The Lady Vols took a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and looked like they’d cruise, but anyone who’s seen this team this year knows not to get in the chicken-counting business. Sure enough, Dayton rallied to tie it at halftime.
But a strong third quarter put the Lady Vols up nine again going to the fourth, and this time there was no early letdown: a Diamond DeShields jumper pushed the lead to 14 with less than six to play, and the Lady Vols never let Dayton get closer than the final margin of nine from there.
The 66-57 win ensured Tennessee’s 2009 first round loss would continue to stand alone in their NCAA Tournament history, and sends Holly Warlick and company through to face four seed Louisville on their home floor Monday night. The Lady Vols are no stranger to winning in hostile environments this year, but will need that elusive consistency if they plan on dancing to next weekend.
Mercedes Russell had 14 points and 10 rebounds. DeShields was excellent today with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 8-of-10 at the line along with five rebounds, five assists, and one “Is she hurt? Nope, she just had to pee,” trip to the locker room in the fourth quarter. Kara Lawson called her a potential top three pick in the WNBA Draft if she chooses to go early.
The Lady Vols won despite an 0-for-5 performance from the arc and 11 missed free throws. They’ll likely need more from both places to get past Louisville Monday night, but so far so good in the NCAA Tournament.