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Surging Tigers Take on Illini at Home

March 14, 1999

CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson is on a roll and ready to make coach Jim Davis’ 11th NCAA appearance in 12 years one to remember.

The Lady Tigers opened the Mideast Regional in dominating style Friday night, wiping out overmatched Florida A&M, 76-45, at Clemson’s own Littlejohn Coliseum.

The victory was the most lopsided in Clemson’s 22-game NCAA history and its eighth straight win this season.

The second-seeded Tigers (25-5) will attempt to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1991 when they meet Illinois on Sunday.

Clemson’s stifling defense forced 25 turnovers, as the Tigers had 13 steals, including five by center Nikki Blassingame. Clemson won the boards 51-41 behind Anderson’s eight and Blassingame’s seven rebounds.

Natasha Anderson’s 24 points led a thriving offense, as she scored 15 of Clemson’s first 20 points. Itoro Umoh, coming off her ACC Tournament MVP performance, had eight points on 4-5 shooting.

In the first half, the Rattlerettes were only 5-of-26 from the field and went almost 12 minutes between baskets during one stretch.

Seventh-seeded Illinois will not be so easy as the teams fight for a spot in Saturday’s regional semifinals at Cincinnati’s Shoemaker Center.

The Fighting Illini, making their third straight tournament appearance, beat No. 10 seed Louisville 69-67 in the first round on Friday.

Illinois (19-11) was down by ten with 11 minutes to go. But Susan Blauser scored 17 of her 26 points in the second half to fuel the comeback.

As she did in Illinois’ 77-75 Big Ten Tournament victory over Penn State on Feb. 28, Tauja Catchings took an inbound pass and calmly nailed the winning basket with 1.7 seconds left, sending the Illini into the second round for the third time in a row.

Catchings, older sister of Tennessee’s Tamika Catchings, had struggled from the field, going 1-of-9 before her winning shot. She finished with 11 points.

Allison Curtin added 21 for the Illini.

Illinois has been an up-and-down team all season, but did make it to the finals of the Big Ten tournament, loosing 80-76 to Purdue.

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