‘3 Jays’ no match for Lady Vols
Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 7:00 pm
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee coach Holly Warlick asked her team to hold Creighton’s high-powered perimeter attack to five 3-pointers.
The Lady Vols did even better than that.
Second-seeded Tennessee went on a 13-0 run early in the second half to break open a close game and beat No. 10 seed Creighton 68-52 on Monday night to reach the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
The Lady Vols (26-7) will play No. 6 seed Oklahoma on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Creighton came in ranked second nationally with just over nine 3-pointers per game, but Tennessee outscored the Bluejays from beyond the arc.
The Lady Vols were 6-of-10 from long range, while the Bluejays went 4-of-22 — a season low for 3-pointers made.
Tennessee was ranked only 10th out of 14 SEC teams this season in 3-point percentage defense (.303).
“That’s huge for us,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “All year long, we haven’t defended the 3 ball very well at all.”
Creighton (25-8) coach Jim Flanery said he figured his team needed to make eight or nine 3-pointers to have a realistic chance at winning. The Bluejays instead were outscored from 3-point range for only the second time all season.
Tennessee shot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, including 5-of-9 in the second half. Ariel Massengale, Taber Spani and Meighan Simmons each went 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
“I thought we took great 3’s,” Warlick said. “We didn’t force it. We took 3’s when we were open. It was the smartest we’ve done shooting the 3 ball.”
But it was their ability to defend the 3-pointer that decided the game.
“They definitely stuck to their game plan, but in the end, we kind of wore them down,” Massengale said. “We made them take contested 3-point shots instead of open shots.”
Kamiko Williams led Tennessee with 15 points. Massengale added 11, while Simmons and Spani had 10 apiece.
Alexis Akin-Otiko scored 12 points for Creighton, which was seeking its first NCAA regional semifinal appearance.
Tennessee improved to 52-0 in NCAA tournament games on its home floor and raised its all-time NCAA tournament record to 114-23, a mark that includes eight national titles and 18 Final Four appearances. Creighton is 3-5 in NCAA tournament games.
But neither Tennessee’s partisan crowd nor the Lady Vols’ rich postseason history intimidated Creighton in the early going.
Creighton briefly led 16-15 midway through a first half that also featured five ties, the last coming after Creighton center Alyssa Kamphaus made it 24-24 on a layup with 3:38 left. Tennessee led 35-29 at halftime.
But the Bluejays couldn’t maintain that momentum and missed 11 of their first 12 shots in the second half.
After McKenzie Fujan’s basket cut Tennessee’s lead to 35-31 with 17:35 remaining, Tennessee picked up its energy level on defense and broke the game open.
“We’re a great team,” Williams said. “We can score. We can play defense. But when we’re positive and we have that positive energy going, we’re a totally different team.”
Published in The Messenger 3.26.13