Kamiko Williams talks about an inspirational team meeting
DAYTON, Ohio - Tennessee's Taber Spani was a USA Basketball teammate of Samantha Prahalis and described the Ohio State point guard as "one of a kind."
Prahalis' statistics support Spani's description.
Coming into today's Dayton Regional semifinal of the NCAA women's tournament against the Lady Vols, the 5-foot-7 junior is Ohio State's all-time assists leader with 700 and only the second Buckeye to record at least 1,000 points and 700 assists in a career. She has 17 games of seven or more assists this season and Ohio State is 15-2 in those games.
As much as UT is bracing for Ohio State center Jantel Lavender, the Lady Vols also have to plan for Prahalis.
"She's the engine that makes that team go,'' Spani said.
UT freshman guard Lauren Avant said that she played against Prahalis many times during their AAU days. While their battles were never personal, they did get physical.
"We definitely had some bloody noses, scratches, everything,'' Avant said.
Avant said the Lady Vols must refrain from verbally engaging with Prahalis.
"She feeds off of trash talk,'' Avant said. "Most people mess up against her. Everyone knows she's emotional and they try to trash talk her.
Don't talk but don't back down, too.
"She feeds off intimidation,'' Avant said. "If she senses any weakness or any sign that you might be scared, she's going to attack you."
Settle Down: Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss was a candidate for the Ohio State job in 2002 but was passed over in favor of Jim Foster. At the time, UT coach Pat Summitt was more upset than DeMoss.
"It's almost like when someone slaps your little sister,'' DeMoss said. "Your little sister is like 'I can handle this' and your big sister is like 'Let me beat 'em up.' "
Making Free Throws: If the game comes down to free throws, Ohio State the advantage.
The Buckeyes shoot 75.2 percent from the line. Three of their starters shoot 80 percent or better.
Conversely, Tennessee shoots 66.7 percent from the line. Spani is the most reliable at 79.2 percent.
Inspired Play: Ohio State senior forward Sara Schulze is a constant source of inspiration for the Buckeyes. She has continued to play since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in mid-January.
"If she can do that, we should be able to do anything," Ohio State center Jantel Lavender said.
Schulze had started every game the last two seasons before the knee injury two months ago. Since then, she hasn't played more than 17 minutes in a game.
Cold Spell: Fans can't appreciate the winter-like temperatures in Dayton unless they attended the NCAA tournament basketball regional at the same venue in 2007. Unseasonably warm weather created a sauna-like effect in University of Dayton Arena, which doesn't have air-conditioning.
UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said she thought the warm weather might have worked to the advantage of Ole Miss since its players are more accustomed to the warmer weather. The Rebels upset Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 of the Dayton Regional that year.
John Adams contributed to this report.