Day-1 of the 2008 Women's SEC Basketbal Tournament

Tennessee's Lady Vols face Florida Friday afternoon at 3:30p est SportsSouth

Game 1 - #8 Ole Miss 54, #9 Mississippi State 49

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Bianca Thomas scored 18 points, and eighth-seeded Mississippi beat No. 9 seed Mississippi State 54-49 Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference women's tournament.

Mississippi (13-15) won its first-round game for the fifth straight year and improved to 6-1 against its instate rival in the tournament. The Rebels will play No. 7 LSU, the SEC's regular season champion, in Friday's quarterfinals.

``We knew it would be ugly,'' Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said. ``We thought it would be a slugfest, and I think for the most part it was. I think we had the final run, and I'm very, very proud of my kids.''

Mississippi State (16-14) lost for the fourth consecutive year in the opening round. The Lady Bulldogs led 37-32 on a three-point play by Tysheka Grimes with 10:50 left in the game. But Danetra Forrest scored seven of her nine points to key a 14-2 run by the Rebels, and her three-point play put Mississippi up 46-39 with 5:12 to go.

The Lady Bulldogs didn't go down easily. Miayorka Johnson hit a layup, Thomas answered with a 12-foot jumper. Then Alexis Rack hit a 3 to pull within 51-49 with 21.8 seconds remaining. Thomas hit one of two free throws with 18 seconds left, but Rack missed a 3.

Thomas sunk two more free throws with 8 seconds left to clinch the victory.

Rack led Mississippi State with 13 points, and Grimes finished with 11.

These teams split during the regular season, each winning on their home court, including Mississippi's 73-66 win on Feb. 14 in a game that featured five technical fouls combined. This was the first time they've played three games in a season since the 1999-2000 season.

Forrest said they knew this would be a physical game with the teams' rivalry.

``We expected to get hit. We just have to stay up and bounce back and stay up when we are hit,'' she said.

Mississippi State outrebounded the Rebels 52-40. But the Lady Bulldogs hurt themselves with 23 turnovers that Ole Miss turned into 16 points.

Ole Miss couldn't have played much worse in the first half, missing 21 of 30 shots and being outrebounded 27-14. But Mississippi State led only 25-24 because of 15 turnovers, and Ole Miss finally won for the first time in 12 games when trailing at the half.

Ole Miss Notes

Mississippi is now 13-16 overall, 7-8 in the Southeastern Conference.
Ole Miss has now won its first round game in the SEC Tournament for five straight seasons. The Rebels have gone on to bow out in the second round in each of those years, three times to 2008 second round opponent LSU.
Mississippi now leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 60-15, including 6-1 all-time in the SEC Tournament.
Junior forward Shawn Goff joined the Ole Miss 500 rebound club by collecting five boards on the afternoon. She entered the contest with 496 career rebounds.
With one steal today, sophomore guard Shantell Black has recorded at least one steal in 27 of Ole Miss' 28 games this season.
The Ole Miss bench outscored its counterparts from MSU 30-11, marking the seventh time in the last eight games that has occurred.
The Rebels win today marked the first time this season they came away win a victory after trailing at the half. Ole Miss trailed MSU 25-24 at the half, and is now 1-11 on the year after a halftime deficit.
Today was also the first time this season Ole Miss won while scoring fewer than 59 points. Previously, the Rebels were 0-6 when scoring under 59. Their previous low in a win was 63 against Arkansas in a 63-55 home win on Jan. 3.
Ole Miss was outrebounded 52-40, but improved to 3-9 on the year when its opponent holds the rebounding edge.
UM converted for 16 points on 23 MSU turnovers.
The 24 second half points given up by Ole Miss tied a season low for a Rebel opponent, previously held by Alabama

Mississippi State Notes

Mississippi State is now 16-14 overall, 4-11 in league play and 3-6 in SEC Tournament play.
Mississippi State is 2-3 as a nine seed in the SEC Tournament.
Mississippi State is now 15-60 overall against Mississippi, including a 1-7 mark when playing at a neutral site.
Mississippi State shot a season low from beyond the arc (12.0) going 3-out-of-25.
Mississippi State won the rebounding battle, 52-40, finishing the season by out-rebounding their opponent for the fourth time in the SEC this season.
Mississippi State out-rebounded Mississippi by 12. It marked the fourth consecutive game the Bulldogs have won the battle on the boards.
Tysheka Grimes set a season high in blocks swatting three. She also came up one rebound shy of tying her season record with 14.
Alexis Rack had double-figure points for the 19th time this season and set a season-high record with 15 three-point attempts.

