Most teams in Deep South dodge weather conflicts
ATLANTA (AP) Most of the sports teams in the Deep South dodged the winter storm that hit the region.
The majority of the college basketball, NBA and NHL squads in the region were off or playing on the road Tuesday when the snow, ice and freezing temperatures engulfed the Southeast on Tuesday.
At least one team planned ahead: No. 25 Middle Tennessee avoided potential dangerous travel by deciding on Monday to postpone a game at Southern Mississippi. The game originally planned for Wednesday was rescheduled for Feb. 5.
Also, Lincoln Memorial, a Division II team based in Harrogate, Tenn., pushed back men’s and women’s basketball games at Brevard in North Carolina from Wednesday to Thursday.
The LSU men’s basketball game with No. 11 Kentucky went on as scheduled in Baton Rouge on Tuesday night. Kentucky arrived Monday. About four hours before Tuesday’s game, freezing rain and icy road conditions led to the closure of Interstate 10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
LSU gave parking attendants the night off, so there was free parking. Parking lots around the stadium were covered with a film of ice, making for a slippery, short walk to the gates of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Paid attendance was 12,124 but the crowd was actually estimated at a little more than 6,000 – including some 3,500 students that showed up. The student sections were overflowing while much of the upper level of the stadium on the opposite side was empty.
Ron Ceruti, a Baton Rouge physician who attends nearly every game, was one of the LSU fans in attendance. He thought about skipping the contest before making a cautious 5-mile drive from his house.
”I just kept the car in second and third gear,” Ceruti said. ”There’s nobody on the road. … I figured if we could pull the upset on Kentucky, it would be a memorable night.”
LSU did knock off the Wildcats, 87-82, and Ceruti had a good seat.
After he arrived at the arena, a friend who did not attend called and advised him to move down to his seats in the second row at mid-court.
Wednesday could bring more challenges, especially if temperatures don’t climb enough to allow the snow and ice which fell on Tuesday to melt.
In Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency, the Atlanta Hawks, Georgia Tech and Georgia were all off on Tuesday but have home games scheduled for Wednesday. The Hawks play the Detroit Pistons, Georgia Tech plays North Carolina and Georgia plays Vanderbilt.
The weather caused massive gridlocks on Atlanta-area interstates, due to accidents and icing on the roads. There were so many accidents that authorities asked motorists involved in wrecks not to call 911 unless there were injuries.
Some NBA teams based in the South were playing on the road on Tuesday night. New Orleans was at Cleveland, Orlando played at Detroit and Memphis was at Portland.
Similarly, in NHL action on Tuesday night, Florida played at Boston, Tampa Bay was at Toronto, Carolina played at Montreal and Nashville visited Winnipeg.
For college student-athletes looking to make the most of the rare winter storm, Tuesday was a good day to hope Wednesday’s classes are cancelled.
Cierra Burdick, a junior forward on the Tennessee women’s basketball team, used her Twitter account to enter a personal plea to Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek:
”Fingers crossed for cancelled class tomorrow! Dr. Cheek I know you want to go ahead and make that call so please let it be in my favor! ????” Burdick tweeted.
As of early Tuesday night, there were no other announcements of games planned for Wednesday being postponed.
AP Sports Writers Teresa Walker in Nashville, Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn., David Brandt in Jackson, Miss., and Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.