How Sweet It Is
by Tracy Granzyk
The Sweet Sixteen is locked in for 2002. Of the sixteen teams left, half come from only two conferences. Five of the teams, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas, Texas Tech and Colorado hail from the Big 12. Tennessee, Vanderbilt and South Carolina come from the SEC. With so many talented teams centralized in two conferences, it is inevitable that their will be intra-conference competitions. In fact, Oklahoma takes on Texas Tech in their round of sixteen contest. But the big one everyone is waiting for, is the Vanderbilt-Tennessee rematch. Look out Commodores, the Lady Vols are ready to rumble.
Drake surprised Baylor, 76-72, using up at least two of their nine lives to pass go and collect a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1982. In a back and forth contest, it was the Bulldogs who prevailed. Carla Bennett’s consistency in the final minutes combined with her 29 points and Stephanie Schmitz’s additional 19 proved to be three of the nails in Baylor’s NCAA tourney coffin. Drake will move on to play South Carolina, who trampled Cincinnati, 75-56.
Duke, who will have to carry the post-season basketball for the state of North Carolina, let Texas Christian hang around close enough to keep it interesting at 76-66. The Blue Devils advance without being tested. Their first test comes in the round of sixteen against Big 12 challenger, Texas. The Longhorns, who have also had a fairly easy road to their third round contest, stopped UC-Santa Barbara’s short roll, 76-60.
Purdue won’t be repeating last year’s performance. The 2001 NCAA runner-up lost in overtime to Old Dominion, 74-70. The Lady Monarchs bested the Boilermakers in shooting, hitting 40 percent of their attempts to Purdue’s 32.2 percent. ODU also dominated on the boards, 54-34. The Lady Monarchs face the K-State Kids in the next round. Kansas State, who is having a season to remember, sent Arkansas back to the Natural State after an 82-68 loss to the youngsters.
Once again UConn won easily. This time it was Iowa who took the whipping, 86-48. All-American Sue Bird led all scorers with 22 and added six assists and five steals to her credit. All Husky starters were in double figures: Diana Taurasi drained 16, Asjha Jones connected for 14, Tamika Williams added 12 and Swin Cash chipped in 10. The Huskies also converted Iowa’s 18 turnovers into 22 points. Hopefully, the Huskies will get a challenge in the final. Their next quarry: Penn State, who taught Florida International what it means to face Big 10 competition, with a 96-79 conquest.
No surprise here in the land of Big 12 contenders. Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Colorado all advance. Oklahoma, who handled Villanova, 66-53 will square off against conference mate, Texas Tech. Tech, who pummeled Mississippi State 77-55 in round two, is all too aware of the challenge the Sooners are sure to provide. The Buffs who defeated LSU, 69-58 will take on the odd women out, Pac-10 contestant Stanford, in their next round. The Cardinals, who also have had an easy road to their current position, dominated Tulane, 77-55.
This is where the action is! Both Vanderbilt and Tennessee continue to move forward to that much-anticipated rematch. The Commodores easily managed their second round opponent, Arizona State 61-35. The Sun Devils were held to their lowest scoring contest of the season just when they needed to play their best basketball. The Commodores will face North Carolina, who edged out Minnesota in a down to the wire contest, 72-69.
Tennessee continued to take out their aggression on the court, sending last year’s NCAA Champion, Notre Dame, home with an 89-50 lashing. The Lady Vol’s next opponent is BYU, who surprised Big 12 challenger, Iowa State, 75-69. The Cyclone’s who shot 52 percent from the floor gave the ball back to BYU 20 times. The Cougars, who capitalized on Iowa State’s turnovers and missed free throws, will have the chance to take on Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen.