Georgia, Tennessee Renew Intense Rivalry
Georgia’s Bulldogs are down to their last game. It’s make-good time for Saudia Roundtree.
When she signed with Georgia out of Kilgore (Texas) Junior College two years ago, Roundtree promised coach Andy Landers she’d take him to the national championship.
She’ll get her chance tonight when Georgia meets Tennessee in an all-Southeastern Conference finale to the NCAA tournament. And she has no regrets at all for having made that boast.
“No, because I believe it’s going to happen,” Roundtree said Saturday. “I really haven’t been thinking about it until now. I’ve just been playing.
“But I just thought about it this morning, that I’m really here. I’m sitting here and my heart is just racing. We’re going to be playing for the national championship tomorrow and that’s very exciting for me and for our team.”
Roundtree is the main reason fifth-ranked Georgia (28-4) is in this position after getting close last year, when Landers’ crew lost to Tennessee 73-51 in the national semifinals.
A 5-foot-7 senior, Roundtree is a first-team All-American. The bigger the game, the better she has played. She burned No. 1-ranked Louisiana Tech for 37 points in the Midwest Regional finals and scored 26 in an 86-76 victory over Stanford on Friday night.
Can she thrive in the spotlight once more? Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is worried that she can.
“If there’s a matchup problem that concerns me, it’s Saudia Roundtree,” said Summitt, who’s seeking her fourth NCAA title.
“We don’t have anyone to match up with her quickness in the open court. I think Georgia is the most explosive team in the women’s game. I don’t think there’s anyone who pushes tempo the way they have.”
Georgia needed that quickness to beat Tennessee 77-71 in a regular-season game Jan. 8 after trailing by 13. The Bulldogs won despite being outrebounded 63-30. Tennessee freshman Chamique Holdsclaw grabbed 19 rebounds in that game and also scored 21 points.
“We haven’t been a particularly strong rebounding basketball team,” Landers said. “When you don’t rebound the ball well, then to have success, you have to do other things well.”
Georgia does those things. The Bulldogs shoot 47 percent and have held opponents to 39-percent shooting while forcing an average of 22 turnovers per game.
As for the rebounding, “We’re taking our rebounding much more seriously,” forward La’Keshia Frett said. “It’s just a matter of moving our feet and going after the ball.”
Tennessee has won 20 of 21 since the loss to Georgia, and the Vols feel they’re a vastly different team now. Summitt said the defense is better, the inside game has improved and guards Michelle Marciniak and Latina Davis are more consistent.
Marciniak had probably her best game of the season in Friday night’s semifinals, scoring 21 points to lead her team past defending national champion Connecticut 88-83 in overtime. She’ll need another strong game today to help offset Roundtree.
“I expect a very intense game with a lot of high energy with two teams committed to defense and that are very familiar with each other,” Summitt said. “Both teams are very aggressive on offense.”
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