SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Tennessee was having trouble sinking field goals but fortunately the free throws kept dropping and dropping.
The Lady Vols made all 10 of their shots from the line in overtime – and missed all five field goal attempts – to beat Gonzaga 73-69 on Saturday to advance to the Spokane Regional final of the NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee shot only 32 percent from the floor for the game, but made 21 of 22 free throws to come back from a 17-point, second-half deficit for the win.
”No matter how many punches you throw at us, we continue to get up,” said Cierra Burdick, who scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Tennessee. Her four late free throws provided the winning points.
”We had to draw fouls late to win this game,” Burdick said. ”Our free throws are what saved us.”
Ariel Massengale scored 15 points for Tennessee (30-5), while Jordan Reynolds and Jaime Nared had 12 points each.
”I’m extremely proud of my teammates for not giving up,” Massengale said.
Sunny Greinacher scored 24 points and Keani Albanez 20 for surprising 11th-seeded Gonzaga (26-8), which upset third-seeded Oregon State last weekend to advance to the round of 16.
Second-seeded Tennessee will play top-seeded Maryland (33-2) on Monday for a trip to the Final Four in Tampa, Florida.
The game at the Spokane Arena wasn’t on Gonzaga’s home court, but its campus is only about a mile away and most of the crowd was rooting for the Bulldogs.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said Gonzaga’s size inside hurt the Lady Vols.
”We were struggling to score,” she said. They tried shooting 3-pointers, making 6 of 19. They also used pressure defense to force Gonzaga into 17 turnovers.
The win sent Tennessee to the 27th Elite Eight in its storied history. It was also their first overtime game in the tournament since a 1996 Final Four win over Connecticut.
Gonzaga, led by first-year coach Lisa Fortier, was a surprise to get this far.
The Bulldogs led by 17 with 6:34 left in the game, but could not hold on to earn their first victory in four games against Tennessee.
”I don’t know if we let down, but we might have got comfortable with the lead,” said guard Georgia Stirton. ”With about five minutes left in regulation they just picked it up a notch, toughness-wise.”
”Until those last seven minutes, we were the aggressors,” said Gonzaga guard Elle Tinkle. ”Things just kind of shifted. They were the aggressors.”
The score was tied 34-all at halftime, and Gonzaga opened the second half with an 11-2 run behind four baskets by Greinacher for a 45-36 lead. Her baskets included two jumpers and two layups, and the Lady Vols could not stop her.
With just under 12 minutes left, Tennessee had made only one basket in the second half and the crowd was roaring against the Lady Vols but then they made their run to the win.
GONZAGA: Gonzaga and Tennessee had played three times before, with the Lady Vols winning all three … The Zags are making their seventh straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and have never advanced to the Final Four. They reached the Elite Eight in 2011.
TENNESSEE: The Lady Vols are 27-6 all time in Sweet 16 games, and 120-25 all time in the NCAA Tournament. They rank first in games played and in wins. … Tennessee players Jordan Reynolds, Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared all hail from nearby Oregon … Maryland knocked Tennessee out of the tournament last year in the Round of 16
Gonzaga: Season is over
Tennessee: Plays Maryland in the Elite Eight on Monday.