January 26, 2021

Elite determination moves Lady Vols to regional finals in Spokane

The Lady Vols came back from 17 points down with 6:30 left to get the win over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 Saturday in Spokane, Washington.

The Lady Vols came back from 17 points down with 6:30 left to get the win over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 Saturday in Spokane, Washington.

Despite trailing for most of the game, Tennessee pulled off the win in overtime to complete one of the biggest NCAA Tournament comebacks in history.

Saturday was the fourth meeting between Tennessee and Gonzaga and the Lady Vols moved to 4-0 all-time against the Zags. Tennessee claimed its 30th win on the season. This season is the first 30-win season for head coach Holly Warlick and the first 30-win season for the Lady Vols since 2010-11 under Pat Summitt. 

Gonzaga got out to an early lead which Tennessee would match in a fast paced first five minutes. The Zags then took control and had the lead until Ariel Massengale hit a three pointer to tie the game at 34 going into the half.

The trends of the first half showed up again in the second half. Gonzaga grabbed the lead early on and the Lady Vols could not find any rhythm. Tennessee could not buy a shot for the majority of the second half. 

The Lady Vols found themselves fighting and chipping away at the double-digit lead only to have Gonzaga take back the momentum. Down 17 points with six minutes left to play in the game, things did not look good for Tennessee.

Then, things changed. After a timeout at the 6:30 mark, Tennessee woke up and mounted a 17-point comeback to tie the game at 63. The Lady Vols could not manage to win the game in regulation as the Zags got a hand on two last second Lady Vols’ shots.

Gonzaga scored first in overtime, but the Lady Vols walked away with the win thanks to free throw shooting. All 10 of Tennessee’s overtime points came from the line. The Lady Vols finished 21-22 from the free throw stripe overall.

Four Lady Vols recorded double-digit figures on Saturday. Cierra Burdick led the way with 22 points. Ariel Massengale added 15 points, including three three-pointers to move to No. 7 all-time for three-point shots made in a single season. She is now tied with Former Lady Vol Meighan Simmons with 72 made three-pointers on the season.

Burdick recorded her ninth double-double of the year, also adding 15 rebounds. In addition to going 8-8 from the line, Burdick racked up NCAA highs in both points and rebounds.

Saturday’s win not only advances Tennessee to the Elite 8, but it gives the Lady Vols their 21st season with 30 or more wins, which is an NCAA record. It also secured the Lady Vols’ 120th win in NCAA Tournament play – the most for any program in college basketball.

Next up for Tennessee is an Elite 8 match-up with No. 1 seed Maryland on Monday night at 9 p.m. EST. 

Edited by Cody McClure

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Sam Forman is the lead sports staff writer for the Tennessee Journalist and is a senior studying Journalism and Electronic Media with a focus on sports broadcasting and reporting. He has been with TNJN since the fall of 2014. He is also a DJ for WUTK 90.3 fm. and a member of the Rock Solid Sports team. Sam has spent six years marching in the Pride of The Southland Marching Band. When he is not covering or talking sports, you can find him outdoors, playing music or hanging out with friends. You can find him on twitter: @samWforman