Friday, November 02, 2007

Lawson asked by U.S. to even score against UT

When Kara Lawson was named to the U.S senior national team roster for its collegiate tour, Carol Callan told the former University of Tennessee guard: "We're glad you're going to be on our team for the college tour.''

Callan, USA Basketball's assistant executive director for women's programs, specifically had the exhibition basketball rematch against Tennessee in mind. The teams meet at 3 p.m. Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Nearly eight years ago to the day - Nov. 7, 1999, to be exact - Lawson was on the other side of this game. It turned out to be one for the ages as Tennessee rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final 81<0x2044>2 minutes to beat the U.S. national team, 65-64.

Lawson, a freshman who was wearing a Lady Vols uniform for the first time, cooly banked in a game-winning 10-footer with 9.4 seconds left. The outcome remains the only loss a U.S team has suffered on one of these collegiate tours.

"I remember everything in slow motion about that last play,'' said Lawson, who finished with 14 points in the game.

The play was designed for either All-American teammate Tamika Catchings or Lawson, who confessed to a mental no-no coming back on the court after a timeout.

"I predetermined to pass the ball to Catch off the screen,'' Lawson said.

The U.S. defenders had another idea, swarming on Catchings and forcing a different shooting scenario on Lawson.

"Well, I thought I might as well take it,'' she said.

UT coach Pat Summitt wasn't expecting her to think otherwise, no matter how young she was.

"That's the kind of focus Kara has,'' Summitt said. "She was open and she didn't hesitate."

The inspiration behind the moment wasn't much different than Lawson's presence on the U.S. tour. It's all about taking advantage of an opportunity.

With the Olympics in Beijing, China, looming next year, Lawson played for the U.S. in the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament in Valdivia, Chile, in late September. She helped the U.S. clinch an Olympic spot by averaging 7 points and three rebounds per game in the five-game tournament. She was second on the team in 3-pointers with eight.

The 5-foot-9 Lawson also played in the World League tournament in Ekaterinburg, Russia, last week, averaging 5.8 points per game and scoring 20 in a 93-49 victory over Canberra in the tournament opener.

She scored a team-high 17 points and had a game-high eight assists Wednesday night as the U.S. opened the college tour with a 90-73 win at Maryland. The U.S. plays at Connecticut tonight.

"I've been able to take advantage of some openings,'' Lawson said. "What they stress to us is everyone is here for a reason. The longer you're here, the longer they get to take a look at you."

Former Lady Vols guard Loree Moore also is getting look with the U.S. on this tour. She was at the World League tournament but played sparingly, apparently because she was bothered by a sore knee.

"I think it's going to be a great experience,'' she said.

Moore is coming off her best season with the WNBA's New York Liberty, one in which her role expanded with the trade of guard Becky Hammon to San Antonio. Moore started 33 of 34 games, averaging 9.6 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.

"I felt I made a lot of strides,'' Moore said. "After Becky left, I had to step up my game."

Lawson averaged a career-best 11 points per game as a reserve player for the Sacramento Monarchs. Summitt thinks that Lawson has continued to polish her game with the hopes of someday earning a starting spot.

"I know how competitive she is,'' Summitt said. "I know she wants to keep working."

There's some history regarding Lawson and taking her best shot.

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