Ole Miss Postgame Quotes

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the players and then we'll go back to questions for Coach Ladner.

COACH LADNER: I was really proud of the effort that we showed throughout the game. I thought the game was exactly the way it should have been. I knew it was going to be a battle because I know what a good job Coach Fanning does and how hard her kids play. I knew for the most part it would be a slugfest and that's what it was, and we probably had the final run, and I'm very, very proud of my kids.

Q. Bianca, you guys really fed off the shot Danetra had at the end. Can you talk about how big that was?

BIANCA THOMAS: That was a big play. We definitely needed a big play at that time, and she just made a big play. She went to the free-throw line and made the free throws, and that put us up, and that was like momentum to the second half, to finish it.

Q. Bianca, you scored 18 points today, the only person on your squad in double figures. You play LSU tomorrow at 12:00 o'clock. Are you going to need some more offensive output from someone besides yourself, the only person in double figures today?

BIANCA THOMAS: It doesn't matter if it's just one person. All of us played together and it's not about one person giving double figures. Shawn was double and triple-teamed. She kicked out to open players and we made shots. I'm sure tomorrow she won't be double-teamed as much and she'll get open looks and everyone will get open looks, and we'll have more people in double figures.

Q. Remember for me if you will against LSU the last time you played and the things you need to do different.

DANETRA FORREST: Well, remembering that it was very ugly, we didn't take care of the ball, we didn't rebound, and they are a very good team and we let them get out in front, and that can't be done against LSU because they will make you pay, and that's exactly what they did.

Q. Bianca, can you follow up?

BIANCA THOMAS: I agree. We didn't rebound. We turned the ball over. They're a great team, so you have to bring your "A" game if you want to beat them. It's going to be a hard task, but if we play hard and rebound and claim our turnovers, we can win.

Q. You all went on that run in the second half and you scored nine points or whatever in the run. Can you just talk about what was going on and how you were feeling?

DANETRA FORREST: Well, we all knew coming into the game, the thing is I didn't want this to be my last game. I love my team, I love my teammates, so I just wanted to keep going. I want my season to keep going.

Q. For either of you, was it as physical of a game as you thought it would be?

DANETRA FORREST: Yes, it was as physical as we thought. If anybody doesn't know, State is our in-state rivals so we expected to get hit. We just have to stay up and bounce back and get up when we are hit.

Q. Bianca, you've come back and won all year. Can you talk about what you all are able to do in the second half?

BIANCA THOMAS: It's all about rebounding. They out rebounded us pretty bad and we had to get on the boards and limit our turnovers and do those things, and we would win. We had no doubt that we were going to win this game, we just had to get on the boards.

Q. What will you do tomorrow if only one of your players scores in double digits against LSU?

COACH LADNER: We're in trouble. You never put that in your game plan. The most consistent player we've had all year has been Shawn Goff. She's been able to score. We prepared for her to be triple-teamed. What happened last time she was triple-teamed, she kicked it out and our shooters knocked down shots.

I think any time you play your in-state rival, the goal gets a little smaller, you get a little tighter, and you want to win the game so badly you're a little tentative. I thought we had a lot of that today. When the ball doesn't go in the hole, it's very difficult to stay on the defensive end of the floor, so no, you always want your big-time player -- Shawn Goff who has been our most consistent player to do the scoring and then have the role players fill in, but in the past games Bianca has hit double figures, so we're not surprised by that at all.

Q. You guys have 17 turnovers, shoot 32 percent and got out rebounded by 12. Do you expect to win with stats like that?

COACH LADNER: Yeah, we've had that all year. It's amazing. You pick up the score sheet and the statistics are there and they don't ever fit exactly what happens in the game. So I guess the intangibles come into play. You keep fighting, you keep clawing, you keep digging and somebody makes a big play. Dee Forrest goes to the free-throw line, and then she goes up to the free throw and knocks down five free throws. We shot 12 for 22 today from the free-throw line. That's a little bit uncharacteristic of us. I guess as an old rookie coach, I don't put a lot of stock into that statistic. I know we trailed by one and hadn't won a game, so we busted that wide open, too.

In these type of games where it's a slugfest, where you're evenly matched, it comes down to one or two possessions that can turn the game, and for us, I think Dee Forrest's and-one broke their backs, so to speak.

Q. You talked about some of your players getting triple-teamed. Tomorrow you play Sylvia Fowles, the SEC Player of the Year. If that's your plan tomorrow is to put a lot of players on her, how do you plan on stopping players like Erica White?

