LSU looking for first win in Knoxville tonight

Updated: February 9, 2006, 1:09 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Tennessee will try to keep its perfect record at home against LSU intact tonight.

Sylvia Fowles
AP Photo/John BazemoreSylvia Fowles' SEC-beat 11.5 rebounds per game will test Tennessee, which is averaging a program-worst 39.0 boards.

The Lady Vols are 16-0 all-time in games played in Knoxville against the Lady Tigers. The SEC showdown tips off at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Fourth-ranked LSU, however, is 8-0 in the SEC this season and has won 22 consecutive conference games. The Lady Tigers (20-1) haven't lost since a 51-48 setback to Connecticut on Jan. 16.

Fifth-ranked Tennessee (21-2, 7-1 SEC), in fact, has several records on the line tonight, including a 22-game homecourt winning streak dating to Dec. 12, 2004. Tennessee also has won 64 consecutive SEC games at home. (Almost 10 years have passed -- 3,346 days -- since Tennessee's last SEC home loss, 94-93 in overtime to Georgia on Dec. 8, 1996.)

Several of the top players in the country -- and the SEC -- will go head-to-head tonight. LSU senior Seimone Augustus, the consensus 2004 national player of the year, leads the SEC in scoring with 20.8 points per game. She has reached double digits in 83 straight games and tallied at least 20 points in 61 of 126 career games.

LSU post Sylvia Fowles leads the SEC in rebounding (11.5 per game) and ranks fourth in scoring (17.5 per game). Fowles leads the SEC with 14 double-doubles this season.

Rebounding could play a major role in the game. Typically one of Tennessee's trademarks, this year's Lady Vols currently average just 39.0 boards per game, which is the worst performance in Tennessee history. The Lady Vols' 1977-78 squad managed just 39.7 rebounds per game in 31 contests.

Candace Parker leads the Lady Vols in both scoring (15.3 per game) and rebounds (7.7 per game). She's also averaging 2.0 blocked shots per contest, and has reached double digits in 20 of Tennessee's 23 games this season.

The Lady Vols, whose first home win against LSU came in 1978, beat LSU at home, 85-62, in the Lady Tigers' last visit to Rocky Top almost two years ago (Feb. 28, 2004).

Last season, LSU dethroned Tennessee from its record seven consecutive SEC regular-season championships, which dated back to 1998. LSU also snapped Tennessee's 42-game SEC regular-season winning streak. In their last meeting, however, the Lady Vols exacted a little revenge by upsetting then-No. 1-ranked LSU for the 2005 SEC tournament title with a 67-65 victory.

Still, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt says LSU is an improved team in several categories.

"They don't have [point guard] Temeka Johnson, but [Erica] White has stepped in and done a really nice job pushing the tempo and getting them into their motion offense," Summitt said. "Seimone is clearly a better player, and Sylvia is probably one of the most improved players in the league from last year to this year."

Summitt also expects the Lady Tigers' defense to be one of the toughest she has faced this season.

"They are doing a lot more of what I would call mixing up their defense and varying their looks out of both man and zone," she said. "They are extending their zone a little bit to half court. I think that they do a great job of defending the basketball and providing early help. Because of their team quickness, they arrive early and they help. They contain one-on-one very well. That is always a challenge."

A near-capacity crowd of more than 20,000 fans is anticipated as Tennessee announced on Feb. 7 that general admission tickets had sold out. That means the Lady Vols' total home attendance for the season will eclipse 150,000 tonight, marking Tennessee's 10th consecutive season of drawing at least 150,000 at home.

"It's another road game, except we'll be in Knoxville in front of 20-plus thousand going against one of the best teams in the country," LSU coach Pokey Chatman has said. "It's going to be a battle. Tennessee's playing well and we've been playing well as of late. This game is going to boil down to 40 minutes of execution."

Summitt said there might be some changes to Tennessee's lineup.

"We are considering moving Candace to the four spot, but we have not really decided yet. We need to decide if we want [Sidney] Spencer in the lineup and leave [Tye'sha] Fluker where she is and look at matchups," said Summitt, noting that Spencer is coming off a hyper-extention of the same knee she tore her ACL in last season. "Regardless of how we start … [we'll] make sure that we get Spencer some great minutes at the 3 and Parker some quality minutes at the 4."

Tennessee leads the all-time series 33-8.