Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lady Vols try to ignore earlier loss to Rutgers

PHILADELPHIA — Shanna Zolman barely acknowledges that the game happened.

Tennessee's junior guard never watched the film, and she was praying she wouldn't have to watch it yesterday. She has blocked the game out of her mind, and so have most of her teammates.

It hasn't been erased from the schedule though. It still reads Rutgers 65, Tennessee 51 on Dec. 29.

''I don't even want to see the film for scouting purposes,'' Zolman said. ''I don't even really remember it, because I probably don't want to remember it.''

The Lady Vols (29-4) get a chance at a game they want to remember, when they meet the Scarlet Knights (28-6) at 8 tonight at the Liacouras Center. The winner moves on to Indianapolis and the Final Four.

''Of course they're going to want to come back at us,'' Rutgers freshman Matee Ajavon said. ''We're a better team. They're a better team. We're just going to feed off that.''

Zolman and senior forward Shyra Ely — the two Lady Vols who hope to get back to their home state of Indiana for the Final Four — couldn't help themselves yesterday on the bus ride over to the arena.

They had to talk about the first meeting.

They talked about Tennessee's 27.8 percent shooting from the floor. They talked about Ely committing five turnovers. They talked about Zolman taking just four shots and only making one of them.

''I look at the stat sheet from that game, and it's unbelievable,'' Ely said. ''There's no reason why Shanna should be shooting four shots, just little stuff like that I know would make a difference in the game.''

Tonight's game will have a much different feel to it though in the form of two senior point guards.

In that December meeting, Rutgers' Cappie Pondexter was playing in her first game of the season, and she scored just one point in 15 minutes. She missed the first eight games of the season for undisclosed reasons.

Lady Vol Loree Moore was out after she had a tonsillectomy earlier in the month.

''It was very frustrating,'' Moore said. ''I was very mad at how we were playing, because I knew that we could match their guards and we can play just as well as they do. It seemed like we didn't come to play.''

Pondexter has returned to All-American form since that first game. She is averaging 23.7 points a game in the NCAA Tournament, and she had a game-high 24 against Ohio State on Sunday to lift the Scarlet Knights into tonight's game.

She is also shooting 56.5 percent from the floor in the tournament, and has committed only five turnovers in three games.

Despite all that, Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer said she expects better.

''Cappie has a lot more in her than what you've seen,'' Stringer said. ''Even at 65 percent, I think that she's been spectacular.''

After beating then No. 8-Tennessee, Rutgers went on to beat then No. 4-Texas and then-No. 1 LSU all in a span of eight days.

''When we went on that eight-day stretch, it gave us the confidence to know that we are an elite team,'' Pondexter said. ''And now we're in a position to really display that.''

Tennessee is in a position to simply maintain its elite status with a fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four on the line, but it won't happen if it's the team that showed up on Dec. 29.

''If we put that team on the floor, we probably would have lost in the first round (of the NCAA Tournament),'' Zolman said. ''That's how far we've come.''

No comments: