Commentary

Summitt's Lady Vols ready for Duke, Crazies

Updated: February 9, 2008, 12:22 AM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

DURHAM, N.C. -- The first strategic move, if you will, already has been made for Monday night's Tennessee-Duke game (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET). Coach Pat Summitt has sent a message via the media to the Cameron Crazies to lay off Alexis Hornbuckle.

Back in 2006, the Crazies shook Wal-Mart bags and chanted, "Rollback prices!" to taunt Hornbuckle, who was arrested for misdemeanor shoplifting at a Wal-Mart her senior year in high school.

Summitt suggested if a similar thing happens Monday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, she would consider no longer playing the series with Duke. Some think Summitt just wanted to put the Crazies' attention on her, not on her players.

It's probably safe to assume the Crazies will try to outmaneuver that tactic and are just pleased with the acknowledgment that they did have an impact on that 2006 game, a 75-53 Duke win in which Hornbuckle was clearly rattled.

There's probably nothing the Crazies can do this time that will bother Hornbuckle, now a senior who is averaging 11.1 points. Rather, the question is how much can Duke's players do to bother Tennessee?

Now under coach Joanne P. McCallie, the Blue Devils have won 10 of their last 11, with the only loss in that stretch to Maryland.

The No. 2-ranked team in the country, Summitt's squad is a clear favorite over the No. 10 Blue Devils. Candace Parker leads the way at 21.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg. Freshman Angie Bjorklund is also averaging in double figures (10.6). Seniors Nicky Anosike (9.9 ppg) and Shannon Bobbitt (9.7 ppg) are big weapons, too.

But Duke, led by Chante Black's team highs of 13.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, is not going into this game with a big underdog mentality. Duke has beaten Tennessee in the teams' last three meetings. Even if Lindsey Harding and Alison Bales are gone from Duke, the Blue Devils feel like they can compete again with Tennessee.

And they will have the support of the sold-out crowd.

"Electric," Black said. "There is energy everywhere; you can't hear yourself talk. The fans are right there on the floor, and they are part of the backbone of the team. It is a wonderful thing for the women's game. And we really appreciate that."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.