Lady Vols basketball left no doubts about who it will be in March.
Tennessee put the game away early in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Saint Louis on Saturday. After the Billikens brought the game within three points at the beginning of the second quarter, Tennessee took over and built a 24-point lead by halftime. The fourth-seeded Lady Vols beat the 13th-seeded Billikens 95-50 at Thompson-Boling Arena. All 13 active Tennessee players entered the game and scored.
Tennessee (24-11) was led by it’s senior duo of Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson. Horston had 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jackson had 18 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Tennessee advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and will face No. 12 Toledo (29-4), which upset No. 5 Iowa 80-73, on Monday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
WAITING TO DECIDE: Jordan Horston hasn’t made decision about fifth year with Lady Vols basketball or WNBA Draft
YOUNG POSTS STEP UP: How Karoline Striplin and Jillian Hollingshead grew into Tamari Key’s role for Lady Vols
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Why Lady Vols basketball can – and can’t – reach March Madness’ Final Four
Jordan Walker and Tess Darby also scored in double figures for Tennessee. Walker had 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Darby scored 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting behind the arc.
Lady Vols come alive in second quarter
Saint Louis’ high ball pressure was getting to Tennessee in the first quarter. It had four turnovers and the Billikens were rebounding well.
The Lady Vols only led by five points after the first, and Saint Louis cut the lead to three points to start the second. The Billikens ended with nine offensive rebounds in the first half, but Tennessee was able to keep them from scoring second-chance points.
But the Lady Vols turned the tide quickly, holding Saint Louis scoreless for the last 6:35 of the half. In that time, Tennessee went on a 21-0 run, building a 24-point lead at halftime. The Lady Vols outscored the Billikens 28-9 in the second quarter.
Tennessee has strong showing on defense
The Lady Vols came out of halftime ready to end the game. Walker scored the first points of the third quarter off a steal-and-score and Jackson followed it up immediately with a steal-and-score off the Saint Louis inbounds pass.
Tennessee found success with its full-court press early in the game when it was still close. But it was the Lady Vols’ 13 steals that deflated Saint Louis, and halfway through the third quarter it was missing every 3-pointer it desperately let fly.
Saint Louis scored the most in the third quarter with 17 points, but Tennessee held it to nine points in the second and fourth quarters. The Billikens shot 32.8% overall and 15% from behind the arc.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Lady Vols basketball opens March Madness with 45-point win vs Saint Louis