PREVIEW: (3) Lady Vols take on (6) Michigan in second round
Kellie Harper is one of only 11 coaches to take three different schools to the NCAA Tournament
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - No. 3 seed Tennessee (17-7, 9-4) and No. 6 seed Michigan (15-5, 9-4 Big Ten) will face one another for the first-time ever on Tuesday in an NCAA Second Round River Walk Region contest.
The No. 13-ranked Lady Vols and No. 16 Wolverines are set to play at 5 p.m. ET on the North Court at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
UT earned its way to this meeting by winning its First Round battle with Middle Tennessee, 87-62, on Sunday in Austin.UM, meanwhile, took care of No. 11 seed Florida Gulf Coast, 87-66, on Sunday at the UT San Antonio Convocation Center.
The winner of this game will advance to the Sweet 16 (March 27 & 28) and extend its stay in San Antonio. A match-up would loom vs. the victor of Tuesday’s No. 2 seed Baylor and No. 7 seed Virginia Tech match-up.
Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper is now 3-1 in her last four NCAA Tournament games and has led her alma mater to the NCAA Second Round for the first time since 2018.
LADY VOL NCAA HISTORY IN TEXAS
Tennessee improved to 3-1 in NCAA Tournament games played in Texas with the victory over Middle Tennessee.
The Lady Vols are now 3-0 in Austin in NCAA Tourney games, having won their first two postseason contests in the Lone Star State at the 1987 Final Four at the Frank Erwin Center over Long Beach State (74-64) and Louisiana Tech (67-44) en route to UT’s first national championship.
Tennessee’s other NCAA game in the state of Texas was its last before 2021, and it came at the Alamodome.
UT fell to UConn, 79-56 in the Final Four Semifinals there on March 29, 2002.
FINALLY A GAME IN AUSTIN IN 2020-21
UT’s win in Austin on Sunday came at the scene of a game that didn’t happen earlier in the season. The Lady Vols were supposed to meet Texas on Dec. 13 at the Frank Erwin Center, but the game was postponed about 90 minutes before tip-off and ultimately canceled due to a suspected COVID issue within the Longhorn program.
HARPER IN RARE COMPANY
In leading Tennessee to a postseason berth, second-year Lady Vol skipper Kellie Harper became only the second basketball coach to guide four different programs into NCAA Division I Women’s Tournament play.
She is the first to do so at her alma mater.
Harper led Western Carolina (2005, 2009), NC State (2010), Missouri State (2016, 2019) and now her alma mater, Tennessee (2021), to the Big Dance.
She joins Jim Foster, who guided St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Chattanooga to NCAA bids.
Harper also is one of only 11 coaches to take three different schools to the NCAA Tourney.
This marks the 13th postseason appearance of Harper’s head coaching career, including her sixth in the NCAA Tournament.
UT’S NCAA TOURNEY HISTORY
As mentioned, the Lady Vols are making their 39th appearance in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, and UT is the only program to appear in all 39 tournaments.
Tennessee was an at-large qualifier for the NCAA Tournament field, finishing third in the Southeastern Conference regular season for the second-straight season and bowing out in the semifinal round of the league tourney to No. 2 seed South Carolina, the eventual champion.
UT earned a No. 3 seed for the fifth time and has a 13-3 record in that role after beating Middle Tennessee.
As a No. 3 seed, the Lady Vols were national runners-up in 1984, lost in the Sweet 16 in 1985, won a national championship in 1997 in Kellie (Jolly) Harper’s sophomore season and fell in the second round in 2018.
The Lady Vols are 126-30 in NCAA Tournament play, and they rank first in games played (156) and victories (126) in NCAA tourney history.
Tennessee is second behind UConn in winning percentage at .808 in tourney play.
UT is 1-0 in NCAA play under Kellie Harper, making its first appearance with her at the helm in 2021 after the tourney was canceled a year ago due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global health pandemic.
UT has advanced to the NCAA regional round on 34 occasions, posting a 28-6 record in the Sweet 16.
The only seasons UT did not make the regional level were in 2009 and from 2017 to 2019. UT lost its opening round contest as a No. 5 seed to No. 12 Ball State in Bowling Green, Ky., in 2009. No. 5 seed UT lost its second-round game at No. 4 seed Louisville in 2017. No. 3 seed UT lost its second-round game to No. 6 seed Oregon State in Knoxville in 2018. No. 11 seed Tennessee fell to No. 6 seed UCLA in the first round at College Park, Md., in 2019.
