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Monday, January 3
Updated: January 24, 4:53 PM ET
Sveta vs. Semeka, part II

By Melanie Jackson

We doubt you need another five reasons to want to watch Saturday's clash between top-ranked Connecticut and No. 2. Tennessee, but just in case, this week's Quick Dish notebook is devoted to one of the season's most-anticipated games:

1. And in this corner: It's no secret that UConn junior Svetlana Abrosimova and Tennessee junior Semeka Randall hardly qualify as long lost friends.

Semeka Randall
Svetlana Abrosimova
After all, this rivalry dates back a few years, even before Abrosimova ever donned a UConn uniform. When Abrosimova first considered leaving Russia to play college ball in the United States, Abrosimova's Russian coaches -- who had groomed her to be a Russian National Team member -- told the St. Petersburg native she wouldn't be able to measure up with Randall, "the human cyclone who starred for the Americans in Brazil" in the Junior World Championships, according to an ESPN The Magazine article in November.

Then on national TV against Tennessee last January, the two tangled on the floor at Gampel Pavilion while scrambling for a rebound. UConn fans said Randall appeared to take a whack at Abrosimova's head. Randall said otherwise.

"All we did was tie the ball up and I didn't want to let go and she didn't want to let it go," Randall said after the game, which Tennessee won 92-81 on Jan. 10, 1999. "And hey, we rolled around for a few and I guess it's the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) now."

After the scuffle, UConn fans booed Randall every time the Lady Vols' emotional leader touched the ball. More significantly, Abrosimova appeared to lose focus after the altercation, and finished with 11 points on 3-for-12 shooting before fouling out. Randall scored a game-high 25.

Although Svetlana denied it at the time, she admits the incident spurred "months of private fuming."

"(Randall) was trying to give her team energy," Abrosimova said in ESPN The Magazine. "Next time, she better watch out."

On a sidenote, Randall's season hadn't been as good as she or Tennessee coach Pat Summitt had expected. But, after a 21-point, five-steal effort against Texas last Thursday, and 21 points Monday in a blowout against Old Dominion, Randall seems to have regained the form that made her -- and Abrosimova -- a preseason All-American.

"I think it was one of (Randall's) better games this year, and that's because she is committed to playing defense," Summitt said after UT thumped Texas. "She has improved her offensive game. She is always going to guard the other team's best perimeter player, and she is playing up in the passing lanes and limiting that player's touches."

So Sveta, we'll be watching.

2. Homecourt hoopla: Tennessee's win last January had other significance as well. Not only did UConn suffer its first loss of the 1998-99 season (Connecticut opened the year 13-0), the then-No. 1 Huskies also lost their top spot in the Top 25 polls as well. In addition, the Lady Vols also snapped Connecticut's 54-game home winning streak, payback perhaps, for UConn upsetting Tennessee three years earlier to snap the Lady Vols' 69-game home winning streak.

3. Cash flow: Trivia for you UConn fans: Last time the Huskies and Lady Vols met, who led Connecticut in scoring? That's right, Swin Cash. In that January matchup, Cash, just a freshman, scored a team-high 19 points in as many minutes on 8-for-11 shooting. This season, Cash ranks fifth on the team in scoring with a 9.3 average, but has scored more than 13 points just once this season. Shea Ralph leads UConn, averaging 17.0 points and 5.5 assists.

4. The ABCs of Tennessee: For Tennessee, G and H are missing this season. That's H for Chamique Holdsclaw, perhaps the greatest women's college basketball player ever, who is now in the WNBA, and G for Teresa Geter, a 6-foot-3 junior center who averaged 5.9 points and 4.7 rebounds last season before transferring to South Carolina in August. In January's matchup, they combined to spark a decisive late 12-0 run that sealed the victory. Who will ignite the Lady Vols on Saturday?

Tamika Catchings

5. Catchings on: Answer: Tamika Catchings. Yeah, yeah, we know that's an easy one. But the real key here is to see how Catchings and Abrosimova match up on the same court. Catchings, largely regarded as the preseason favorite for the Player of the Year award, is averaging a team-high 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. Abrosimova, a preseason All-American, is averaging a team-high 7.6 rebounds and ranks second for UConn with a 14.0 scoring average.

McCain not able
Not able, that is, for another four to six weeks as the injury bug has caught up with Brandi McCain again.

Florida's 5-3 sophomore point guard, who suffered a torn ACL in her right knee in July while playing in the World University Games, sat out the exhibition season and Florida's season opener before returning to the court Nov. 26 against Purdue. After hitting her first attempt, an 8-foot jumper, McCain went on to average 7.9 points and 2.5 assists over eight games.

However, in the Gators' Dec. 28 win over Western Kentucky, McCain fractured the fibula in her left leg. She is expected to be out four to six weeks. She had hit 16 of past 17 free throw attempts.

McCain averaged 12 points and an SEC-best 7.5 assists last season en route to landing a spot on the All-SEC first team. The Gators are 9-2 this season.

The week that was ...
So far, the new year hasn't been kind to some of the upper echelon teams. On Sunday alone, a pair of top-10 teams -- Georgia and previously unbeaten Texas Tech -- suffered upsets. Georgia fell to 14-2, losing 82-65 to Illinois. Texas Tech got trampled 62-37 by Iowa State.

Later in the day, Oregon, expected to be in the hunt for the top three spots in the Pac-10, lost 66-60 to San Francisco as the Dons held the Ducks' leading scorer, Shaquala Williams, to six points on 3-for-14 shooting.

Also, one of the year's other most-anticipated matches ended up a blowout, with top-ranked -- and still unbeaten -- Connecticut routing then-No. 3 La. Tech 90-63.

And the week ahead
Yes, UConn fans, there are other big games this week besides Saturday's Connecticut-Tennessee matchup (which tips off at 4 p.m. ET):
No. 2 Tennessee at No. 21 LSU (8 p.m. ET Thursday): Before the Lady Vols can turn their attention to UConn, they've got to wrap up their trip in Louisiana first.
No. 5 Penn State at No. 12 Purdue (8:30 p.m. ET Thursday): Both teams are unbeaten so far in the Big Ten (Penn State's trying to improve to 3-0; Purdue's shooting for 2-0) and trying to avoid their third loss of the season.
Florida at No. 5 Penn State (2 p.m. ET Saturday): Even without McCain, this non-conference game is worth watching.
Stanford at No. 15 Arizona (3 p.m. ET Saturday): Two of the conference's top teams meet in what is perhaps the most intriguing game in the opening week of Pac-10 play.

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