Lady Vols Vanquish Virginia

Yes, Virginia, these were the Lady Vols. This was the real deal Lady Vols, the genuine article — complete with trademark Tennessee defense and a one-two-three offensive punch of pound it to the post, swish it from the arc and peddle-to-the-metal transition. The 81-51 Mideast Regional victory was a showcase for UT's breathtaking depth, eye-popping diversity and full array of athletic talent.

It was too much Tennessee (30-4) for virtually any college team, especially in Thompson-Boling Arena where the Lady Vols ran their NCAA record to 43-0 while advancing to their 22nd straight Sweet 16. It was most assuredly too much for unranked Virginia (17-14), a young team that played well in stretches but couldn't sustain enough on either end of the court to deny a Tennessee team that was considerably sharper than it had been in the SEC Tournament.

Tennessee bolted to an 8-1 start and never surrendered the lead. After a 7-0 run by Virginia cut the lead to 24-22, the Lady Vols countered with an 8-2 run and reached the break with a 33-24 advantage.

UT opened the second half with a 7-0 run on a 3-pointer by Kara Lawson, a low-post pivot move by Gwen Jackson and a layup on the break by Shyra Ely. Virginia never got the lead under double digits again as Tennessee gradually doubled the deficit.

Earning her second straight start, sophomore forward Ely scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the first half and also pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Gwen Jackson added 13 points with eight rebounds and four steals. Lawson had 11 points and four assists while Loree Moore was the fourth starter in double figures with 13 on 5-of-6 shooting with five rebounds. Shanna Zolman scored 10 points, shooting 2-of-3 on 3-point attempts and Brittany Jackson added seven. Overall, Tennessee was 7-of-14 on 3-point attempts and shot 47.5 (28-of-59) for the game after connecting on 17-of-33 in the second half.

More significant was Tennessee's defense that held No. 8 seed Virginia to 27.4 from the field (17-of-62) for the game while forcing 23 turnovers and allowing only six assists.

Cherrise Graham was the only Virginia player in double figures with 14 points. LaTonya Blue scored nine points but was also guilty of seven turnovers.

The win ran Tennessee's record against Virginia in NCAA Tournament play to 8-1 and 10-1 overall.

Tennessee advances to the Mideast Regional semifinal also held in Knoxville where it will meet the winner of the South Carolina and Penn State contest.


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