Louisville and Tennessee both let their opponents hang around a little too long before stepping on the gas and slamming the door shut in their NCAA Tournament openers Saturday.
Both will hope to put forth more consistent efforts when the fourth-seeded Cardinals and the fifth-seeded Lady Vols meet in the Oklahoma City bracket’s second round Monday at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
The Cardinals (28-7) led by nine entering the fourth quarter before pulling away with a 24-point period to top No. 13 seed Chattanooga 82-62.
Asia Durr led all scorers with 27 points while Myisha Hines-Allen notched her 16th double-double of the season — 16 points and 12 rebounds — and Jazmine Jones scored 14 points.
“We were able to pull away there towards the end, but it was never a game I felt really comfortable, especially with the way they shoot the three,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “But really, really pleased. Looking forward to have the opportunity to play on Monday night and see what we can do.”
One positive for the Cardinals was the way they moved the ball, totaling 28 assists to set a program record for most in an NCAA Tournament game. Mariya Moore led the way with 10 assists.
“We passed the ball extremely well tonight, and we were sharing it well,” Jones said. “What Coach says: Don’t stand around and watch. Move when you don’t have the basketball.”
Tennessee (20-11) had similar struggles with No. 12 seed Dayton, blowing an early 14-point lead and taking only a nine-point advantage into the fourth.
Diamond DeShields scored a game-best 24 points and capped a 7-0 surge in the fourth with a jumper to put the Lady Vols in control.
Mercedes Russell logged her 18th double-double, with 14 points and 10 boards, to supplement DeShields’ performance.
Transition baskets and defensive pressure played a significant role in Tennessee’s victory.
“We had three keys for Dayton. It was guarding the 3-point line, playing defense without fouling and boxing out,” Russell said. “And, honestly, I think we did a pretty good job of all three all night.”
Tennessee holds a 2-1 edge against Louisville, with the teams last meeting in 2013.
The Cardinals are winners of eight of their last nine games, their lone loss an 84-73 setback against Notre Dame in the ACC tournament semifinals.
The Lady Vols enter the matchup having won four of five; they suffered a shocking 72-64 loss to Alabama in the second round of the SEC tournament.
The winner will go on to face the victor of Monday’s battle between No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 9 seed California, next Friday.