Around the World In 23 Games

Jan. 11, 2006

By Debbie Antonelli

Special to


From where I'm sitting, there are two main truths to the first two weeks of 2006 in women's basketball: LSU's Sylvia Fowles is the game's most dangerous center, and UNC is the league's most dangerous team.


And where I am sitting is the sideline for nine games in 11 days, including a good look at No. 4 UNC and No. 3 LSU, as well as No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Duke, No. 6 Maryland, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 10 Rutgers. That is seven of Division I's top 10 teams, and they run the gamut of styles and talent.


Still, a couple of characters shine out of that large cast. The Lady Tigers have a force on their roster in the form of Fowles, who is dangerously becoming the top center in women's basketball. Since last season, she has added 10 pounds of muscle to her frame. Her body fat is under 15 percent (the average woman is generally between 18 and 30 percent), and with that power, she can get to the paint any time she wants. She has polished her left hand, allowing her to climb to fourth in the nation in individual field goal percentage. And she is an intimidating defender with her shot-blocking and shot-changing ability under the basket.


Fowles leads LSU, averaging 10.2 rebounds per game, and is second only to Seimone Augustus with 17.3 ppg. She has 24 blocks on the season, and has divided opponents' attention between her bruising power and Augustus' offensive prowess.


North Carolina, meanwhile, is the most dangerous team in the nation. The Tar Heels are dangerous because junior guard Ivory Latta can do anything.  She is the fastest player in women's basketball with the ball in her hands, and she shoots the three at 49.4 percent. Being snubbed by USA Basketball in the offseason has greatly motivated Latta individually. Her maturity level, when I talked to her, made it clear that she's got a good handle on her role on her team this season.


UNC has more of everything than last year, when they finished their season by losing to eventual champion Baylor in the Regional Final. This year, they have more speed, more size and more skill. They can hurt you at both ends of the floor.

After losing Nikita Bell last year, the Tar Heels
' greatest question was on defense - where would they find a defensive stopper?


They have found more than one answer. Among the options are junior forward Camille Little and senior guard La'Tangela Atkinson. Both are more than capable of locking down any perimenter player. Add to that the increase in assist numbers from sophomore forward Erlana Larkins. Because Larkins has been so generous, coach Sylvia Haskill has asked her to score more, which could create serious problems for everyone in the ACC.


Two nuggets from the nation's top teams:


According to Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, Alexis Hornbuckle is the best rebounding guard in the history of their program. The 5-11 Hornbuckle is averaging 5.9 boards per game, chasing the only other guard on the all-time rebounding average list, 5-9 guard/forward Shelia Collins, who averaged 9.4 rebounds per game in 1984-85.


Where's the respect for Duke? A lot of people picked them to win the whole thing, including me. I'm already on record saying the Blue Devils will take the title this season. They were ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, and without a loss they fell from No. 1 to No. 2.  They don't even lose and fall from 1 to 2. They are good, and coach Gail Goestenkors' has asserted that this is their best team ever. I agree, coming off the best coaching job of Goestenkors' career, last year. She took an eight-woman team to the regional final, and this year they have added five potent players, including junior guard Lindsey Harding, who is shooting 67 percent from three-point range. Expect the Blue Devils to climb back on top of the rankings after they face Tennessee in Durham on Jan. 23.

Debbie Antonelli serves as analyst for CSTV
's women's basketball program and contributes regularly to



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