TEMPE, Ariz. — Tennessee is heading to the Sweet 16 for the 34th time after defeating No. 2 seed Arizona State, 75-64, in Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Second Round matchup at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Lady Vols (21-13) have won five of their last six games, the best stretch of the season for the Big Orange. Despite claiming its highest seed in school history, Arizona State (26-7) dropped three of its final four.
Diamond DeShields led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Mercedes Russell (12), Jordan Reynolds (12) and Jaime Nared (11) also scored in double figures. Elisha Davis scored 18 points to pace the Sun Devils.
Tennessee shot 52 percent on 29-of-56 shooting and went 16-of-18 from the charity stripe. The Big Orange also held Arizona State to 39 percent shooting (23-of-59) and outscored the Sun Devils in the paint, 42-27.
While the game was close for much of the first half and portions of the second, the Lady Vols led for over 35 minutes of the game. The Sun Devils, by comparison, led for 26 seconds.
Despite numerous surges in the second half by the Sun Devils, the Lady Vols never surrendered the lead in the final 20 minutes. Arizona State got within four points of the Lady Vols at 56-52 with 7:05 remaining in the game, but DeShields scored on consecutive possessions, and Reynolds added a jumper that stretched the UT lead to 10.
After the Sun Devils cut the deficit to 44-42 with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter, the Lady Vols responded with buckets on five of their final six possessions in the quarter, taking a 54-47 lead into the final quarter.
Arizona State and Tennessee entered the break tied 33-33. Although Tennessee led by seven midway through the second quarter, the game was tight for the majority of the first half. Tennessee shot 50 percent on 15-of-30 shooting, while Arizona State shot 43 percent on 13-of-30 shooting. The Lady Vols established their footprint underneath the basket, scoring 26 of 33 first-half points in the paint. Russell led all scorers with 12 points in the half.
The Big Orange led by three at the conclusion of the first quarter in large part due to Russell’s dominance. She scored 10 of Tennessee’s 20 points in the opening frame, shooting 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. She added three rebounds in the first quarter as well. The Lady Vols shot 64 percent on 9-of-14 shooting in the frame compared to the Sun Devils’ 39 percent on 7-of-18 shooting.
With the Win…