COACH LADNER: I don't know if you can stop any of them. If I were to plan I'd put all five of them on Sylvia, but I don't know if that will work, either. The last time we played them we did a fairly decent job of making runs on them but we couldn't sustain the run. You know so we're going to have to play our matchup, we're going to have to guard the three on the perimeter, we're going to have to try to put a body on Sylvia when it goes in.

The one thing we won't do consistently is go into Shawn Goff because naturally there is a big body in the lane, and at this point in time I don't think you change a lot of anything. I just think we'll have to dig and claw and hope we can knock down shots. They're the best team in our league. We have a big challenge ahead. There's not really any answers. I hope some intangibles kick in with a little divine intervention and we'll see what happens.

Q. On top of a physical game like this, how much is left in the tank tomorrow and how much does fatigue play a factor or how much is that a concern?

COACH LADNER: Well, that's always a concern, but I just believe you have to come out and put it together for 40 minutes. You have to take whatever is left in that tank, whether it's a little or a lot, and draw on it and hope that the adrenaline kicks in and you make some plays down the stretch. Again, we go on those long droughts of not scoring, but get you see our kids will continue to play defense, and that's really difficult to do.

There's no secret there is a big challenge ahead tomorrow. We will have to play a near-perfect game. You definitely can't go 12 for 22 if you get to the free-throw line and miss those shots. We'll rest, we'll do what we've been doing all year and we'll go out and try to play them as best we can.

Mississippi State Postgame Quotes

THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening comment and then we'll take questions for the players.

COACH FANNING: I think you have to get credit to Ole Miss. They're a team that plays very hard. I felt like we put ourselves in a position to do things to win a ballgame because first half we got three to the line, we missed some free throws and we had an eight-point lead where I thought that we just didn't focus and we weren't tough enough from a defensive stand in the first half.

Second half the bottom line is, I think, turnovers, and then shots. You have to make some shots. Our percentage was 22 percent, and we missed some key buckets. We had some good open looks, we had some lay-ups, and if that happens, as a team you have to be ready to rebound. You have to find something -- if you miss shots, then as a team you have to find a way defensively to make it up or to get that extra rebound, and we just -- they made some big plays.

They hit a couple of shots down the stretch where we were in their face, and I think we lost focus just a little bit and they gained some momentum and put themselves in a position to get a stretch there and got a lead that they could hold onto.

Hopefully we learn from this. We've been trying to emphasize -- I thought February we played better in terms of spurts. But that 40-minute game that we're looking for, it's elusive a little bit right now. We haven't tackled it the way we have to. It takes focus, it takes the value of every possession and being smart with the basketball, and if we continue to improve that and mature as a basketball team, we'll end up a good basketball team. Hopefully we'll have that opportunity in postseason play.

Q. Marneshia, they made that run in the second half, you guys were up by three or four, then they were up by six. What was the difference there?

MARNESHIA RICHARD: Like Coach said, I guess we got a little lax and lost focus. We turned the ball over and then we didn't fight back.

Q. You guys dominated the boards particularly in the first half. Were you concerned that you had such a lead and yet you were only up by one at the break?

TYSHEKA GRIMES: We really base our game on -- we try to base our game on rebounding, and the offensive boards helped. We really had a great rebounding game, I think. By them being up by one, we felt like the rebounding -- offensive rebounding was a big part of it, but we had to stay consistent and we weren't really consistent towards the end of the game.


Game 2 - #7 Florida 71, #10 South Carolina 57

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Depree Bowden scored 21 points, and seventh-seeded Florida beat 10th-seeded South Carolina 71-57 Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference women's tournament.

``Her shots were not just big in terms of momentum, it made everyone around her confident,'' Florida coach Amanda Butler said.

Florida (18-12) won its first-round game for the third straight year and will play No. 3 Tennessee in Friday's quarterfinals.

South Carolina (15-15) lost its opening round game for the 14th time since joining the SEC in the 1991-92 season.

Sha Brooks sank 14 points for Florida, and Aneika Henry added 10.

Ilona Burgrova led South Carolina with 12 points.

With the score tied at 10 points, the Gators launched a 21-3 run that ended when Henry hit a jumper to put Florida up 31-13 with 6:03 left before halftime.

Bowden hit a long 3-pointer with time expiring to give the Gators a 34-17 lead at the break, their largest halftime lead over an SEC opponent this season.

Bowden went 5-for-6 from behind the arc and her 19 first half points outscored South Carolina's 17.

``I hit my first two, and I kind of got confidence from there,'' she said. ``They beat me on my senior night, and I wanted to get back at them.''

