Saturday, December 01, 2007

UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell likes up-tempo games with Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell doesn't want to watch a low-scoring women's basketball game any more than fans do.

That's why she's urging everyone to tune in when the No. 4 Tar Heels face top-ranked Tennessee on Sunday in Knoxville.

"I agree with people when they talk about a (low-scoring) game being boring. I wouldn't want to watch it either. When you get in the 70s, 80s and 90s - that's exciting.''

Both Hatchell and Tennessee coach Pat Summitt promise fans won't be disappointed by their teams' uptempo styles.

"Anytime that you have an opponent like North Carolina that plays the way they do - they press, they run, they are tough - it will be exciting,'' Summitt said.

Not to mention it's a rematch of last season's Final Four game. North Carolina blew a 12-point lead in the final eight minutes to lose 56-50, and Tennessee went on to beat Rutgers for the national championship.

Hatchell said her team won't be motivated Sunday by revenge, but rather the natural competition between Tennessee and North Carolina.

The Lady Vols hold a 13-3 record over the Tar Heels, but North Carolina has won two of the last three since the schools renewed the series in 2006.

"Do we remember the Final Four? Without a doubt we remember the Final Four,'' Hatchell said. "We also remember the good things we did that were effective.''

Tennessee probably remembers how ineffective North Carolina's then senior point guard Ivory Latta was after she found herself in foul trouble and sitting on the bench for long stretches.

Latta is the 5-foot-6 point guard who helped put the Lady Vols away in the regional finals of the 2006 NCAA tournament with her 3-point shooting. Latta has since graduated.

Summitt said freshmen point guards Italee Lucas and Cetera DeGraffenreid may not have Latta's touch from outside the arc but are still aggressive and dangerous enough from mid-range to present a challenge for Tennessee's defense.

"They like to push their tempo, and that is where they are like Ivory,'' she said. "You can't replace that experience factor, but it is just a matter of time and they'll get more confident.''

Summitt said she's seen that happen to her own star, Candace Parker. The coach said the 6-4 Parker has improved her shooting range and defense as her confidence has grown.

Hatchell said there's not much Tennessee needs to improve in their game.

"They have very few weaknesses, if any,'' she said. "They're Tennessee. You expect them to be great because they're Tennessee. In the last two years we've had some really, really good games with them. I think some of the best in women's basketball.''

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