No. 2 seed Tennessee won its 51st consecutive home game in the NCAA Tournament with a 83-62 victory over No. 15 seed Oral Roberts on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols (25-7) will take on No. 10 seed Creighton (25-7) in the first-ever meeting between the teams on Monday night at 7 p.m. That game will air on ESPN2, ESPN3 and can be heard on the Lady Vol Network.
The Lady Vols are 49-1 all-time in first-round games, with the lone loss coming in 2009 to Ball State. Tennessee — the only team to play in all 32 tournaments — remained perfect in home games in the NCAA Tournament dating to the start of the event in 1982 including a 39-0 mark at Thompson-Boling.
Junior guard Meighan Simmons led Tennessee with 18 points. She added five rebounds and three steals. Ariel Massengale netted 13, for her best scoring game in more than a month, and handed out six assists. Cierra Burdick also added 13 to go along with eight rebounds.
SEC Freshman of the Year Bashaara Graves scored in double-figures for the 28th time in 32 games during her rookie campaign with 11 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds. All 10 Lady Vols to play scored.
Oral Roberts, the Southland Conference champion, finished 18-13, after making its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance. All-time leading scorer Kevi Luper (game-high 20 points) finished her career with 2,867 points to stand 14th on the all-time NCAA women’s scoring list. Luper was the second active leading scorer behind Brittney Griner of Baylor, who has 3,203 points heading into the NCAA Tournament.
For the Golden Eagles, Savanna Buck and Taylor Cooper also scored in double-figures with 15.
With 10 blocked shots — all in the first half — Oral Roberts tied a Thompson-Boling Arena for blocks by a Tennessee opponent in any game. The mark was set by Baylor set in 2011. Six-foot-three-inch center Sarah Shelton swatted six shots, one shy of the TBA record for blocks by a Tennessee opponent. The mark of seven is held by three players, most recently Baylor’s Brittany Griner in that game from 2011.
Up 13 at halftime, Tennessee continued to add its lead as the second half unfolded. UT tallied the first 11 points of the half to take a 24-point lead at 55-31. The Golden Eagles missed 13 consecutive shots as the Lady Vols took command. Oral Roberts didn’t score for the first 5:34 of the second half until Christian Key canned a 3-pointer.
Freshman Nia Moore, making her NCAA Tournament debut, put home her first postseason points for a 77-51 lead with six minutes remaining.
The Lady Vols finished the game off in style and gave Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick her first postseason win in charge of the Lady Vols.
Tennessee held a 44-31 lead at halftime. Simmons was all over the court in the first half as she scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and came away with three steals. All eight Lady Vols who played in the first half scored. UT held a significant advantage in the speciality stats after the first 20 minutes: points off turnovers (15-1), second chance points (11-2), bench points (10-2) and points in the paint (18-11). Oral Roberts was led by Cooper, who had 10 points.
Senior Kamiko Williams connected on a 3-point play with 1:33 left in the first half to give the Lady Vols a 43-28 advantage.
A straight away 3-pointer by Massengale with 4:24 left pushed the Tennessee lead to 36-24.
After Oral Roberts opened the game with a 6-2 lead, Tennessee went on an 11-1 run to take a 13-7 lead on a layup by Simmons with 14:33 left in the first half. A 3-pointer by Taber Spani and layup by Isabelle Harrison extended the surge to 18-4 and put the Lady Vols ahead, 20-10 with 11 minutes left in the first half.