UT has made the Elite Eight 28 times and in five of the past nine tournaments, posting an 18-10 record in that round.
The Lady Vols have seen their season ended in the regional championship game in five of the past nine years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016).
UT has advanced to 18 NCAA Final Fours and won eight of them (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008), ranking second to UConn.
Tennessee has finished second in the nation five times and third on five more occasions.
All told, UT has played 88 different opponents during all rounds of the NCAA Tournament, including Michigan.
UT IN THE FIRST & SECOND ROUNDS
Tennessee is making its 39th appearance in the NCAA First/Second Rounds, and it owns a 59-4 record during games played in those rounds.
The Lady Vols are 31-2 all-time in the NCAA First Round and 28-2 in the NCAA Second Round.
The only blemishes are a first-round loss to Ball State, 71-55, in Bowling Green, Ky., on March 22, 2009, a second-round setback to Louisville, 75-64, in Louisville, Ky. on March 20, 2017, a second-round loss to Oregon State, 66-59, in Knoxville, on March 18, 2018, and a first-round ouster by UCLA, 89-77, on March 23, 2019, in College Park, Md.
In NCAA First/Second Round play, Tennessee is 45-1 at home, 4-1 away and 10-2 at neutral sites.
The breakdown for that is 23-0 home/0-0 away/8-2 neutral for the first round and 22-1 home/4-1 away/2-0 neutral for the second round.
HARPER NCAA HISTORY AS A COACH
Kellie Harper, who is making her first tourney visit with Tennessee, has made most of her previous trips with mid-majors and/or lower-seeded teams.
She enters the 2021 event with easily her highest-seeded squad.
Kellie Harper is 3-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 0-0 at home, 1-2 away and 2-3 at neutral sites.
She is 2-4 in NCAA First-Round games (0-0 at home/0-2 away/2-2 neutral), 1-0 in NCAA Second-Round games (0-0 at home/1-0 away/0-0 neutral) and 0-1 in the Sweet 16 (0-0 home/0-0 away/0-1 neutral).
During the 2018-19 NCAA Tournament, Harper piloted #11 seed Missouri State to the Sweet 16, beating #6 seed DePaul and #3 seed Iowa State along the way before falling to #2 seed Stanford by nine en route to 2019 Kay Yow National Coach of the Year acclaim.
Harper’s previous entries fell in first-round match-ups: #16 Western Carolina at #1 Tennessee in 2005, #13 Western Carolina vs. #4 Vanderbilt in Albuquerque in 2009, #9 NC State vs. #8 UCLA at Minneapolis in 2010 and #13 Missouri State at #4 Texas A&M in 2016.
HARPER’S STAFF EXPERIENCE
While this may be Kellie Harper’s first NCAA Tournament at Tennessee, this isn’t her staff’s first rodeo.
UT assistant coach Jon Harper was on his spouse’s staff in all of those previous NCAA appearances.
Assistant coach Jennifer Sullivan was part of the Missouri State staff during the 2016 NCAA Tourney appearance.
UT director of recruiting operations Jessica Jackson was recruiting director and assistant coach on Harper’s staff at Missouri State during the Bears’ 2019 NCAA Tournament run and played for the Harpers on the 2009 Western Carolina NCAA team.
Tyler Watson, the director of women’s basketball sports performance, also was on Harper’s staff at Missouri State during the 2019 run.
While associate director of sports medicine Casi Dailey wasn’t in Raleigh for NC State’s 2010 NCAA appearance under Harper, she did spend a year on Harper’s staff at NC State.
UT’s other assistant, Lacey Goldwire, is in her first stint on Harper’s staff, but she possesses NCAA Tournament experience while at Iowa.
HARPER AS NCAA STUDENT-ATHLETE
Kellie (Jolly) Harper was 21-1 in the NCAA Tournament as a student-athlete at Tennessee.
The 5-foot-10 point guard was part of three national championship teams in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
The 1998 team was undefeated at 39-0.
Harper tallied an NCAA title game-record 11 assists in 1997 as UT defeated Old Dominion.
