March 06, 2004

Tennessee to meet Georgia for trip to SEC tournament final

Tennessee is accustomed to playing close games, so not much can faze it at this point in the season.

The top-ranked Lady Vols (26-2) will try to take another step toward the Southeastern Conference tournament title when they meet No. 20 Georgia in the semifinals in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday.

Tennessee went 14-0 in conference play to win its seventh straight regular-season title, but half of those wins were by fewer than 10 points.

The Lady Vols pulled off another close victory Friday, beating Mississippi State 67-57 in the quarterfinals. Their lead did not exceed five until 1:05 remained in the second half.

``Throughout the year we've really been conditioned to these types of games,'' said junior forward Shyra Ely, who led Tennessee with 17 points and 12 rebounds. ``A lot of teams play us close. That's because they usually play their best game against us.''

Tennessee is trying to win its first conference tournament since 2000, and coach Pat Summitt said the Lady Vols will have a tough time doing that if they do not improve. Summitt was especially dismayed by Tennessee's 22 turnovers against Mississippi State.

``We've done it before, but I didn't like the way it looked,'' Summitt said. ``Can we do this and win this tournament championship? I don't think so. Can we get to New Orleans (site of Women's Final Four) like that? No, I don't think so.''

The fifth-seeded Lady Bulldogs (21-8) advanced to the semifinals with a 76-72 win over Florida on Friday. Sophomore guard Sherill Baker led Georgia with 18 points, and freshman guard Cori Chambers added 15.

The Lady Bulldogs fell behind by seven early in the second half, but they took the lead for good when Chambers hit a 3-pointer with 4:10 to go.

Georgia is in the semifinals for the first time since winning the tournament in 2001.

Tennessee leads the all-time series 32-13. In the only meeting between the schools this season, the Lady Vols escaped with a 70-67 win on Feb. 12 in Athens, Ga.

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