The Lady Vols fell short in the second round of the NCAA tournament, 75-64, to the Louisville Cardinals.
After Tennessee won a tough game against No. 12-seed Dayton team in the first round, the No. 5-seed Lady Vols (20-12) focused on their Monday night matchup with the No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals (29-7).
Tennessee entered the fourth quarter with a lead but was unable to keep it. Junior forward Jaime Nared led the Lady Vols in scoring with 28 points, her career high in an NCAA tournament game and also snagged 11 rebounds. Junior center Mercedes Russell chipped in with 11 points and 13 rebounds, registering her 19th double-double of the season.
Tennessee leading scorer Diamond DeShields got in early foul trouble and was a vastly different player compared to her 24-point performance against Dayton in the first round. She scored 15 points but only shot 3-12 from the field, with nine of the points coming off of free throws. The game changer for the Lady Vols was their inability to get big production from their leading scorer and their lack of help from the role players. Nared, DeShields and Russell combined for 54 of the team’s 64 points. The Lady Vols only got 3 points from the bench.
Louisville rolled into this matchup after beating a No. 13-seed Chattanooga team by 20 points on Saturday. The Cardinals were led in scoring against Tennessee by sophomore guard Asia Durr, who put up 23 points along with six rebounds and four steals. Louisville was deadly from downtown as it shot nearly 44 percent from 3-point range and junior forward Mariya Moore drilled all five of her attempts from deep. Junior forward Myisha Hines-Allen also tallied a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinals.
Louisville allowed 44 percent shooting from Tennessee in the first half and led 35-31 at half time. In the second half, the script flipped as the Cardinals held the Lady Vols to 26 percent shooting but Tennessee managed to keep it close, leading by one point going into the fourth quarter. However, the Lady Vols went cold to start the final quarter, missing their first 12 shots of the period. That dry stretch allowed Louisville to go up by more than 10 points with five minutes remaining in the game. Free throws by Durr and a layup by Hines-Allen in the final seconds were able to put away Tennessee 75-64 as the Cardinals got a win at home.
Louisville earned a trip to the Sweet 16 and will go on to play No. 1 seed Baylor on Friday.
Edited by Quinn Pilkey
Featured image by Austin Perryman, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics