Women's 2009 SEC Tourney: Day 1

The 2009 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament opened on Thursday at ALLTEL Arena in North Little, Rock, Arkansas. The top four seeds in the tournament, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Florida, and LSU, had the day off while seeds #5 through #12 played their opening round games.

The site of the tournament is ALLTEL Arena in North Little Rock, just across the river from downtown Little Rock.

The first game of the day featured two of the most famous fan traditions in the SEC as #8 seed Arkansas faced #9 seed Ole Miss. Arkansas fans started the day by calling the hogs, "Woooooooo. . . Pig.. . . Sooie!"

Ole Miss fans countered with "Hotty Toddy Gosh Almighty Who the hell are we??"

The 8/9 matchup theoretically should be a close game, and on Thursday, it was. Neither team led by more than five points during the game. In all, the lead changed 11 times, and the score was tied nine times before Ole Miss won 65-60.

Bianca Thomas, who was named First Team All-SEC earlier in the week, led Ole Miss with 31 points. Whitney Jones led Arkansas with 19 points, and SEC Co-Freshman of the Year Ceira Ricketts (shown here) scored 16. With the victory, Ole Miss advances to the quarterfinals and will play #1 seed Auburn at noon.

Although the Razorbacks were the first team out of the tournament, there may be more basketball left in their future. While the NCAA tournament is out of reach for Arkansas, Head Coach Tom Collen said after the game that the team is hopeful that they'll be invited to participated in the WNIT.

The second game featured the #7 Georgia Lady Bulldogs and the #10 Kentucky Wildcats. This game held special interest for Vanderbilt because the winner would play the #2 Dores on Friday.

Vanderbilt players and staff watched the game, including Jen Risper, Tina Wirth, and Merideth Marsh. Earlier in the week, Risper was named Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC; Wirth was named to the First Team All-SEC, and Risper and Marsh were named to the Second Team All-SEC.

Following their usual custom, Georgia brought their own special timeout chairs with them to the game. During timeouts, they bring the chairs onto the court instead of huddling at the bench.

Although the final score of 82-64 might give the impression that Georgia had an easy game, there was plenty for Head Coach Andy Landers to talk (or yell) about, as the Wildcats led by one at halftime and by nine points at 42-33 early in the second half.

But the Lady Dawgs fought back, and in the end, it was Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell who was looking for answers as Georgia shot a sizzling 73% from the field in the second half. With the win, Georgia advances to play Vanderbilt at 2:30 on Friday.

In the first game of the evening session, #5 seed Tennessee played #12 seed Alabama. Tennessee Head Coach Pat Summitt wore the orange jacket that she wore against Vanderbilt last Sunday, but the rest of the staff reverted to neutral colors.

Alabama's Ericka Russell led all scorers in the game with 18 points. Her first 3-pointer gave the Crimson Tide the early lead, and they maintained the lead through most of the first half.

When the second half began, Alabama led 31-30. But the clock struck early for Cinderella. Ten seconds into the second half, the Lady Vols took the lead, and by the first media timeout in the second half, the Tennessee lead grew to double digits. After that the Lady Vols cruised to the 68-49 victory. Next, Tennessee will meet the #4-seeded Florida Gators at 6:30 p.m.

Ten minutes into the nightcap between #11 South Carolina and #6 Mississippi State, it looked like there was an upset in the making. The Gamecocks started the game on an 18-0 run, as the Bulldogs didn't score their first points of the game until the 9:47 mark of the first half.

But that was as good as it got for South Carolina. After the long scoring drought to start the game, the Bulldogs slowly dug their way out of the hole. By halftime, they trailed by only four points at 26-22, took the lead for the first time early in the second half and held on for the 49-39 win.

Alexis Rack, who was selected First Team All-SEC, was the leading scorer for the game with 12 points for Mississippi State. The victory sends the Bulldogs to a quarterfinal game against the #3-seeded Lady Tigers at 9:00 p.m. on Friday night.

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Photos copyright 2009 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com.

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