Lady Vols' toughness key to their title hopes

Summitt likes chances as No. 1 seed Tennessee opens today vs. Colgate

NCAA women

College Basketball

March 20, 2004|By Bill Jauss | Bill Jauss,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO - Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said this week she is impressed with the "toughness" of her No. 1-seeded Lady Vols, who are likely to oppose either DePaul or George Washington in a second-round NCAA tournament game Monday in Tallahassee.

Tennessee plays No. 16 seed Colgate in the first round today.

"I see a lot of very strong No. 8 [George Washington] and 9 [DePaul] seeds in the field this year," said Summitt, who has led Tennessee to six NCAA titles. "The gap between teams has narrowed. I don't see many sure wins. I think we'll see a lot of close games and upsets, some in the second round."

Tennessee beat both George Washington and DePaul in the regular season. The Vols rallied from four points down in the final minute in regulation play and beat the Blue Demons in overtime in Chicago in December.

"We were very fortunate to leave DePaul's building with a win," Summitt said. "DePaul was the better team for the first 35 minutes.

"Our team finds ways to win. We've lost only three games all season, but a lot of people must not think we're very good. Their comments suggest they think we're just overachievers. Well, I'm impressed with the toughness of this group. I really like this team and its chances."

Summitt said the Lady Vols have held very intense practices this week, stressing the reduction of turnovers.

"There has been a greater sense of urgency," Summitt said. "We're excited about the NCAA tournament. We're getting great leadership from Tasha Butts and Ashley Robinson. Even the men we practice against seem more intense."

For the first time in 25 years, the Lady Vols open NCAA tournament play outside Tennessee. This is part of an NCAA plan to even the field by playing more games at neutral sites.

"We need to grow our game," Summitt said. "We want the fairest postseason. This means as many neutral sites as possible."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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