Tennessee had a brush with March Madness but survived Monday night.
Determined Marquette pursued the Lady Vols across 38 tense minutes before they finally shook free for a 79-70 victory in an NCAA women’s basketball tournament second-round game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Led by freshman Meighan Simmons’ 18 points, Tennessee (33-2), the top seed in the Dayton Regional, advanced to a regional semifinal game Saturday against the Ohio State-Georgia Tech winner.
Angel Robinson scored 19 for Marquette (24-9), which still was lurking within six points inside the final two minutes.
Although Tennessee bolted to an early 10-2 lead, it became clear shortly thereafter that Marquette wasn’t going to dispatched quick so quickly or easily.
Led by guards McMorris and Robinson, the Golden Eagles stalked the Lady Vols across the first half. Even after UT opened a 23-15 lead on a long 3-pointer by Taber Spani, Marquette came back and pulled even at 30 on a long trey by Courtney Wiebel.
The biggest difference at halftime was UT’s 13 second-chance points, which reflected its 23-13 rebounding advantage.
The inside scoring covered for zero first-half points from Shekinna Stricklen and 1-for-7 shooting by Angie Bjorklund.
Dan Fleser covers Lady Vols basketball. He may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/fleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser