It only took a minute to raise the temperature of the Ohio State-Tennessee game.
Asked an innocuous opening question about the Buckeyes, Lady Vols post player Glory Johnson wasted little time in offering up material suitable for the bulletin board leading up to today’s regional semifinal at University of Dayton Arena.
“They have a huge post presence, just like ours, but we have more. [We’ll] wear out their posts,’’ Johnson said yesterday. “Try to push it back on them. They can’t run with us. I know for sure they can’t run with us.’’
Those words may sting, but it’s not as if Ohio State is backing down.
Ohio State coach Jim Foster might have struck the first blow in the war of words. Earlier this week he was asked what he admired most about Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, with whom he butted heads during his 11 years at Southeastern Conference rival Vanderbilt.
“She’s done a great job of getting great players,’’ he said evenly. There was no mention of developing them or being a great bench coach for the woman who has an NCAA-record 1,070 wins against just 198 losses, an astounding .844 success rate.
Foster said his relationship with Summitt during his years in the same state and same conference could be summed up in three words: “No love lost.’’
He did lighten the mood by joking about Tennessee’s omnipresent color scheme: “I don’t even eat orange M&Ms. They don’t taste as good as the other ones.’’
Summitt isn’t jumping into the fray.
“I have a lot of respect for Jim,’’ she said. “We had some knockdown, drag-out games. He did a great job at Vanderbilt, there’s no doubt about that. He’s going to have his team ready to play tomorrow.’’
Whether the top-seeded Lady Vols (33-2) can mute the production of Ohio State (24-9) star center Jantel Lavender, and whether the Buckeyes can run with Tennessee, are the two major subplots of the game. The winner will meet either Notre Dame or Oklahoma Monday night with a trip to the Final Four hanging in the balance.
Tennessee has won eight national championships in its glittering history. But the Buckeyes — with only one trip to the Final Four and no titles — seem less than impressed.
Familiar foes The second-seeded Fighting Irish (28-7) play the Sooners (23-11) in the other game in the Dayton Regional, the third time in the last four years that they’ve played in the tournament. The two previous games went overtime.
Notre Dame won their second-round matchup, 79-75, in 2008. Last year, they met in a regional semifinal in Kansas City and Oklahoma beat the second-seeded Fighting Irish in overtime, 77-72.
Both teams like to push the pace and take quick shots, so it’s likely to be another back-and-forth game in Dayton.
Cardinal trying to go fourth Top-seeded Stanford (31-2) continues its quest for a fourth straight Final Four in a date with No. 5 North Carolina in the Spokane Regional semifinals tonight.
Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer calls freshman Toni Kokenis her “sixth starter.’’ The reliable Kokenis, who didn’t generate the hype that came with fellow freshmen Chiney Ogwumike (younger sister to Cardinal star Nnemkadi Ogwumike) or All-American Sara James, often plays more minutes than junior starter Lindy La Rocque.
In the Cardinal’s 86-59 first-round NCAA Tournament victory over UC Davis last Saturday, Kokenis knocked down three of her team’s season-best 13 3-pointers on the way to 11 points in 25 minutes.
Also in Spokane, Louisville point guard Shoni Schimmel is ready to lead the No. 7 seed Cardinals (22-12) against No. 11 seed Gonzaga (30-4). Schimmel plays an up-tempo, attack style at the point, reminiscent of Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot.
The pair will face off tonight with a trip to the Elite Eight at stake.
Div. 2 championship Teshymia Tillman had a game-high 26 points as Clayton State beat Michigan Tech, 69-50, in St. Joseph, Mo., to win the NCAA Division 2 women’s basketball national title.
Drameka Griggs added 12 points in the Lakers’ victory. The Huskies were led by Lisa Staehlin, who had 18 points and eight rebounds.