By Alex Norman
The first day of the NCAA tournament was kind to Tennessee’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.
On Thursday, March 15th, Admiral Schofield had 15 points and 12 rebounds as the 3rd seeded Vols pounded 14th seed Wright State 73-47 in Dallas.
“Obviously we’re happy with the win and the fact that we felt coming in that Wright State would be as difficult a team that we’ve played all year in terms of the way they move without the ball,” said Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes. “I think this time of year, you’re looking for perfection. I thought when we got the lead, even in the first half, I didn’t think we defended well in the last five minutes of the first half. I thought they looked up, and I think the score was 23-8, 21-8, something like that, and I just felt like we let down a little bit defensively.”
“Our coaches do a great job of scheduling teams that play different styles like this early in the year,” said Schofield. “And our strength of schedule is important, and we get great teams like Lipscomb and different other schools that run different schemes. We usually prepare early in the year, but at this time of year, you’ve got to be ready because any team can get hot, especially in a tournament like this. Everybody has a special year. Everyone is in good position at this time of year.”
Tennessee started the game slowly, but led by 11 points at the break and was never seriously tested. Vols guard Lamonte Turner led all players with 19 points. SEC player of the year Grant Williams had 14 points and 9 rebounds.
The win moved the Vols into the second round, where they would play Loyola-Chicago on Saturday, March 17th.
As for the Tennessee women, they kicked off the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 16th against Liberty. It was the first time the Lady Vols hosted the NCAA tournament in three years. The 3rd seeded Lady Vols were sloppy in the first half, and only led the 14th seeded Lady Flames by eight points. But in the third quarter Tennessee pulled away, outscoring Liberty 38-20.
Tennessee continued the assault in the fourth quarter, eventually winning 100-60.
“Just don’t let up, we were settling for a lot of things… we got on the boards we were giving up too many 3’s… just play our game and play together,” said Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick to ESPN. “We did what we were supposed to do. Our defense took it to another level and that’s what we gotta do. We kinda wore them out.”
“Freshman Forward Rennia Davis had 18 points and 11 rebounds, leading all players in both categories. Redshirt junior forward Cheridene Green had 15 points and 11 rebounds. The Lady Vols had seven players in double figures in scoring, the kind of balance that could take them a long way in this tournament.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start, we settled in, got Mercedes and ball and our defense did some good things,” said Warlick.
The Lady Vols improved to 30-1 all-time in NCAA tournament first round games, and 57-0 all-time in NCAA tournament home games. The win moved the Lady Vols into the second round, where they would host Oregon State on Sunday, March 18th.