Cougars hope for ‘Sweet’ victory

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    By Rebekah Romney

    The BYU women”s basketball team has found comfort in its underdog status and is excited to compete in the Sweet Sixteen.

    “We”ve caught a lot of people off guard, but not us,” senior guard Stacy Jensen said. “We are playing to where we thought we could play.”

    The Cougars have tallied up two dramatic wins over No. 6 Florida, 90-52, and No. 3 Iowa State, 75-69, to advance this far.

    They now face the Tennessee Volunteers, a team that benefited from BYU”s upset of the Cyclones. Instead of facing Iowa State on its home court, the Lady Vols will face the No. 11 seed Cougars on the neutral court of the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

    The second-seeded Tennessee Volunteers ended the season ranked sixth in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll and are favored to win the game on Saturday, March 23.

    “I think Tennessee is inspired and motivated,” Florida coach Carol Ross said. “Those factors weigh in as much as strategy and technique. I”d still bet on Tennessee, that they will find a way to get through that (BYU) offense.”

    Head coach Pat Summitt has built a strong program at Tennessee; it is one of only two teams to be a part of every NCAA tournament since the event began in 1982. Last year was its earliest exit ever, with a Sweet 16 loss to Xavier.

    This year the Lady Vols rolled over Georgia State 98-68, and last years champion Notre Dame 89-50, to advance to the Sweet 16.

    Tennessee has many factors in its favor, rebounding being one of the most obvious.

    The Lady Vols have an average of 8.6 more rebounds per game than their opponents.

    This is attributed partly to the height of its athletes, five of which stand over 6 feet 1 inch.

    Senior center Michelle Snow is 6”5 and will be a huge obstacle for junior forward Jennifer Leitner to guard.

    “They”re so athletic and know the game so well,” Leitner said. “We think if we can screen and move, we can get open shots.”

    The most dangerous player for Tennessee may be junior guard Kara Lawson. Lawson averages 16 points and five rebounds each game and earned first-team honors in the SEC.

    BYU is improving in every game, now shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from the arc.

    “We”re peaking at the right time,” junior guard Erin Thorn said. Thorn, MVP of the Mountain West Conference, averages 17.6 points per game.

    If the Cougars can pull off another upset on Saturday, they will advance to the Elite Eight and play the winner of the Vanderbilt v. University of North Carolina game.

    The BYU-Tennessee game tips of at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN.

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