Kamiko Williams on the Lady Vols' win over UT-Martin
ROSEMONT, Ill. — Tennessee's sister school wasn't content with acting like a little sister on Saturday afternoon.
Faced with a feisty and determined Tennessee Martin, the Lady Vols had to summon more poise and search their depth for a 72-49 victory in the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament at Allstate Arena.
Led by reserve guard Meighan Simmons' 20 points, Tennessee (25-8) advanced to a second-round game Monday (TV: ESPN2, 9:30 p.m.) against No. 7 DePaul (23-10). The Blue Demons beat BYU 59-55 in Saturday's other first-round game.
Tennessee's Glory Johnson added 14 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. She scored 10 of her points in the second half, when UT built its lead to 25 points inside the final two minutes.
"Basically, it wasn't a work of art by any stretch,'' UT assistant Dean Lockwood said. "But it was a good first game."
It was a tougher first game than the seedings indicated. Despite shooting a chilly 28.8 percent from the floor (19-for-66), No. 15 seed UT Martin (23-9) gave ground grudgingly throughout the game.
"They are extremely physical,'' UT center Vicki Baugh said of the Skyhawks. "It was one of the most physical games I've played in my career and I've had an extra year."
The Skyhawks swarmed around Johnson and Baugh, Tennessee's tallest players. Aubrey Reedy, a 6-foot sophomore guard, went to the floor with the 6-3 Johnson in the first half and won a tug-of-war for the basketball. Johnson was left sitting on the court with a dumbfounded look on her face.
Lockwood was particularly concerned about UT Martin's 3-point shooters, who fueled its Division I-leading 81.1 points-per-game scoring average. He made them the focal point of his scouting report.
"As well as they shoot it, one of the things we determined is that we would much rather have them finish over our length and height than give up catch-and-shoot jumpers behind the arc,'' he said.
To fulfill this objective, the Lady Vols shed their favored zone defense and played primarily a man alignment. The Skyhawks missed some open shots in the first half. As the game wore on, the Lady Vols' shadow grew longer and darker over UT Martin's shooters.
Heather Butler's team-leading 14 points were 10 below her season average. The sophomore guard shot 5-for-25 from the floor.
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Guards Jaclissa Haislip and Jasmine Newsome combined for 22 points but also shot a collective 8-for-26.
Finally, the Skyhawks hit just four treys, six below their usual output, and shot 20 percent from behind the arc.
"We knew they needed 3s to survive,'' UT guard Kamiko Williams said. "We knew that if we took them away, we'd survive and we did."
But not without first overcoming their own infatuation with the long-range shot. With UT Martin packing the foul lane with defenders, the Lady Vols fired off a season-high 27 3-point attempts, hitting 10.
Since the Lady Vols couldn't resist jacking up jumpers against the Skyhawks' strategy, they needed to find someone who could hit a few. Simmons responded, making four of seven from long range and seven of 13 overall.
It was Simmons' best scoring game since her 25-point point showing against Kentucky on Feb. 13.
"I'm happy about it but at the same time it has to be consistent,'' Simmons said. "I have to make sure my shot is on like a light switch."
For this day, it helped light the way to the second round.