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Radio: Lady Vol Network
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Logistically speaking, the regular season is over for the Lady Vols. They have won the SEC crown outright and will be the top seed in the SEC tournament regardless of the outcome of tonight's game. Meanwhile, Ole MIss is 16-12 overall (7-8 in SEC play and 7th in conference); a win here will not get them into the NCAA tournament without some bizarrely fantastic help by a lot of other teams. Looking at the tournament for the Lady Vols, even a loss here may not cost them a #1 seed, especially if they do well in the SEC tournament.
So from a practical view, this game really only counts for its own sake. Fans in attendance will be treated to a game simply for the sake of the game and won't have to worry about its broader implications. From a competitive perspective, however, this game has a lot of meaning inside it.
Ole Miss very nearly upset Tennessee in Oxford on February 11th, watching their 14-point second-half lead melt away in the final five minutes, ending with Angie Bjorklund's last-second three-pointer. It was one of those games where Tennessee held a huge height and length advantage but struggled with the agility of the smaller, quicker foe. The game also blew apart Ole Miss's season, as they went into a funk and lost by large margins to MSU, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt thereafter. One final thread you may hear about tonight is about Bianca Thomas: the Lady Rebel is a Henderson, Tennessee native who wanted to play for the Lady Vols but never got an offer; she would love to end her senior year with a win over the gals in orange and blue.
So heading into tonight, we know a few basic facts. First, this is a game of pride; the Lady Vols want to end the season with a win, and Ole Miss would love to post that very elusive win against Tennessee as a season farewell. Earlier in the season, Tennessee was a risk to fall asleep on games like this, but they seem to have matured as a team lately and should be expected to play up to Summitt's standards. Second, the Lady Vols (as always) have the height and length advantage. They have also played faster recently, which should nullify the effectiveness of Ole Miss's motion off the dribble. Third, UT's defense has improved tremendously recently, led by the suddenly-dominant Alicia Manning. So long as either Brewer or Cain stay out of foul trouble, the interior of both ends of the court will belong to Tennessee; unless Ole Miss can improve on their 10-28 three-point shooting from the previous matchup, this game should belong to the Lady Vols.