She scored 20 points in the 1998 title game vs. Louisiana Tech, hitting seven of 10 field goal attempts. Her 4-of-5 effort from beyond the arc is still tied as a championship game record.
Her 1998 effort earned her a spot on the Final Four All-Tournament Team.
UT VS. THE NCAA FIELD
Tennessee has played 13 games vs. 10 different teams in the 2021 NCAA Tournament field.
The Lady Vols are now 6-7 vs. those opponents.
Tennessee was 2-2 vs. non-conference NCAA Tournament-qualifying foes this season, defeating Indiana and Middle Tennessee (NCAA First Round), while narrowly losing to UConn and West Virginia.
The Big Orange had a 4-5 record vs. SEC teams that made the NCAA Tournament, defeating South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama, and falling to South Carolina, Texas A&M, Georgia (twice) and Kentucky.
The SEC placed seven teams in the tournament, which tied for the second-most of any league (with the Big Ten), following the eight from the ACC.
The SEC’s teams going dancing in 2021 include Alabama, Arkansas Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
LADY VOL NCAA EXPERIENCE
Only three of Tennessee’s active players possessed NCAA Tournament experience as the 2021 Big Dance began.
Rennia Davis (3), Kasiyahna Kushkituah (2) and Rae Burrell (1) combined to give the Lady Vols only six total games of NCAA experience and three starts.
Those numbers for Davis, Kushkituah and Burrell now stand at four, three and two.
Seeing their first NCAA duty vs. Middle Tennessee were graduate transfer/redshirt junior Jordan Walker; sophomores Jordan Horston, Tamari Key, Jessie Rennie and Emily Saunders; and freshmen Tess Darby and Destiny Salary.
Rennia Davis has averages of 17.5 ppg. (70 pts.) and 11.5 rpg. (46 rebs.) in four NCAA games while shooting 53.1 percent (26-49) from the field.
Davis now has three double-double in four tournament games, including 24/14 vs. Middle Tennessee in 2021, 21/10 vs. UCLA in 2019 and 18/11 vs. Liberty in 2018.
Kushkituah has reached double figures in all three of her tourney appearances, tallying 10 vs. Middle Tennessee in 2021, 16 vs. UCLA in 2019 and 10 vs. Liberty in 2018. That equals and average of 12.0 ppg.
In that 2018 contest between UT and Liberty, the Flames’ Keyen Green scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting vs. Tennessee. She’s now a Lady Vol (grad. transfer) and is sitting out the season due to injury.
Rae Burrell saw two minutes of duty vs. UCLA two seasons ago but didn’t record any statistics. She had 22 points vs. Middle Tennessee this season in her first extensive minutes.
RECAPPING UT’S LAST GAME
The No. 3 seed Lady Vols shot a scorching 52 percent from the floor to fend off in-state opponent and No. 14 seed Middle Tennessee in the NCAA First Round on Sunday, winning 87-62 at the Frank Erwin Center.
Senior Rennia Davis led No. 13/15-ranked Tennessee (17-7) in scoring, posting a double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Junior Rae Burrell was close behind with 22 points, and sophomore Tamari Key and senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah were also in double figures with 13 and 10, respectively. Redshirt-junior Jordan Walker narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with nine points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
MT (17-8) was led by sisters Anastasia and Aislynn Hayes, who combined for two-thirds of the Lady Raiders’ 62 points. Anastasia Hayes turned in 26, while Aislynn Hayes managed 15.
LADY VOL NOTES
Harper Gets Her First: Kellie Harper picked up her first NCAA win as head coach of the Lady Vols and became only the second women’s coach to lead four different programs to the NCAA Division I Tournament. She is the first to do so as her alma mater.
Davis Making Moves: With 24 points and 14 rebounds vs. MT, Rennia Davis logged her 10th double-double of the season and the 39th of her career. Her new total of 943 career rebounds surpassed Shyra Ely (940) to land her at 10th all-time among Lady Vols. She also moved up the leader board in scoring, passing Sheila Frost (1,790) to rank ninth all-time with 1,803 career points.
Horston Slides Past 100: Jordan Horston dished out a game-high six assists vs. Middle Tennessee. She moved past 100 and now has 103 for the season in 24 games. She had 143 last year in 31 contests.
Postseason Looks Good On Her: Davis has now recorded double-doubles in three of her four appearances in NCAA Tournament games. She is averaging 17.5 ppg. and 11.5 rpg. in games played in the NCAA Tournament.
