Women's semifinals

March 29, 2002|By Milton Kent

Women's semifinals

At the Alamodome, San Antonio

Duke (31-3) vs. Oklahoma (31-3)

Time, TV: 7 tonight, ESPN

Coaches: Gail Goestenkors is 237-81 in 10 seasons, all at Duke. Sherri Coale is 112-72 in six seasons, all at Oklahoma.

How they got to San Antonio: Duke, the No. 1 seed in the East, beat Norfolk State, 95-48, TCU, 76-66, Texas, 62-46, and South Carolina, 77-68. Oklahoma, the No. 1 seed in the West, beat Hartford, 84-52, Villanova, 66-53, Texas Tech, 72-62, and Colorado, 94-60.

Players to watch: Duke sophomore Alana Beard, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, may already be the best collegiate player in the game. She needs just one assist tonight to become the first league player - male or female - to post more than 600 points, 200 rebounds, 150 assists 100 steals and 20 blocks in a season. The Sooners will likely place defensive stopper LaNeishea Caufield, 13th in NCAA history in steals, on Beard, particularly to keep her from driving into the lane. Duke, meanwhile, will have its hands full with Oklahoma senior Stacey Dales, the two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, who is one of the best passers in the game. Duke may rotate a trio of defenders on Dales.

Outlook: This is as evenly matched a semifinal game as has been played in recent memory. Both teams like to run, but play relatively few players, no more than eight per side. Duke has a slight edge in Final Four experience, with Goestenkors and senior reserve guard Krista Gingrich having participated in the 1999 national semifinals, so the Blue Devils get a slight edge.

Tennessee (29-4) vs. Connecticut (37-0)

Time, TV: 9:30 tonight, ESPN

Coaches: Pat Summitt is 788-157 in 28 years, all at Tennessee. Geno Auriemma is 462-98 in 17 years, all at Connecticut.

How they got to San Antonio: Tennessee, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, beat Georgia State, 98-68, Notre Dame, 89-50, BYU, 68-57, and Vanderbilt, 68-63. Connecticut, the No. 1 seed in the Mideast, beat St. Francis, 86-37, Iowa, 86-48, Penn State, 82-64, and Old Dominion, 85-64.

Players to watch: Connecticut sophomore Diana Taurasi had a career-high 32 points, hitting 11-for-16 from the floor in the Huskies' 86-72 win over Tennessee in Knoxville, on Jan. 5. However, Taurasi, a Kodak All-America, shot 1-for-15 from the floor and 0-for-11 from three-point range in last season's 90-75 national semifinal loss to Notre Dame. A repeat of that could spell danger for heavily favored Connecticut.

Outlook: The Huskies have been as dominant as any team could be this season and have been peaking for this moment. However, tonight's game comes six years to the day when a Tennessee team, a heavy underdog, knocked off top-seeded Connecticut in a national semifinal overtime thriller. If the Lady Vols can stay close down the stretch, things could get uncomfortable for the Huskies.

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