The teams split their regular season games, each team winning on the road. South Carolina beat Florida 69-65 on Feb. 24, the Gators' senior night and final home game.

The Gamecocks missed 25 of 31 shots in the first half, shooting only 19.2 percent on field goals and 20 percent on 3s.

Florida shot 35.1 percent on first half field goals and 40 percent on 3-pointers.

South Carolina fought back in the second half with a 22-2 run that ended on a layup by Burgrova that cut Florida's lead to 42-31 with 12:29 left, but it was as close as the Gamecocks would get.

``It was a little disheartening,'' Demetress Adams said. ``Our team has been a team that's been able to fight back whenever we're down.''

Florida Notes

The win today marks the third consecutive year Florida has won its opening game in the SEC Tournament.
With the win, Florida's record improves to 18-12 on the season, a nine-game improvement over last year, which represents the largest turnaround by a first-year Gator coach.
With 18 wins, UF doubled the win total from last season.
Senior guard Depree Bowden set a new Florida high for three-pointers made in an SEC Tournament game with five, surpassing the previous record of four, which was shared by three players.
Bowden's 19 first half points set a new career high for points in a half.
Florida improves to 14-3 on the year when leading at the half.
The Gators forced 22 turnovers, resulting in 23 Florida points.
Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler celebrated her 36th birthday with today's win.

South Carolina Notes

South Carolina finishes the tournament at 15-15 overall, 4-11 in the Southeastern Conference for the season. South Carolina completed regular-season play at 15-14 overall, 4-10 in league play.
This is the second time the Gamecocks have met Florida in SEC Tournament play, South Carolina is now 0-2 in the tournament series.
South Carolina finished the first-half with their third lowest points scored with 17. It was also the third time this season the Gamecocks scored 17 points in the first-half.
South Carolina held Florida to 42.9 percent (27-of-63) shooting from the field. Only nine teams this season have shot than 42.9 percent against the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks used the starting lineup of Demetress Adams, Lakesha Tolliver, Llona Borgrova, Brionna Dickerson and Jordan Jones.
Kentucky went 1-of-5 from beyond the arc and has now hit a three-pointer in all but one game this season, LSU (1-31-08).
South Carolina has been defeated this season only four times by more than 12 points against unranked opponents.
South Carolina's leading scorer was Llona Borgrova with 12. She has scored in double digits in 14 of the last 24 games.
Demetress Adams recorded a team-high nine rebounds, she is fourth in the SEC averaging 9.0 rebounds per game.

Florida Postgame Quotes

THE MODERATOR: Coach, welcome home. If you could make an opening comment, then we'll take questions for the players. They can take off, and then we'll come back to questions for you.

COACH BUTLER: Very pleased with the way that we played the basketball game tonight. I thought almost completely for 40 minutes we executed and followed the game plan and played with the type of passion and energy and confidence that you have to play with at this time of the season to make things happen, and that's what we wanted to do tonight was make things happen, not be reactive, and I thought we did that, especially in the face of a little adversity, Marshae picking up two quick fouls. We had people step up and score in other ways, generated offense from our defense. Depree carried us a lot in the first half, Sha very composed under pressure, but overall a fantastic team effort.

Q. Depree, can you talk about your mindset in that first half when you just seemed like you could make everything?

DEPREE BOWDEN: Well, I hit my first two and I kind of got confidence from there and just started shooting. They beat me on my senior night, so I knew I wanted to get back at them.

Q. Do you realize you outscored them by yourself in the first half, and have you ever been involved in anything like that?

DEPREE BOWDEN: No, I didn't realize I outscored them in the first half, and yes, I have been involved in something like that before.

Q. Sha, the last two matches with South Carolina have been very close games. What do you think was the difference today?

SHA BROOKS: We just had more intensity. They beat us last time so we knew we had to come out and play aggressive in the first half and in the second half, we kind of got in a lull in the second half, but then we had to pick it back up in the end.

Q. For both of you, how much different do you feel like you are, I think it's eight days ago, since you played UT, and what needed to happen differently for you guys?

SHA BROOKS: I just think that we came out really, really aggressive, and we wanted this thing. We've got to want every single game. We were more prepared than South Carolina. We knew all their players and what we had to do to win. For UT we're just going to have to go out and out-hustle.

DEPREE BOWDEN: For UT we have to start out confident and be aggressive and put two halves together.

Q. What did Carol Ross's pregame talk mean to you?

DEPREE BOWDEN: It meant a lot. She got us motivated and inspired to play, and it was good. It was real good.

SHA BROOKS: Same as Pree.

