Tennessee-Martin falls to Lady Vols, 72-49

ANDREW SELIGMAN AP Sports Writer Published:

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- Tennessee-Martin didn't come into the NCAA tournament with any grand visions. The Skyhawks just wanted to put up a fight.

To that end, they succeeded, even if they came up short down the stretch.

Meighan Simmons scored 20 points and second-seeded Tennessee gave coach Pat Summitt a victory over the school where she played, beating 15th-seeded Tennessee-Martin 72-49 on Saturday in the first round.

Glory Johnson added 14 points and 12 rebounds as Tennessee (25-8) pulled away in the second half. The Lady Volunteers set up a meeting with the DePaul-Brigham Young winner Monday, hoping for their first Final Four run since winning the championship in 2008.

"Us going against them, everybody expects them to make a run at the beginning and we went in there saying they're not going to toy with us," Tennessee-Martin's Heather Butler said. "We went out there with confidence."

They hung in for about a half, too, before Tennessee took over.

The Lady Vols dominated on the boards 52-39 and shut down the nation's top scoring team, holding the Skyhawks (23-9) to just under 29 percent shooting.

The Lady Vols didn't exactly light it up from the floor at 40 percent, but they started to convert once they got away from those quick 3-pointers in the early going and worked the ball inside. Then they made enough shots down the stretch.

"After a while, we started using (our size)," Johnson said. "They started double-teaming, and we were kicking it out, made some shots we weren't hitting early. We eventually started hitting shots like the Tennessee team we know we are."

Butler, the nation's third-leading scorer, had a rough day for Tennessee-Martin, finishing with just 14 points -- about 10 below her average. She was 5 for 25 from the floor, including 1 for 8 on 3-pointers, and no one else picked up the slack.

The Skyhawks were within six after Butler started the second half with a 3, but Tennessee scored eight straight to take control at 43-29. It was 50-33 after Simmons made a 3 with 12:36 remaining.

Coach Kevin McMillan still took some positives from this game.

"We turned the ball over eight times," he said. "Against Tennessee? That's unbelievable that we took care of the ball the way we did. We actually probably didn't get (beaten) on the boards as bad as we could have. It was 52-39. That was in the acceptable range we had talked about before the game started. All of those things are unbelievable positives for us. We came in here and did everything we felt that we needed to do."

The Lady Vols are hoping to win a ninth NCAA title for Summitt. The coaching great shook the sport with her announcement in August that she has early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Earlier in the week, the icon with the most wins in NCAA history said she wasn't sure she would coach beyond the season.

On the court, it hasn't been easy for the Lady Vols.

There were lopsided losses at Stanford and Notre Dame. They blew a halftime lead while dropping a close game at home to Baylor, the top seed in the region. But they seem to be hitting their stride just in time, breezing to their third straight SEC title and following up with a win Saturday -- their 14th in 16 games against Tennessee-Martin.