10 apiece. Martha Alwal came off the bench to grab a game-high 11 rebounds.

    But in another costly win, junior point guard Jasmine James was lost seven minutes in. She was grabbing her right knee, which had put her out of commission for two games after being sprained in December, in pain and was unable to return to the game. The severity of the injury and the status of James is currently unknown.

    “We’ve got a lot of kids with aches and pains,” coach Andy Landers said after the game. “For them to be able to come out and play and then lose a player in the game and not flinch and continue to make plays like they did today is admirable. It’s a maturity and a strength that a lot of teams don’t have.”


  • LSU 58 @ Florida 62

    Florida stopped LSU’s barnstorming win streak at 10 games, handing the Tigers a 58-62 defeat on Sunday.

    The Gators led by as many as 11 in the opening period, but LSU nearly extended its win streak to 11 games and counting, battling back from a deficit that had grown to 15 points by the 7:39 mark in the second half to pull within two, 53-55, with just 2:35 remaining.

    Florida’s Jordan Jones scored 16 and the Gators hit a season-high seven threes.

    LaSondra Barrett logged a game-high 17 points for LSU, adding 11 rebounds for the double-double. Courtney Jones finished with 15 points and eight boards for the Lady Tigers.

    “Give Florida credit,” said LSU coach Nikki Caldwell. “They stuck to a game plan for 40 minutes. When adversity hit, players stepped up for them.

    “They stayed together, even when we tried to make our run at the end.

      “They sent a message. Hustle plays really generated that energy they needed. I was disappointed in our inability to play for 40 minutes.”

    Things do not get any easier for LSU as they next play at Tennessee on Thursday.


  • Ole Miss 69 @ Alabama 55

    Ole Miss picked up its second conference win of the season on the road in Tuscaloosa, 68-55, keeping Alabama winless in league play.

    The Rebels threatened to run away with the game, pulling out to a 13-point lead with under seven points remaining in the opening half, but the Crimson Tide battled back and Ole Miss had to settle for winning each period by seven.

    Valencia McFarland was the star of the game scoring 25 points for the the Rebels; Whitney Hameth had a career-high 15, as Ole Miss hit more than two-thirds of its shots from the arc (seven-of-10, for 70 percent) and 47.5 percent of its attempts from the field.

    Kyra Crosby led the home team with 14 points off the bench; Jasmine Robinson added 12 points and six rebounds for the Tide.

    It is the first time in two seasons the Rebels have won two straight league games.


  • Auburn 39 @ Arkansas 59

    Arkansas won its first SEC game of the season, 59-39, over visiting Auburn, which also owns a single conference win.

      The Razorbacks’ two post players, Ashley Daniels and Sarah Watkins, scored 12 each, with Daniels adding seven rebounds. Arkansas is not a team known for its post play, and this is the first game of the season in which the team has seen two of its posts notch double figures. Guard Lyndsay Harris chipped in 11 points, including three three-pointers on seven attempts from the arc.

    Despite its 0-3 start to league play, Arkansas not a team to be taken for granted—especially when playing in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are 12-5 overall and 9-1 at home this season.

    “It just feels good to get a win in the SEC,” said Arkansas head coach Tom Collen after the game.  “We were pretty focused today, especially on the defensive end of the floor.  Our shooting was still kind of slow to start but the defense kept us in the game.”

    Freshman Tyrese Tanner came off the bench with 22 points and six rebounds for Auburn, the only Tiger in double figures.