Q. How about the hot three-point shooting and the scoring in the first half itself?

COACH BUTLER: Well, she was a little humble, but I think especially in an SEC ballgame when you're able to do that, it's a tremendous performance and I think you saw an instance of a senior sensing the moment. All factors considered Marshae was on the bench. Her shots were not just big in terms of momentum and that sort of thing, but it made everybody around her confident. When one of our shooters is hitting, I think it makes all of our team feel like good things are going to happen on both ends of the floor.

Q. How much of a birthday present is this for you?

COACH BUTLER: It was fantastic. It was all I wanted. I just wanted to win, didn't care by how many, didn't care what it looked like, just wanted to win and advance.

Q. Do you think you guys are on that bubble that everybody likes to talk about?

COACH BUTLER: I sure hope so. I sure would like to think so. I think we've done some things, and a big one was today. We needed to win this basketball game and do it in a convincing fashion and show that we're a postseason team. I think that's definitely a performance that you saw today. We were an NCAA Tournament team, no question.

Q. How much different are you than eight days ago, and what closed the gap from that result against UT last time?

COACH BUTLER: Well, I think the offensive confidence that we played with today was crucial, and our preparation as the players mentioned. We had an opportunity, obviously, to play a team we were very familiar with, and now hopefully we'll be more familiar with Tennessee.

It always helps to have that first game under your belt and have some actual film of you versus them to look at and see where we fell short and see what we did well, so that's what we'll do now is go back to the drawing board because obviously the game plan we were in in Knoxville didn't turn out so well.

Q. How did it feel to have your parents in the stands and see this game?

COACH BUTLER: It was nice. I'm a family person. It's great to see so many familiar faces and different people that mean a lot to me. You know, I can't say that I looked up there too often.

I did hear my mom whistling every now and then. But it's great to be in Nashville and in the mid-state where basketball is so important and well-supported and in a place where a lot of Gators showed up to cheer for us tonight.

Q. Are you going to bring Carol Ross before every game now?

COACH BUTLER: Carol Ross has got other duties, and certainly I draw a lot of the things that I do, and probably even things that I say from her. So just her presence before and around the game today certainly made us feel good.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. We'll see you here tomorrow.

South Carolina Postgame Quotes

THE MODERATOR: Coach, we'll ask you for an opening statement and we'll take questions for the players and they can take off and we'll do questions for you.

COACH WALVIUS: Opening comment, you have to give Florida a lot of credit. I thought they came out and played absolutely fantastic today. They were extremely aggressive offensively. They made it difficult for us to feed our post play, which was our game plan today, and you've got to give them a lot of credit.

We are hoping that we're going to have an opportunity to continue our season and feel like we've -- we're hoping that we've got an opportunity to play in the WNIT, and that's what we're talking about now in the locker room, just continuing to hopefully have the opportunity to continue to play basketball.

Q. For both of you, first half you go to the locker room and realize you've been out scored by their hot shooter 19-17. A little disheartening she was able to get going that early?

DEMETRESS ADAMS: Yeah, it was a little disheartening, but our team has been a team that has been able to fight back whenever we got down, and I think we did a good job this time in trying to fight back and just to shore up those errors that we made to get those shooters over it.

ILONA BURGROVA: I don't have anything else to say.

Q. Did they give you any different looks than they did in the regular season?

ILONA BURGROVA: What do you mean by different looks?

Q. Did they surprise you with anything?

ILONA BURGROVA: I think that this game they were able to run a little bit more than they used to in the games before, but otherwise I think they played the same game. They just were successful with it.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, players. Questions for Coach?

Q. How tough when you're shooting poorly in the first half to see someone get hot and put you in hold the way she did?

COACH WALVIUS: It did seem like everything they shot went in the basket. They're competitors. It says a lot about them to come out and play the game the way they did today. Their system didn't change in this game, but they were much more aggressive within their system in this game today. I thought they did a great job, not only offensively, but they did a much better job defending us this game. They did a much better job on the boards this game. Typically we are a good rebounding team. Typically we are a scrappy team and they were able to get to the rim at will and score or get fouled, and I thought they had an excellent game plan and I thought they executed it well.

Q. When Marshae picked up her second foul early on, did you think you'd be able to open up a big lead there?

COACH WALVIUS: No, Florida has got a lot of talent, and one of the things Florida does extremely well, as well as anyone, is attack the rim with penetration. I thought the players that they had come in the game, I thought they did a great job for them, especially on the defensive end. I was hoping that maybe we could get a little bit of a rebounding advantage at that time, but that didn't seem to go in our favor. Again, I thought Florida looked absolutely great today.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much.

Story Courtesy: The SEC

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