April 18, 2024

Lady Vols overcome early deficit, top Green Bay

The Lady Vols had a rocky start in the NCAA Tournament, but eventually overcame the Green Bay Phoenix, 59-53.

TEMPE, AZ - MARCH 16, 2016 - TeÕa Cooper #20 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers during the first round game of the NCAA Tournament between the Green Bay Phoenix and the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in Tempe, AZ. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

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There was widespread fear across Vol Nation that the Lady Vols would bow out of the NCAA Tournament after only one round.

But thanks to a solid effort from freshman guard Te’a Cooper off the bench and a dominant fourth-quarter defensive performance, Tennessee avoided its second first-round exit in program history, edging the No. 10-seeded Green Bay Phoenix, 59-53.

Poor shooting marred a back-and-forth contest between the Horizon League champs and SEC underachievers. The Phoenix (28-5) appeared to take control halfway through the second frame after building a 24-18 lead, but a Kortney Dunbar three-pointer sparked an 11-3 Tennessee run to end the half tied at 27.

Green Bay led after three quarters, using efficient free throw shooting to keep pace with the Lady Vols. But in the fourth quarter, Tennessee (20-13) won the scoring battle 15-8 and held the Phoenix to 4-of-17 from the floor.

Coming off the bench, Cooper scored 11 second-half points and knocked down a couple of crucial jumpers in the final frame as part of an 8-0 run that gave the Lady Vols a 58-49 lead. Cooper finished with a game-high 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.

“I was really ready to play,” Cooper said. “I think I prepared well with Coach Holly and with Dean with the scouting report and watching film before the game. So I was ready and focused and I was in tune.”

Diamond DeShields, on the other hand, struggled after knocking down a game-opening three, scoring 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

With the win, Tennessee recorded its 40th 20-win season and is now 28-1 all time in the opening round. The eight-point comeback is UT’s largest of the season, and for the 15th time in the last 16 games, the Lady Vols’ defense held an opponent to under 40 percent shooting.

Tennessee plays the winner of No. 2 seed Arizona State and No. 15 seed New Mexico State in the round of 32 on Sunday.

Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Cody McClure

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