Sunday, March 27, 2005

Moore, Hornbuckle more like UT sister act

PHILADELPHIA — With the tone of certainty in her voice and the finality with which she gestures, it looks like a typical relationship between a senior and a freshman.

She doesn't hesitate to put her teammate in her place with a stern word or a disapproving look. The thing is … it's the freshman acting that way toward the senior.

Ever since stepping on campus, Lady Vol freshman Alexis Hornbuckle has not been afraid to express her feelings to senior Loree Moore.

''She's very blunt,'' Moore said. ''She gets to the point of what she has to say to me. It comes across very well. She gets my attention.''

It's not a one-sided deal though. The senior knows when to call out the freshman.

''We have a bond where we can say whatever we have to say to each other,'' Moore said.

With both players running the point for this team, that relationship has proven to be just as essential to Tennessee's success as Shyra Ely's post-up or Shanna Zolman's jumper.

It will be no less evident today when the Lady Vols (28-4) play point guard Erin Grant and Texas Tech (24-7) in the Sweet 16 at the Liacouras Center at 12 p.m.

''I hope I am the key to this game, as far as handling the pressure and being able to push the ball up the court and get some easy baskets,'' Grant said.

Grant is one of the nation's most efficient point guards with her assist total more than tripling her turnovers.

''I think it's very important that Loree sets the tempo,'' Hornbuckle said. ''I think if you get (Grant) frustrated, if you get her anxious to give up the ball or rush her shots, I don't think you can force turnovers on her, but you can maybe force her to make bad decisions or to play to get scrambled up a little bit.''

Moore won't be the only one with the responsibility of shutting down Grant. Her buddy Hornbuckle will also match up on her.

Will the Tennessee coaches be able to tell who's who?

As if they didn't already look and act alike, Moore and Hornbuckle took it a step further for the NCAA Tournament. Unbeknownst to the other, they both got their hair braided because they didn't want to do their hair before the games.

Now, Moore even wears the same blue headband that Hornbuckle has sported all season.

Earlier this week at practice, assistant coach Holly Warlick yelled at Moore while she was doing a drill, but she called her ''Lex.'' Hornbuckle, who was standing on the sideline, tapped Warlick on the shoulder.

''Holly, I'm right here,'' she said.

Even Hornbuckle's father mistook Moore for his daughter the first time he visited a Lady Vol practice.

And when they talk, their speech is interchangeable. They answer questions from the media with almost identical words.

''We start to finish each other's sentences,'' Moore said. ''We think alike. It's kind of crazy how things are.''

''It's crazy sometimes,'' Hornbuckle said. ''We finish each other's sentences. That's when it gets a little scary.''

Hornbuckle, a member of the All-SEC freshman team, has depended on Moore all season to bring her back from her occasional freshman moments.

''Sometimes she's very intense, and then other times she'll just lose it real quick,'' Moore said. ''Like she gets out of it, and she gets careless. She gets back to her style of play where she's laid back and carefree.''

Moore has no problem telling her that either.

''She's definitely like my big sister,'' Hornbuckle said. ''It's family. We look out for each other.''

It's just like a freshman to take care of a senior.

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