The 2,866 fans in attendance seemed bewildered at the lack of whistles - and stated their objections loudly - but the players pushed through it on both sides.
"That's something you have to get used to," said Lady Vol senior forward Glory Johnson. "It's a big girl's game."
The Lady Vols will next take their game to the Des Moines Regional in Iowa, where they will play Saturday against the winner of Delaware-Kansas. That matchup will be decided Tuesday night in Little Rock, Ark.
Tennessee was the first team to punch its ticket to the Des Moines Regional. On Tuesday, overall No. 1 seed Baylor plays Florida in Bowling Green, Ohio, and Georgetown faces Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill, N.C., to determine the other Sweet 16 matchup in Iowa.
The Lady Vols, meanwhile, took a late charter flight out of Chicago - it was well past midnight Eastern time when they finished the post-game press conference - and will tune in to a TV on Tuesday night to see who they play next.
It's a short turnaround for teams to get to Iowa, and the Lady Vols are happy to be among them.
"We're trying to take one step at a time making sure we stay truly focused on our goal and the task at hand," said Meighan Simmons, who tallied 13 points.
"We are taking it one day at a time, one practice at a time, rest our legs, be mentally ready, physically ready for the next game."
Postseason means teams will have to grind out games and the Lady Vols were up to the task in Chicago.
"We haven't played a real pretty game in awhile," Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "This is not a real pretty-type team in that we win pretty.
"But it's a win. It's a grind. And we made stops when we had to make stops and made baskets when we had to make it. … We know that we are going to have to play better in the next round."
The Lady Vols first had to get out of Chicago against a scrappy DePaul team playing in its hometown.
Tennessee got out to an 8-2 start after Shekinna Stricklen drove to the rim, got a steal and a layup and then found Vicki Baugh and Glory Johnson in transition, giving Stricklen a hand in all four baskets to open the game.
But Tennessee started turning loose of the ball, and DePaul's Anna Martin scored seven straight points. When Brittany Hrynko hit a layup - assisted by Martin - DePaul led 9-8 at the 13:50 mark of the first half.
Cierra Burdick got the lead back for Tennessee after a defensive rebound by Johnson and an outlet pass to Ariel Massengale, who hit Burdick in the paint. That made it 10-9 at the 12:58 mark of the first half, and the Lady Vols never trailed again.
The Lady Vols did not, however, get much separation from DePaul.
"I think when the game started, we just tried to be the aggressor and we couldn't play afraid of them," Martin said. "We just tried to come after them. We were playing to go to the Sweet Sixteen so we had a lot on the line."
Tennessee led 28-23 at halftime with an offensive boost off the bench from Simmons, who tallied 12 points before the break and swished a three after Baugh, who was doubled, fired the ball out to the arc.
Stricklen opened the second half the same as she did the first by attacking the basket and put Tennessee up 30-23 just 10 seconds into the half with a drive.
Baugh scored on a drive and then off of a steal, taking the ball all the way to the rim.
Johnson was controlling the boards for Tennessee, but having trouble scoring. Baugh stepped into that void for the Lady Vols.
"With Glory not scoring the fact that Vicki could step up and provide that scoring for us inside was huge," DeMoss said. "Glory has been scoring pretty consistently for us but tonight she struggled.
"I thought Vicki stepped up big on the offensive end."
Tennessee got its biggest lead of the game, 42-29, after Baugh hit a jumper with 11:43 left.
The lead remained in double digits after Stricklen drove and hit a floater in the lane, followed by Stricklen finding Baugh at the rim for a 48-36 lead with 6:02 left.
That led to a timeout by Coach Doug Bruno, and that was followed by a three-pointer from Martin.
Stricklen answered for Tennessee with a three-pointer with the shot clock in low single digits and a 51-39 lead with 4:40 left. But DePaul kept clawing and two baskets by Deanna Ortiz pulled the Blue Demons to within seven points, 53-46, with 2:21 left.
Martin tried to draw a charge on Massengale, who had leaped to catch a pass, and was called for the block, her fifth foul of the game.
"I think I've grown with not getting in foul trouble a lot this season so this one was just hard because I wanted to be aggressive," Martin said. "I wanted to be physical but I couldn't do it as much getting in foul trouble."
Massengale hit both free throws for a 55-46 lead. DePaul had to keep fouling and Johnson and Stricklen made two each for Tennessee.
Baugh completed the scoring with a layup, assisted by Taber Spani, and the final 63-48 lead. Johnson got a defensive rebound with 11 seconds left - an appropriate way to end the game - and passed the ball to Massengale, who dribbled out the clock in the backcourt.
It was Johnson's 21st rebound - her previous career high was 18 against Mississippi State on Jan. 23, 2011, and her NCAA high was 14 against Notre Dame on March 28, 2011 - and each one was hard earned.
"Glory just continues to get better and better and amaze me," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "The game was physical both ways. You will never get anything less than hard work from Glory."
