Gwen Jackson, who scored 16 first half points, paced the Lady Vols with a game-high 24 and also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds as Tennessee dominated the glass on both ends of the court while building a commanding 54-24 rebounding advantage. Shyra Ely added 14 points (12 in the first half) and nine rebounds, while Kara Lawson scored 14 points and grabbed eight boards. Tennessee's other starters, Loree Moore and Tasha Butts, scored nine points each as Tennessee's starting five accounted for 70 of the Lady Vols 86 points.
That proved to be plenty to outpace Penn State which shot just 36.5 percent for the game (23-of-63) and was held to 5-of-18 on its 3-point attempts. Tammy Mazzante, who has led the Big 10 Conference in scoring the last three years and came into the contest averaging 24.3 points per game, was limited to 12 points by Tennessee on 5-of-16 shooting.
During one significant stretch of the second half, Penn State went over nine minutes without scoring a field goal as Tennessee turned a 63-51 lead into an 78-51 advantage behind a 15-0 run.
"Obviously we focused on Kelly because she's such a good offensive player," said Tennessee's Pat Summitt during a half-time interview on the ESPN broadcast. "We got some help off the ball and did a good job containing her. Their inside game gave us more problems than I hoped."
Ashli Schwab, a 6-3 reserve center, came off the bench to score 12 points for Penn State which was led by Jess Strom with 18. However the Lady Lions trio of pivot players combined for just five rebounds in the contest as Tennessee enjoyed a 24-10 cushion on the offensive glass led by Jackson with eight rebounds.
"I think to win championships you've got to play defense and win the boards on both ends," Summitt said. "We were able to do that and Gwen gave us a big game on offense."
Tennessee ran its home NCAA Tournament record to 43-0 with the win and advanced to its 18th Elite Eight. On Monday, the Lady Vols will meet giant killer Villanova who edged Colorado 53-51 in Saturday's other Mideast semifinal.
No. 2 seed Villanova, which ended UConn's 70-game win streak early this month in Big East Conference competition, is coached by Harry Perretta. Summitt consulted with Perretta during the offseason after she decided to overhaul UT's offensive attack.
The head coaches have maintained contact through the season and Summitt hosted Villanova for a cookout at her home on Friday night. She acknowledges that learning the half court motion offense from Villanova's head coach gives her a head start on Monday's Mideast final, but it also provides an advanced scouting report for Perretta.
"I'm glad I went to visit Harry or I wouldn't know anything about what they do," said Summitt. "But he knows it a lot better and he'll have his team prepared. We'll have to play our best game to beat them."
Tennessee shot 49.3 percent from the field (35-of-71) and had 10 players score points in the game. Brittany Jackson scored six points off the bench and the only player who didn't score was Shanna Zolman.
Butts had a game-high six assists and led UT's trio of starting guards — along with Moore and Lawson — who combined for 15 assists vs. only three turnovers against a Penn State team that had been forcing over 18 turnovers per contest this season.
With its third blowout victory in as many NCAA Tournament games, Tennessee has now outscored opponents by 110 total points or 36.6 points per game. The Lady Vols now just need a one-point victory to advance to Atlanta and their 15th NCAA Final Four.