March 20, 2010
KNOXVILLE -- When Tennessee lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, coach Pat Summitt sent the team to the practice court immediately.
That extra work helped the Lady Vols secure a No. 1 seed this season and return to their winning ways with a 75-42 victory over No. 16 seed Austin Peay on Saturday in the opening round of the NCAA women's tournament.
"They were confused why would we go right back to practice. They thought it was punishment," Summitt said. "I said, 'No, it's an opportunity for this basketball team to get better.'"
The Lady Vols (31-2), playing in their NCAA-record 29th first-round game, had advanced out of the opening weekend every season until last year's 71-55 loss to Ball State in the first round as a No. 5 seed. They're now 43-1 in the first two rounds.
The Lady Vols' work ethic wasn't the only difference in the two games.
This time Tennessee played at "The Summitt" and in front of mostly orange-clad fans. Summitt said her players were also more committed playing well.
"[It's] just a little bit different," Tennessee's Angie Bjorklund said of the atmosphere of the arena and the postgame locker room.
Tennessee also lost Kelley Cain in the first half of last year's tournament game to a knee injury.
This time, Cain had 18 points and 12 rebounds and hit a jumper 30 seconds into the game. The Lady Vols scored the first 15 points before Austin Peay hit a basket.
Austin Peay coach Carrie Daniels said the Lady Govs had experience with players who were bigger them but hadn't seen anyone quite like the 6-foot-6 Cain.
"Prior to this game we brought out broomsticks and made the players shoot over them to simulate," Daniels said.
The Lady Govs (15-18) got their first points when Ashley Herring hauled in a rebound off Brooke Faulkner's missed jumper and hit a jumper with 13:14 left in the first half.
"At the start when shots aren't just aren't falling, what can you do?" Herring said.
Herring scored 21 points for Austin Peay, which worked its way into tournament as only the eighth team in history with a losing record by winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.
By halftime, the Lady Vols had expanded their lead to 37-16 and that margin grew to 38 points in the second half off a 3-point shot by Taber Spani that made it 73-35 with 3:45.
Austin Peay turned the ball over 14 times in the first half, leading to 17 Tennessee points. Despite being smaller at every position, the Lady Govs found success in the paint against the imposing Lady Vols posts and scored all but two of their first-half points in the lane. They finished with 20 points in the paint.
And Austin Peay's loss still wasn't as bad as the last time it visited Knoxville, when it lost 80-38 to Tennessee in the opening round of the 2001 NCAA tournament.
Tennessee went everywhere to score, putting up 36 points in the paint and getting 14 points from Angie Bjorklund around the perimeter.
If the Lady Vols defeat either No. 8 Dayton or No. 9 TCU, who were to meet later Saturday, Tennessee gets the privilege of staying in state to play in the semifinals of the Memphis regional, 350 miles away from Tennessee's campus but still saturated with Lady Vols fans.