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Blue Devils don't want any Gamecock dancing tonight

Four months have passed since South Carolina beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the Blue Devils still remember how the Gamecocks celebrated by dancing on Coach K Court.

"That was something that was really hard for us," senior Vicki Krapohl said. "It was just the way they carried themselves off the court and holding their hands up like they were No. 1. It's definitely a motivation."

Today, the teams meet in the East Region championship for a ticket to the Final Four.

Top-seeded Duke has won 27 of 28 since that loss. The Blue Devils, who are on a school-record 21-game winning streak, are looking to return to the Final Four for the first time since reaching the championship game in 1999.

The Blue Devils are in their third region final. The third-seeded Gamecocks are in their first.

South Carolina, which went 11-17 last season, beat Duke 87-81 in overtime at the Duke Classic on Nov. 25. Reserve Kelly Morrone scored 27 and hit 8 of 9 3-pointers, and Shaunzinski Gortman added 25 points.

Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said South Carolina outplayed Duke throughout that game and took advantage of the Blue Devils' shaky transition defense.

"I felt like we didn't defend our homecourt and that we didn't play with more heart," she said. "Having played them once already makes us more comfortable, and having lost to them gives us more motivation."

BACK FROM THE (NEAR-)DEAD: Sherri Coale speaks with an Oklahoma accent, although it's certainly no drawl. She spits out words faster than her Sooners run the court, and that's saying a lot.

As for Stacey Dales, her Canadian roots are evident when she says "aboot" instead of "about." But her game was All-American this season, the moves perfected in practice after hours of watching the NBA on television.

Together, they have everyone in women's college basketball talking about Oklahoma's revival.

The top-seeded Sooners meet third-seeded Colorado in the West Region final in Boise, Idaho. The winner becomes the first Big 12 team to reach the Final Four.

"It's exciting to be here," Dales said. "It's somewhere we've never been. We're having a great time with it."

Oklahoma is a remarkable story because of what happened in 1990. The university dropped women's basketball, then revived it eight days later after a public outcry and an aggressive campaign by coaches nationwide.

Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp wore a ribbon at that season's Final Four in protest of the decision. Tara VanDerveer remembers that season, too, and not just because her Stanford team won its first national title.

"To think that was 12 years ago, and to look where they are, is a credit to the university, to the athletic department and to the job that Sherri Coale has done," VanDerveer said.

FAMILIAR FOES, NEW SETTING: They are conference rivals separated by 180 miles of rolling Tennessee countryside, one in Nashville, the other in Knoxville.

Vanderbilt and Tennessee have been playing each other since the late 1970s and the partisanship in the rivalry runs deep. Never, though, have they met in a setting such as this, or with so much at stake.

The longtime powers from the Southeastern Conference square off in the Midwest Region final in Ames, Iowa.

"It has to be played somewhere, why not here?" Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "This has been the one regional that has been supported by the fans.

"Hopefully, they'll be here to watch a great basketball game, two teams really trying to do what everybody wants to do, and that's get to the big dance."

This is the only region in which the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds have survived, and it was the bracket that generated the most controversy with those seeds.

Tennessee felt slighted in being seeded second after winning the SEC championship by three over Vanderbilt, which won the conference tournament. The Vols also were upset about being placed in Vanderbilt's region.

"I really felt in my head and my heart that Vanderbilt and Tennessee should not have been in the same region," Summitt said. "But my job is to coach and the committee's job is to place teams. We're here and I can tell you we're going to be a very inspired basketball team."

ODU KNOWS THE ODDS: Wendy Larry sees Old Dominion as the party crasher at the big ball.

Upset with a seventh seed that has served as motivation through three rounds, Old Dominion plays undefeated Connecticut in the Mideast Region final in Milwaukee.

The Monarchs are pressure-free, figuring no one expected them to be among the final eight.

Conversely, the top-seeded Huskies have faced high expectations the entire season. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma even has been asked which team he wants to the play in San Antonio, Texas, in the Final Four.

A great position for Old Dominion to be in, right? Maybe not.

"Party crashers usually get beat up or arrested, don't they? At least they did where I come from," Auriemma joked.

Connecticut, which has won 36 in a row, beat Old Dominion 84-70 in December.

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