From Johnson's point of view, she wasn't scoring, so she needed to contribute in another way.
"My team relies on me to be a presence in the paint and when I'm not scoring offensively, I try to do my best to rebound offensively and defensively," Johnson said.
"I know that's something that I can control. That's effort. That's heart. So I try to put as much effort and heart into rebounding and playing defense."
DePaul was led by Martin with 20 points, while Ortiz added nine points and Hrynko had eight.
The Blue Demons shot 31.3 percent (20-64) overall, 17.6 percent (3-17) from long range and 100 percent (5-5) from the line. DePaul had 10 assists, 14 turnovers, 11 steals and two blocks.
"The players did everything, they came after this game with a great fire and they did everything they could and left it on the floor," Bruno said. "That's all coaches really, I think, have the right to ask the players for - to leave it on the floor, to make every effort that you can make to get the score to a happy place when the game ends."
Tennessee was led by Stricklen with 17 points, while Baugh tallied 16 and Simmons added 13. Johnson chipped in with eight points.
The Lady Vols shot 37.3 percent (22-59) overall, 23.5 percent (4-17) from long range and 83.3 percent (15-18) from the line.
Tennessee had nine assists, 20 turnovers, seven steals and four blocks. The Lady Vols dominated the glass, 51-31. Johnson grabbed the aforementioned 21 boards while Stricklen and Baugh had nine each. Burdick snared four rebounds.
"You take the win," DeMoss said. "Were we pleased with every aspect of the game? No.
"But we were pleased that we were able to get a win.
INSIDE TENNESSEE'S TAKE
The Lady Vols won't take any style points home from Chicago, but they do head back to Knoxville with two wins on the scoreboard and a trip to the Sweet 16 on the travel itinerary.
The Lady Vols had to grind out the victories at Allstate Arena and they prevailed by playing the Tennessee Way - defense and rebounding.
Glory Johnson put on a glass clinic with 21 rebounds, and the team defense stiffened in the second half - the Lady Vols switched between man and zone and then stuck with the zone - and held off a scrappy DePaul team.
The Blue Demons play in the Big East and would fit well in the SEC - a rugged conference of physical play. Postseason whistles tend to go silent but in the Chicago sub-regional the officials almost could have called the game without being issued any whistles at all.
The contact was constant - Johnson made her way to the rim with Blue Demons draped on her and holding her jersey - and while she made few shots, she got on the boards.
"It's going to be a long flight home," a weary and sore Johnson said after the game.
Vicki Baugh picked up the slack on the scoreboard with an 8-11 performance from the field and 17 points.
"Glory is an incredible player with incredible athletic ability," Baugh said. "I said it earlier that there's nothing she can't do and I wasn't worried that she wasn't scoring points because she's always going to bring an all-around game - defense, rebounding, pushing the ball, running in transition. She does it all.
"She's going to find a way to play strong and get through it and make it work one way or another."
Baugh's buckets came from getting to the rim and finishing.
Baugh got the lead to double digits early in the second half when she saw DePaul's post player, Katherine Harry, chasing shooters on the perimeter. Baugh slipped to the top of the paint, called for the ball, got it before Harry could recover and went right to the rim for a 32-23 lead.
She got a steal in the open floor two minutes later and headed all the way to the rim for a 39-27 lead.
"I thought Vicki had big plays for us," Holly Warlick said. "She hit some shots in the lane. She brought the ball down at a crucial time and hit a layup."
Shekinna Stricklen's three ball wasn't falling - she had good looks; they just didn't connect - so she got to the paint and finished 6-13 from the field for 17 points despite shooting 1-5 from long range.
Stricklen also had four assists by finding players in transition, including Baugh late in the second half. Stricklen also found Briana Bass early in the second half for a three-pointer.
Stricklen credited Bass with getting her ready for the game.
"I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates because they know when I just sit there and be quiet, I have too much on my mind and that's not good," Stricklen said.
"I know Bree was talking to me and messing around with me to just get my mind off things and just have fun. As a team, we came out aggressive, running the floor and I love it when I see these two (Baugh, Johnson) running the floor. I'm giving them the ball every time."
But it was Tennessee's defense that was the difference in Chicago.
The Lady Vols faced two teams that liked the three ball - Tennessee-Martin led the nation in scoring and launched 27 treys a game; DePaul made nearly eight three-pointers a game and entered Monday's game three shy of the program's single season record. But the Lady Vols, who have had issues with defending the arc, handled the task.
UTM was 4-20 (20.0) while DePaul was 3-17 (17.6 percent). The Blue Demons got the school record of 256 treys in a single season, besting the 2010-11 team with 255, but they tallied five under their average for a game.
Brittany Hrynko and Megan Rogowski, who had combined for 101 three-pointers this season, were a combined 0-11 from long range.
