Despite historic lows and more losses than any other Lady Vols basketball team in school history, the 2015-16 Lady Vols squad is doing their best to save their season and take their coach off the hot seat.
No. 7 seed Lady Vols upset No. 2 Arizona State 75-64 in the second round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament late Sunday night to advance to the school’s 34th Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1982. The Lady Vols rode Diamond DeShields’ 24-point performance and a solid team defensive effort to victory over the Sun Devils, and it may have been just the spark the Lady Vols needed to change the perception of this season.
Holly Warlick’s fourth Lady Vols team had underperformed nearly all season, losing a historic amount of games in just as historically bad fashion. The team’s 13 losses are the most in a single season in program history, and the Lady Vols lost to Mississippi State for the first time ever and to Alabama for the first time in over thirty years. And that’s not to mention the defeats they suffered to teams with losing records such as Arkansas and LSU.
But despite all that, the Lady Vols have a chance to right the ship at the most critical moment.
The Lady Vols were tied at 33 with Arizona State at halftime before an impressive second half run gave them the lead for good. The Lady Vols had one of their most impressive offensive displays of the season after an ugly game against Green Bay in the first round, scoring 42 of their 75 points in the paint. Tennessee shot 51.8 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Sun Devils 36-30.
And after a season of poor shooting and a weak inside presence, both those stats were welcome sights.
Sweet Sixteens aren’t much to brag about for a Lady Vols team. Only once has the program missed out on the Sweet Sixteen since the 1981-82 season. But for the lowest-seeded Lady Vols team ever to get there by beating a 2-seed in the second round speaks to this team’s resolve more than anything else.
Up next for the Lady Vols is Ohio State, a high-scoring team that was consistently ranked in the top 15 all season. If Tennessee can surpass the Buckeyes, they will make it back to the Elite Eight yet again.
The standard for success for Lady Vols basketball will always be measured in Final Fours and National Championships. And if the team with the most losses in school history can start a run late into March, they can save their season.