KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– The Tennessee Lady Vols are dancing into the Sweet Sixteen after drubbing the Toledo Rockets 94-47 in Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night.
Tennessee led wire-to-wire, and the game was never close.
The Lady Vols have now reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season for the first time since 2015 and 2016. It’s Tennessee’s 36th ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, the most in men’s and women’s history.
Lady Vols just secured the most Sweet 16 appearances in men’s and women’s history 🤩#MarchMadness x 🎥 IG/ladyvol_hoops pic.twitter.com/51JRswvlhf
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 21, 2023
After two dominant wins in Knoxville to begin the tournament, four-seed Tennessee will now travel to Seattle, Washington, to face one-seed Virginia Tech in a Sweet Sixteen matchup. The Lady Vols and Hokies previously played this season in Knoxville. Virginia Tech defeated UT 59-56 in early December.
It was a balanced effort for Tennessee in the win, as five players scored in double figures. Tennessee continues to play their best basketball at the right time, and they carry back-to-back 30+ point wins into the Sweet Sixteen.
Here’s a couple quick hitters on Tennessee doubling up Toledo to advance to the next round in the NCAA Tournament.
Not All Horston and Jackson
More times than not, Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson lead the way for Tennessee. However, in the Lady Vols’ win over Toledo, three other players scored double digits, and Jillian Hollingshead co-led the team with 13 points.
Hollingshead imposed her will down low multiple times throughout the contest, finishing the game with 13 points on 5-7 shooting. Four of Hollingshead’s shots came in the paint, and the sophomore’s last made shot was a three-pointer in the final three minutes.
The former Georgia Bulldog was the go-to under the rim for Tennessee, as Hollingshead’s size was a clear mismatch for Toledo.
Jasmine Powell did not miss a shot, scoring 12 points on 4-4 shooting. Ten of Powell’s 12 points came in the first half, as the Minnesota transfer was instrumental in Tennessee’s 50-point first half.
Other Lady Vols that contributed nicely were Kaiya Wynn, who had eight fourth-quarter points, and Jasmine Franklin, who led the team with 10 rebounds.
“We have a lot of people that are capable of putting the ball in the hole,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “We’ve got two dynamic players with Rickea and Jordan, and they command a lot of attention. I think today’s game you got to see other people have opportunities because of the focus on those two players. And they knocked it down.”
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Sara Puckett Leads the Way in Great Team Shooting Performance
Tennessee had a fantastic shooting performance in the blowout win, much like they did against Saint Louis Saturday.
Tennessee shot over 40 percent from the field and, more importantly, lit it up from beyond the arc.
Sara Puckett led the way with 13 points on 5-7 shooting from the floor and a perfect 3-3 from three-point range. Puckett was automatic from deep throughout the contest, and her point total served as her highest since January 22.
“I was so happy for Sara knocking those shots down,” Harper said. “I think that’s great for her confidence moving forward.”
Puckett served as Tennessee’s spark plug off the bench, making the most of her 14 minutes on the floor. The sophomore finished with the highest +/- among bench players with a +21.
As a team, Tennessee shot exactly 50 percent from deep, making eight of their 11 three-pointers in the first half to put the Rockets away early.
Lady Vols Have Outscored Opponents 189-97 to Open Tournament Play
Tennessee has flat out dominated their first two opponents to begin their March Madness run. After a 95-50 win over Saint Louis in the Round of 64, which was the biggest margin of victory for the Lady Vols all season, Tennessee topped that with a 47-point win over Toledo in the Round of 32, doubling the Rockets score.
Dating back to SEC play, the Lady Vols have been a force for the last few months. No team in the NCAA tournament dominated their opponent like Tennessee did the Billikens in round one, and while there’s still games to be played, it’s unlikely there will be another 47+ point blowout in the second round.
The 2022-2023 Lady Vols now become the fourth team to ever win their first two NCAA Tournament games by 45 or more points, joining UConn’s 2001, 2010 and 2016 teams. In 2010 and 2016, the Huskies went on to win the National Championship.
Tennessee beats Toledo 94-47 in the Round of 32, becoming the 4th team to win each of its first 2 games of an NCAA Tournament by 45 points each.
They join UConn in 2001, 2010 and 2016. The Huskies won the national title in each of the last 2 instances. pic.twitter.com/Vj7KiVAnc6
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2023
There’s no question the Lady Vols enter the Sweet Sixteen looking the best they have all season, and they will now get a revenge opportunity against the Hokies in the next round.
“I’m really happy for our players in particular that they’ve, you know, went out and rewarded themselves in the best way with continuing to play,” Harper said. “I’m happy for them because they stuck with it… There is no doubt that early part of our schedule and the results that we had in some of those losses, that could’ve of broken a lot of teams. It did not break us. It made us stronger.”
Tennessee will take on Virginia Tech Saturday in Seattle in attempt to knock off the region’s number one seed. If the Lady Vols win, they will advance to their first Elite Eight since 2016 and take on Ohio State, Baylor or UConn.