KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- #1 seed Tennessee advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 32nd time in 33 years by virtue of a 67-51 victory over #8 seed St. John's on Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Lady Vols improved to 29-5 overall as they advance to the Louisville Regional where they will play next Sunday, March 30 at a time to be determined. Tennessee will take on the winner of tomorrow night's Maryland/Texas match-up.
Tennessee is now 26-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament second round games and 52-1 in first and second round games. The Lady Vols are 117-24 all-time in the tournament as the only team to appear in all 33 events.
The Lady Vols are a perfect 54-0 in NCAA Tournament games in Knoxville including 42-0 in first and second round games.
Senior Meighan Simmons played her final game at Thompson-Boling Arena and tallied 17 points. Simmons finished her career with a 60-8 record in Knoxville including a 6-0 mark in the NCAAs.
Junior Cierra Burdick came up big with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Classmate Isabelle Harrison added 10 points and 11 boards for her 17th double-double of the season. For Burdick it was her sixth double-double this season.
St. John's finished the season, its fifth in a row in the NCAA Tournament, with a 23-11 record. Aliyyah Handford led all scorers with 23 points.
Down four at halftime, St. John's scored the first four points of the second half to tie the game at 39 with 16:59 left in regulation.
Tennessee responded as the Lady Vols scored the next four points to regain a 43-39 advantage. Points were at a premium early in the second half as they teams combined for eight in the first eight minutes of the second half.
The Lady Vols built a 12-point lead at 53-41 with a 10-0 spurt finished off by Simmons' layup with 8:19 left in the game.
The run continued to Tennessee held St. John's to two points over a 16-2 run spanning more than five minutes. The Lady Vols held a 59-43 lead with less than six minutes to go.
Simmons' driving layup put Tennessee up 18 and Tennessee was in comfortable position. Simmons received a standing ovation from the TBA crowd as she exited the hardwood in Knoxville for the final time with 2:06 left in regulation.
Tennessee led 39-35 at intermission. St. John's stayed close for most of the half thanks to a the play of Handford, who had 14 first-half points to lead all players. The Red Storm's Aaliyah Lewis knocked down a 3-pointer as time expired to cut SJU's deficit to four.
The Lady Vols opened their first double-figure lead of the night on the brilliant bounce pass from Simmons to Andraya Carterwith 12:51 left in the first half. That put Tennessee up 18-7.
St. John's hung close and crept within three points at 23-20 on a 3-pointer by Danaejah Grant and within one on a Aliyyah Handford layup with 7:39 left in the half.
The Lady Vols never lost the lead in the first half despite the Red Storm’s hustle.