"We're defending the three-point shot a lot better," Warlick said. "We started in a zone. The coaches talked and made a decision to go with it."
Neither team Tennessee faced in Chicago reached 50 points. UTM was averaging 81.1 points, while DePaul scored 72.8 points per game.
"I think our defense definitely did a good job and it starts with the seniors," Johnson said. It's our responsibility and that's one thing that we take pride in - our defense and our rebounding - because that's what the program is based off of and that's what we've learned since we were freshmen coming in.
"I think that starts all the energy on defense and when our defense is great, that's when our offense is great as well. We just try to rely on our defense and let our offense come."
Freshman Cierra Burdick is absorbing that message this season, and it's one junior Taber Spani is helping to instill in her.
"That is what I realize," said Burdick, who was 1-7 in Chicago, a frustrating offensive line for a good shooter. "I try not to get too down on myself and know that I can contribute in different ways.
"Rel hit me with the leak-out pass and that was nice. It was a tough pass, but I have been playing with Rel so long, and I knew it was coming."
The team will be off Tuesday - they won't arrive back home until the wee hours and their bodies need a recovery day - and then will be back on the practice court Wednesday. By then, the Lady Vols will know who the next opponent will be in Iowa.
"They battled and it took us 10 people to get the job done," Warlick said. "But I'm proud of these young ladies. They fought hard. We didn't have a great shooting night but I thought when we needed stops, we got them. When we needed rebounds, we got them.
"So it was a great team effort. I'm proud of them and I'm proud that we're advancing to the Sweet Sixteen."
BOARD PLAY Meighan Simmons sat in her locker and was speechless for a moment as she stared at Glory Johnson's stat line of 21 rebounds.
"I have nothing to say," Simmons said, looking at the interviewer and back down at the box score as if to reconfirm the number.
"That's an OK night," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood deadpanned.
"We certainly needed everyone of those rebounds," Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said
"Glory did an amazing job today," Simmons said. "She was getting hammered every single time she tried to do a putback, but she stayed with it, she stayed composed and made sure that she didn't let it get to her, and she just continued to play."
That composure has been a work-in-progress for Johnson, and she has fully arrived this season. Johnson struggled as a freshman with how much contact was allowed in college.
"My whole attitude and demeanor has developed over time and that is something I can thank my teammates for and my coaches," Johnson said. "They keep me composed. As a freshman that wasn't going to happen. All I knew is that if someone hit me, I was going to hit them back.
"It's a lot different now. I am lot more composed than I was before."
Johnson's composure isn't the only thing that has evolved. So has her overall game, especially offensive development, from a solid baseline jumper to a turn-around shot in the lane to the ability to get to the rim without committing a charging foul.
It is a player pattern that freshman Isabelle Harrison should watch closely. Harrison doesn't have the explosive athleticism of Johnson, but she has a similar build and needs to polish her game on both ends.
"I definitely have a lot to learn from her offensively and defensively," Harrison said. "She is just a beast on both sides of the court. Her will to win and keep this team in the game, I really commend her for that, and I am going off on her energy.
"Hopefully next year I can get in there and lead our team, too. I know she had a difficult (freshman) year, and I had a difficult year this season, too, but it just shows you what kind of character you have and what kind of person you can turn into on and off the court.
"I talk to Glory and see what I can do better."
ARIEL SECTION: Ariel Massengale's parents were easy to find at the arena with their No. 5 T-shirts. Ariel Massengale's aunt, who wore a "We Back Pat," T-shirt was easy to hear.
Her aunt was boisterous, on her feet cheering and letting her niece know about it after a turnover.
"She is like that all the time," Massengale said while laughing. "Growing up she came to all my state tournaments in high school, and she was always around and supporting it. "She is like my daddy. They put their critiques in after a game."
IOWA-BOUND: Some of the Lady Vols had been to Iowa - Ariel Massengale said she played there in AAU basketball - but several players are making their first trip to Hawkeye State.
"That's the weirdest place to go play," Meighan Simmons said. "But no matter where we play we've just got to come out and play."
When told that it was open and expansive like Texas, Simmons, who is from the San Antonio area, said, "Not where I am from!"
Isabelle Harrison also has never been to the state, but is happy to be headed there.
"That is all I was really concerned about today was for us to keep advancing in the tournament and keep on getting better," Harrison said.
Taber Spani, whose family lives near Kansas City, was thrilled that Tennessee was routed through the Des Moines Regional. It's a relatively short drive for the Spani clan to make the trip next weekend.
"That's her home pretty much," Cierra Burdick said. "I am excited to move on in the tournament. Just keep advancing, that is always a plus."
TRANSCRIPTS/VIDEOS: The quotes from coaches and players at Monday's press conferences are made available online for each school.
Click on the link below to read the transcript.
Also, DePaul provided videos of Monday's press conferences. Click on the link below, scroll down to Monday and then click on the video icon next to each team name.