WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE POSES NEW CHALLENGES FOR FIRST YEAR HEAD COACH TRACEE JONES
NASHVILLE --- The 2004-05 schedule for the Tennessee State University women's basketball team is one that is highlighted by several first-time opponents, two challenging invitational tournaments and of course, the always competitive Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) portion of the schedule. First-year head coach Tracee Jones is excited about the opportunities this schedule presents her team to test itself early and maintain their focus on returning to the OVC Tournament. The Lady Tigers begin play on November 20th as they host East Tennessee State to open a four-game stand at the Gentry Center. Rounding out the schedule for the month of November is Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 22), Cumberland (Nov. 27) and Jefferson Street rival Fisk (Nov. 30). "I am so excited that we have the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd for our first four games. It gives us a chance to get rested and focus on basketball instead of worrying about traveling," Jones said. "Our nonconference schedule gives us an opportunity to be competitive early and hopefully come out on top." Tennessee State's first challenge after its home stand will be the Commerce Bank Wildcat Classic hosted by Kansas State, December 3-4. Also competing are teams from Liberty, New Hampshire and host-Kansas State. The Lady Tigers have not faced KSU, who holds a slim 1-0 series lead, since 1999. TSU returns home for it's next to contests against cross-town rival Belmont (Dec. 7) and another first-time opponent, Winthrop (Dec. 21). Jones is especially looking forward to the Belmont game because it will be played in the Gaylord Entertainment Center in downtown Nashville. "This will be such a great game for us. When we get back to the (OVC) tournament, the experience of playing in the Gaylord will not be so new to the team. We definitely plan to use it to our advantage." The Lady Tigers round out the 2004 half of their schedule with an appearance at the Blazer Invitational hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Tennessee State could possibly face off against Furman or Alabama State on the second day of the tournament. TSU has seen Furman only four times before this year, with the series knotted at 2-2 while Alabama State last faced off against the Lady Tigers in 2000, extending its series lead to 11-6. The last time Tennessee State took on UAB was 1989. "I am looking forward to challenges of these tournaments. They will give us an opportunity to further prepare of the upcoming conference schedule," Jones said. "The diversity of the schedule lets us face a wide variety of teams." The 2005 half of the schedule opens with Tennessee State at home on January 3, hosting UNC-Asheville before jumping into Ohio Valley Conference play on the road at Jacksonville State (Jan. 6) and Samford (Jan. 8). The Lady Tigers return to the Gentry Center on January 13 as they host Southeast Missouri State, followed by Eastern Illinois (Jan. 15) before heading out on the road for the rest of the month with games against Tennessee-Martin (Jan. 20), Murray State (Jan. 22), Austin Peay (Jan. 27) and Tennessee Tech (Jan. 29). Tennessee State concludes the 2004-05 campaign in the same manner it opened it - at home. The Lady Tigers will only be away from the Gentry Center for one weekend in the month of February - (Feb. 10 at Eastern Illinois, Feb. 12 at Southeast Missouri State) before finishing out the year with four-straight games, starting with Murray State (Feb. 17) and Tennessee-Martin (Feb. 19).