Dominating The Paint: Tennessee outrebounded Middle Tennessee, 56-21 (20-9 on the offensive glass), turning those into 21 second-chance points. On the season, UT is outrebounding opponents by an average of 45.8 rpg. to 32.3 rpg. The 56-rebound total was UT’s second highest of the season and marked the seventh occasion in 2020-21 the Lady Vols had eclipsed 50 boards in a game. The 35-board margin was a season high.
Tightening The Defense: Tennessee gave up 21 points to Middle Tennessee in the second quarter and was tied 39-all at the half, but it only surrendered 23 points the rest of the game. UT also minimized scoring in the paint in the final 20 minutes. After allowing MT 18 paint points in the first half, the Lady Vols allowed only eight in the second half.
This marks the first meeting between Tennessee and Michigan in women’s basketball.
It also marks Kellie Harper’s first game vs. the Wolverines during her head coaching career.
The Lady Vols are 80-14 vs. teams currently in the Big Ten Conference.
The Big Orange women are 8-3 in NCAA Tournament games vs. Big Ten programs.
UT defeated Big Ten favorite and 2021 runner-up Indiana, 66-58, in Bloomington on Dec. 17 in the only meeting between the Lady Vols and a Big Ten team this season.
Michigan fell to Indiana, 70-65, in Bloomington on Feb. 18.
The Hoosiers are the only common foe for UT and UM this season.
Tennessee’s roster includes Western Michigan graduate transfer and Muskegon native Jordan Walker, a graduate of Mona Shores High School.
Walker is a redshirt junior guard who pulled down a career-best 14 rebounds in her NCAA Tournament debut vs. Middle Tennessee on Sunday.
Tennessee assistant coach Jennifer Sullivan is familiar with the Wolverines from her tenure as an assistant at Ohio State (2018-19). As it turns out, she will provide the scouting report for this contest.
Speaking of Ohio, there are three players from the Buckeye State who will play significant roles in the game. Tennessee’s assists and steals leader, Jordan Horston, hails from Columbus, while Michigan stars Naz Hillmon and Akienreh Johnson hail from Cleveland and Toledo, respectively.
Michigan finished fourth in the Big Ten this season with a 9-4 mark in league play and is ranked No. 16/14 in the national polls.
The Wolverines are led by the trio of 6-2 junior forward Naz Hillmon, 6-1 junior guard Leigha Brown and 6-0 graduate transfer guard Akienreh Johnson, who average 24.6, 17.6 and 11.0 points per game, respectively.
Hillmon, a finalist for the Katrina McClain Power Forward of the Year Award, also averages 11.5 rebounds per contest and shoots 62.5 percent from the field.
She put up a Michigan women’s and men’s record 50 points vs. Ohio State on Jan. 21, 2021.
Michigan entered the NCAA Tournament having lost three of its last four games, with losses at Iowa and vs. Maryland, a victory over Northwestern and a loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament.
Sunday’s 87-66 NCAA First Round win over Florida Gulf Coast marked the most points scored by UM since tallying 92 vs. Wisconsin on Dec. 31.
Michigan is coached by Kim Barnes Arico, who is 192-101 in her ninth year in Ann Arbor. She is 462-307 during a 25-year career as a head coach.
RECAPPING THE WOLVERINES’ LAST GAME
The University of Michigan women’s basketball team used a 23-5 run in the fourth quarter and got 29 points from junior Leigha Brown -- 19 in the third quarter -- to cruise past Florida Gulf Coast, 87-66, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at the UTSA Convocation Center.
The Wolverines snapped the Eagles’ 25-game win streak, shooting 53.6 percent (30-for-56) from the field and making a season-high eight three-pointers with four different players draining two each.
Leigha Brown ended her stellar outing with a game-best 28 points on 12-for-16 shooting, and junior Naz Hillmon notched her 28th career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds despite playing only 23 minutes due to early foul trouble.
Graduate student Akienreh Johnson also recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while adding six assists, two steals and one block to her stat line in just 20 minutes on the floor. Hailey Brown scored 10 points, all in the first half.
Michigan (15-5) outrebounded FGCU, 43-23, grabbing 13 offensive boards and scoring 15 second-chance points.
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