Current SEC Standings


SEC Women’s Basketball Standings
(As of January 15, 2012)
Rank School Conf. Pct. Overall Pct.
1 Kentucky 5-0 1.000 16-2 .889
2 LSU 4-1 .800 13-4 .765
3 Tennessee 4-1 .800 13-4 .765
4 Georgia 4-1 .800 15-3 .833
5 South Carolina 3-2 .600 14-4 .778
6 Vanderbilt 2-2 .500 14-3 .824
7 Florida 2-3 .400 12-6 .667
8 Ole Miss 2-3 .400 12-6 .647
9 Mississippi State 1-3 .250 11-6 .647
10 Arkansas 1-4 .200 12-5 .706
11 Auburn 1-4 .200 9-9 .500
12 Alabama 0-5 .000 10-9 .526
Source: secdigitalnetwork.com



Coming Up Mid-Week: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

@ Georgia Button
No. 9/8 KENTUCKY
5-0
16-2

No. 19/16 GEORGIA
4-1
15-3




This looks to be the SEC Game of the week, as No. 9/8 Kentucky puts its perfect conference record on the line at No. 19/16 Georgia. The Wildcats, who average a league-best 81.1 points per game hold a decided advantage over the Bulldogs, with a fourth-best 71.3. Moreover, while Georgia has traditionally been known for its defense, Kentucky is no slacker on that side of the ball either: Only decimal points separate the two teams, who rank fifth and sixth in the league in scoring defense, with the Bulldogs allowing 56.1 points per game and the Wildcats giving up 56.9. Rebounding and turnovers could prove the difference-makers, with Kentucky again holding the edge in both categories. Still, after close calls in most of their contests against ranked opponents, and a recent near-miss at South Carolina, Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell will be taking nothing for granted.

When: 7:00 p.m. EST, Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.

@
LSU
4-1
13-4

No. 6/7 TENNESSEE
4-1
13-4



This game will be a homecoming for new LSU coach Nikki Caldwell, whose Lady Tigers have flourished after a couple of stumbles early in their preconference schedule. While Tennessee will be heavily favored, the outcome could depend heavily on the status of the Lady Vols’ top scorer Shekkina Stricklen, who is day to day after injuring her knee in Sunday’s win over Vanderbilt.

When: 7:00 p.m. EST, Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn. (CSS)

@
No. 24/NR-RV-55 SOUTH CAROLINA
3-2
14-4

AUBURN
1-4
9-9



The Gamecocks may drop out of the national rankings after last week’s losses to LSU and Kentucky but they proved themselves formidable foes in both games and sport a 14-4 overall record.

Auburn does not. Enough said.

When: 7:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. CST, Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.

@
ALABAMA
0-5
10-9

FLORIDA
2-3
12-6




Florida ranks in the middle of the SEC pack by most measures. ‘Bama is a team still in search of its first conference win. They’re not likely to get it in this contest.

When: 7:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. CST, Foster Auditorium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

@
No. 24/25 VANDERBILT
2-2
14-3

ARKANSAS
1-4
12-5



With its 76.8 points per game and a defense good enough to give it a league-second-best +21.2-point scoring margin, has to be favored heavily over Arkansas, which averages just 62.2 points per game and a scoring margin of +8 points. Worse for the Razorbacks, it’s likely to be raining threes in Arkansas on Thursday, when Vandy brings its league-best field-goal (48.2) and three-point (44.1) shooting percentages to town. Arkansas ranks nowhere close in either department, though they do play well at home.

When: 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.

@
MISSISSIPPI STATE
1-3
11-6

OLE MISS
2-3
12-6



This in-state rivalry game looks like a good one, with the two teams relatively evenly matched by most measures. The match-ups between Mississippi’s Nikki Byrd (13.8 points, 9.9 rebounds per game) and Valencia McFarland (13.7 points and six assists per game) on the one side and Mississippi State’s Diamber Johnson (17.2 points and nearly 4.5 assists per game) and Porsha Porter (14.3 points, 4.9 boardsand nearly four steals per game) should be worth more than the price of the ticket.

When: 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Tad Smith Coliseum, Oxford, Miss.

Originally published Sun, January 15, 2012


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NCAA DIVISION I TOP 25 COACHES' POLL
WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Week: February 7, 2012
RANK SCHOOL RECORD LAST WEEK'S RANK PRESEASON RANK AP RANK POINTS
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
(61)
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
(70)
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
(38)
92
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
(18)
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
(13)
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
(23)
NR-RV
(19)
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
Ranking has risen since last week.
Ranking has dropped since last week.
Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.