Tide's Moody Not Ready To Be Pushed Out Yet

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Alabama women's basketball coach Rick Moody announced his retirement recently, but he's not quite ready for the fishing boat yet.

The ninth-seeded Crimson Tide trailed eighth-seeded Florida 23-9 midway through the first half and 56-50 with five minutes remaining in their first-round Southeastern Conference Tournament game on Thursday, but rallied to win 62-58.

"I thought we were going to come out and play aggressive, and instead we started out tight and scared to death," Moody said. "It seemed to me like we were down by 50. But Mo (Monique Bivins) hit some big shots and everyone loosened up."

Bivins, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, made 6 of 10 3-points tries in a 25-point performance for Alabama (14-14), which broke a six-game losing skid.

The Tide advanced to a noon game today against No. 1 LSU.

"What a blessing," Moody joked. "You bust it to win, and your prize is to play LSU (27-1). That's a heck of an opportunity. But what have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing."

Nicole Louden, a 5-7 Auburn senior guard from Paterson, N.J., continued the successful senior guard motif on Thursday by getting 23 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals in the Tigers' 62-57 win over Kentucky.

Such were Louden's prep credentials that she had a book written about her before she ever reached Auburn.

Louden had good offensive help from yet another senior guard, Natasha Brackett (18 points) and defensive assistance from 6-6 center Marita Payne, whose four blocked shots enabled her to break the SEC single-season record with 134 blocks this season.

Heidi Gillingham of Vanderbilt had the previous record of 131, set in 1991-92.

Auburn (16-12, 7-8 against SEC teams) draws second-seeded Tennessee (23-4) at 2:15 p.m. today and may or may not need a win to nail down an NCAA Tournament berth. The Tigers have twice played LSU within five points this season -- a strong selling point.

Sara Potts scored 22 points in 40 minutes for the Wildcats (15-15), who await a possible WNIT bid.

As part of the SEC Greats Program, former Arkansas guard Tracy Webb Rice was honored at halftime of the Arkansas-Mississippi State game on Thursday night.

Rice's scrappy play helped Arkansas to four straight 20-win seasons, including the team's first NCAA Tournament appearance and the 1987 WNIT championship. She was the fourth Lady'Backs hoopster to be inducted into the UA Sports Hall of Honor.

Married to Paul Rice and the mother of three children, Rice lives in Hot Springs.

Sue Gunter, longtime LSU women's coach who retired last season, is quite ill with pneumonia in a Baton Rouge, La., hospital.

Joe Ciampi, who retired as Auburn's coach last season, is trying his hand as a TV analyst for Fox Sports Net.

"This is a lot less pressure than coaching," Ciampi said Wednesday night. "You don't have to worry about the Ws and Ls."

Fox Sports Net is televising all the SEC Tournament games except the final, which ESPN2 will carry at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Nell Fortner, a former TV analyst who now coaches Auburn, said, "This is my first SEC Tournament as a coach. I learned a lot about it today. Everybody comes to play in this tournament. You're fighting for your life here. Kentucky played like it, too."

Carolyn Peck, whose Florida team dipped to 14-14 and 5-10 against SEC teams with its loss to Alabama, said, "People keep asking if I think we will be in the NCAA Tournament and I think yes. This team deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. If you look at our RPI, strength of schedule, the obstacles we have overcome and that we still have a winning record (sic), that is pretty good."

Perhaps that's why the Gators felt little urgency to foul while trailing by two points late in their 62-58 loss on Thursday.

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