[title_box title=”Lady Vols stun Arizona State in Tempe, advance to Sweet 16″]
The Tennessee Lady Vols have often been on the wrong side of history this season. They added to a positive piece of history Sunday night.
With their 75-64 win over the No. 2 seed Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe, Arizona, the Lady Vols are now 29-0 all-time in the round of 32, and advance to their 34th Sweet 16 in program history.
Tennessee dictated the pace of the game early on. After each Sun Devil possession, the Lady Vols quickly pushed the ball up the floor, resulting in either a Diamond DeShields jump shot or a Mercedes Russell lay-up.
DeShields struggled from the floor in the first half (3-of-9 shooting), but Russell was masterful in the post, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. When she wasn’t displaying graceful low-post moves, she was delivering perfect passes to set up easy baskets.
However, the Sun Devils matched Tennessee’s tempo. Point guard Elisha Davis slashed through Tennessee’s zone, leading to difficult layups and kick-outs to Arizona State sharpshooters that connected on four first-half three pointers. The Sun Devils effectively dealt with the Lady Vols’ zone, passing their way into open shots and effectively penetrating the gaps.
Both squads put up 33 points in the first half, but Tennessee’s offensive aggressiveness and swirling zone began to overwhelm Arizona State throughout the remainder of the game.
The catalyst for the Lady Vols in the second half was DeShields, who found her rhythm and scored 18 of her game-high 24 points when it mattered the most. Her jumper with under a minute remaining in the third quarter gave Tennessee a 54-44 lead.
The Sun Devils would cut the deficit to four early in the fourth quarter, but back-to-back scores from DeShields and a Jordan Reynolds jumper pushed the Lady Vols lead back up to 10. Overall, Tennessee (21-13) shot 50 percent from the field while holding Arizona State (26-7) to 39 percent.
“I thought we were solid, we didn’t panic,” Head coach Holly Warlick said after the game. “We made runs, they made runs… it was a great team effort.”
Next up for the Lady Vols is a match-up with the No. 3 seed Ohio State Buckeyes in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Friday.
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Edited by Nathan Odom