Lady Vols Survive Bear Attack, Advance to Elite 8

Sunday's Tennessee-Baylor Midwest Regional Semifinal match had an anticlimactic and controversial conclusion but the Lady Vols' avoided the same fate, thanks to a late-game rally and a couple of clutch free throws from senior guard Tasha Butts with only 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock for a 73-71 victory.

The foul in question was set in motion by Tonya Davis' steal with nine seconds remaining, that she quickly turned into a pinpoint pass to an open Shyra Ely on a breakaway. However Ely, who scored a game-high 19, missed the layup. Hustling down court to tip the rebound was Davis and Butts was fouled by Jessika Stratton while going after the carom.

The officials stopped the game to review the video and determine if the foul had indeed been whistled with time on the clock. Replays clearly showed there was two-tenths of a tick left but the call itself was just as clearly marginal. After a significant stoppage of play, Butts still had to complete the task, and the Lady Vols had missed several critical free throws down the stretch. Undaunted by the pressure, Butts displayed a soft touch to nestle the charity tosses through the hoop, giving her 16 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the line. She also led the Lady Vols in rebounding with nine, tying Baylor's low post starters Sophie Young and Dione Brown.

The controversial call denied Baylor an overtime period to uneven the score, but it also diminished a dramatic Tennessee comeback that began at the 6:41 mark with UT trailing 64-57 – the biggest lead either team held in the hardwood struggle. The Lady Vols wipe out the seven-point deficit with a 12-3 run that ended on Ely's jumper for a 69-67 lead. The challenge was made more difficult by the loss of starting center Ashley Robinson who fouled out soon after Baylor appeared to assume command of the game. The Lady Bears also lost their point guard Whitaker to fouls.

Both UT's Pat Summitt and Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson expressed regret that the game ended like it did, but game officials weren't required to answer questions about the call which was self-explanatory.

The win propels Tennessee to the Elite Eight for the ninth time in the last 10 years where they will face Stanford on Tuesday. The Lady Cardinals beat SEC Tournament champion Vanderbilt on a last second shot to advance to the Midwest Regional final played in Norman, Okla.

BAYLOR (26-9) Young 5-14 3-5 13, Wabara 1-3 0-0 2, Brown 3-15 0-2 6, Whitaker 2-4 2-3 6, Stratton 6-7 2-2 17, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Scott 1-5 3-4 6, Hamerly 0-0 0-0 0, Niemann 7-10 2-2 19. Totals 25-59, 12-18, 69.

TENNESSEE (29-3) Davis 4-10 4-4 12, Ely 7-13 5-10 19, Robinson 3-5 1-3 7, Butts 3-8 9-10 16, Zolman 3-10 4-4 10, Spencer 2-3 0-0 5, Jackson 0-3 0-0 0, Fluker 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 23-57, 23-31, 71.

Halftime-Baylor 31-27. 3-Point goals-Baylor 7-14 (Stratton 3-3, Niemann 3-5, Scott 1-5, Wabara 0-1), Tennessee 2-10 (Spencer 1-1, Butts 1-4, Jackson 0-2, Zolman 0-3). Fouled out-Whitaker, Robinson. Rebounds-Baylor 38 (Young, Brown 9), Tennessee 37 (Butts 9). Assists-Baylor 12 (Stratton 6), Tennessee 9 (Davis 3). Total fouls-Baylor 21, Tennessee 18. A-7,300.

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