3-seed Lady Vols fall to 1-seed Louisville in Sweet 16
WICHITA, Kan. - Senior Rae Burrell poured in a season-high 22 points for Tennessee, but it wasn't enough to overcome Louisville in a hard-fought NCAA Sweet 16 setback Saturday at INTRUST Bank Arena, 76-64.
Graduate Jordan Walker joined Burrell in double figures for No. 4 seed UT (25-9), finishing with 10 on the day. Junior Tamari Key led UT in rebounds with 10.
No. 1 seed Louisville (28-4) was led by Hailey Van Lith and Emily Engstler, who had 23 and 20, respectively. Kianna Smith was also in double digits with 12.
Alexus Dye got UT on the board first, hitting a turnaround jumper from six feet out. Both teams started hot, with Tennessee hitting three straight jumpers and UL answering all three on the other end before back-to-back treys by Louisville put the Cardinals up 10-6 at the 5:16 mark. Walker responded with a layup for Tennessee, but Louisville kept up its hot shooting, launching into a 6-0 run that moved the score to 16-8 with just over two minutes left in the first. Kaiya Wynn ended the drought with a layup, and Burrell added a three as time ran down, with the teams swapping threes before the buzzer for a score of 19-13 after one.
Engstler opened the scoring in the second with another three and Van Lith followed it up with a layup to give UL an 11-point advantage less than a minute into the quarter. The Cardinals stretched its lead to 14 before Dye scored UT's first points of the quarter with 7:09 left in the half. That set off an 8-2 run that pulled the Lady Vols back within 10 just over a minute later. Van Lith scored on a fast-break layup with 4:09 to play and added a free throw 30 seconds later. Burrell countered with a jumper on the other end, and the teams traded buckets through the end of the half, with Karoline Striplin hitting a 10-foot jumper at the buzzer to send Tennessee into the locker room trailing 39-28.
Burrell hit a layup just five seconds into the third quarter, kicking off an 8-3 run that pulled UT within seven just 40 seconds later. Van Lith put the Cardinals back up by 10 at the 7:16 mark, but a three by Tess Darby and a steal and score by Walker on the next two possessions whittled the deficit down to five with 6:32 to go in the third. Louisville rallied back to lead by double digits by the 3:04 mark, but Burrell closed out the period with a jumper and a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into the fourth with the Lady Vols within five at 55-50.
Tennessee crept within two just seconds into the final stanza when Dye converted on an old-fashioned three-point play, but Engstler and Kianna Smith rallied the Cardinals with eight straight points to stretch the lead back out to 10 with 6:38 left in the game. Burrell responded for the Lady Vols, hitting a 10-foot jumper and then turning a steal into a layup on the next play for a score of 63-57 at the media timeout. Engstler hit the second of a pair of free throws following the break, but Burrell knocked down a contested layup on her next trip down the court to pull UT back within five with just over four to play. Tennessee kept the deficit at five through the 3:26 mark, but a jumper by Van Lith set off a 6-1 UL run that had the Cardinals back on top by 10 with under two to go, and the Lady Vols couldn't close the gap, falling 76-64 in Wichita.
NCAA BY THE NUMBERS: Tennessee, the only team to appear in all 40 NCAA Tournaments, exits the 2022 NCAA Tournament with an all-time record of 128- 32, having advanced the Sweet 16 on 35 occasions. UT's record in the Sweet 16 is 28-7.
OWNING THE GLASS: The Lady Vols out-rebounded the Cardinals 52-36, marking the 15th time this season Tennessee pulled down 50+ boards. It was the 33rd time during Kellie Harper's tenure the Lady Vols grabbed 50 or more boards.
WINNING WAYS: With 25 wins during the 2022 season, Kellie Harper tied her career high during her 18 seasons as a head coach. She has now led two programs to Sweet 16 appearances and is one of just four coaches to take four different programs to an NCAA Tournament.