Guarding Samanatha Prahalis a point of concern

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.

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Comments » 5

SoddyVol writes:

After saying a while back that I wanted to see how Avant handled the high profile guards in the tournament, maybe this is the game I get to find out. Defending Prahalis might be better done with Avant. Sounds like she won't back down from tough play. Anyway, I hope Lady Vol teammates heed Avant's advice and not look intimidated or talk trash. I expect Prahalis assist numbers to be noticeably lower this game.

xvolx writes:

I don't like all the negative, timid talk coming from UT coaches and players. Sounds like they're setting themselves up for a choke before the game is played. Put the game in Simmon's hands. She won't choke.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

xvol...don't think so. I just think UT is saying all the right things.

Remember Mohammed Ali?? How he anticipated the big fights??? My bet is that is how the LV's feel. They finally play a post/guard team, and I think we come up and smack'em.

SoddyVol writes:

Several times each year I drive 25 miles further to see Tenn play than Ohio State fans have to drive for this game. It's practically a home game for them. However, there should be enough Lady Vols fans there to make themselves heard. What I really think is that Lady Vols win and this game won't be as close as the Marquette game.

ps11824 writes:

Not habit forming, but I have to agree with dead vol again. Not that we smack'em (I sure hope we do), but I agree in that I do not glean a tone of timidity from what Lockwood or any of the staff is saying. Just that they are aware of the scout, and that they are preparing for it.

Foster, has always been on the smug side, IMO. He does sound confidently smug this time around. Perhaps he's forgotten some of the painful losses. This is a whole new ballgame. Win, or go home, Lady Vols. I say we go for the jugular.

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