KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee coach Pat Summitt hopes her deep bench equals a long run in the NCAA tournament.
All 13 Lady Volunteers played before halftime and all of them scored by the final buzzer Saturday during a 99-34 win over Stetson in the opening round of the Dayton region.
“Depth is a real factor for us,” Summitt said. “To have the depth that we have to keep people fresh, move people in and out and not have to deal with fatigue is really special. This team is very special.”
Top-seeded Tennessee (32-2) has its sights set on a return to the Final Four after two seasons of frustration in the tournament. The Lady Vols will face eighth-seeded Marquette on Monday.
The Lady Vols have scored an average 23.6 points more than their opponents this season and previously had their best offensive game of the year in a 90-65 win against Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship. They hit a school-record 16 3-pointers and shot 70.4 percent in the second half in that game.
Still, Summitt had been unhappy with her team’s defensive and rebounding efforts in the SEC tournament. After two weeks of grueling practices, the Lady Vols outrebounded the Hatters 63-31 and limited them to just 18.2 percent shooting.
Glory Johnson had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Shekinna Stricklen scored 15 points, Angie Bjorklund (University HS) had 13 and Alyssia Brewer added 10 for Tennessee.
Stetson managed to hit a few early shots to keep up with Tennessee, which led 10-9 with 15:13 left in the first half. The Lady Vols’ size and shooting became too much for the Hatters, though, and a 23-0 run put the game away.
The Hatters (20-13) hit no field goals and only five free throws during an 11:11 stretch before halftime. Tennessee shot 57.9 percent and had a 34-13 rebounding margin at the break.
Stetson (20-13) went through a 15:37 scoring drought in the second half as Tennessee expanded its lead on nearly every trip down the floor. The drought ended when Victoria McGowan hit a layup with 29 seconds left to play.