Tennessee survives St. Mary's 92-75
Updated: Monday March 19, 2001 2:55 AM
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Tennessee Lady Vols found out Sunday night that getting to the NCAA regional semifinals isn't as easy as it used to be.
Kara Lawson led five player in double digits with 17 points as top-seeded Tennessee beat St. Mary's 92-75 in the second round of the Mideast Regional after the Gaels gave the Vols their biggest scare ever on their home floor in this tournament.
The Lady Vols will meet fourth-seeded Xavier, which beat Clemson 77-62 earlier Sunday, on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.
"I'm just really pleased with how we responded to a team that would not go away," said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who has yet to miss a regional semifinal in the tournament's 20 years.
"March is all about survive and advance, and now obviously we're excited to be a part of the Sweet 16. But hopefully, it will not stop there."
Ninth-seeded St. Mary"s (26-6) came into the game having won its first-ever tournament game two days ago and on an 11-game winning streak, looking to make a name for the West Coast Conference program on the most historic court in women's basketball.
Tennessee (31-2) had never lost in 37 previous tournament games here and had beaten first- and second-round opponents by an average of 29.7 points.
But the Gaels refused to fold despite playing before their largest crowd ever. They led much of the first half and wouldn't let the Lady Vols seal the victory until the final minutes of the game.
"It's about time we received some respect," first-year coach Michelle Jacoby said.
"We're no longer a rising star in the West. It's our time, and we're going to try to continue to prove that next year."
Tennessee led by 49-41 at halftime and pushed the lead to 12 in the opening minutes before the Gaels started chipping away. They had Lady Vols center Michelle Snow clasping her hands in prayer on the sideline as they got as close as three twice, the last at 65-62 on a bucket by Triola Alexander at 13:27.
Then senior Semeka Randall took over for the Lady Vols. She drove to the basket, was fouled and hit both free throws and then hit a jumper to start a 7-2 spurt that pushed the lead to 72-62 midway through the half.
Randall had watched No. 2 seed Georgia lose at home earlier Sunday before coming to the arena and was determined to avoid a similar upset.
"It brought to my attention we can't take anything for granted. If we want to get to the Final Four, you have to play hard each minute, each second," Randall said. "You don't want those types of things to happen."
St. Mary's got within eight at 78-70 on a basket by Alexander at 6:29, but that was as close as the Gaels would get as the Lady Vols used their depth at the post position to push the lead to as much as 17 down the stretch.
"They don't quit, and they don't die," Lawson said of the Gaels. 'We knew that even though up eight-10 points, we were still going to have to keep playing hard to finish them off.'
Snow finished with 16 points, Ashley Robinson had 15, Randall 13 and Tasha Butts 10 for Tennessee.
Jacoby wanted a higher seed for St. Mary's, and the team played like it deserved it. With twins Jermisha and Jerkisha Dosty leading the way, St. Mary's led by as much as six points in the first half.
"That game as really fun to play," Jermisha Dosty said. "I think it was probably the most fun I have ever had on the basketball court."
The Lady Vols helped dig that hole by hitting only five of their first 16 shots to that point. But they barely missed again the rest of the way and hit 15 of their final 19 as they went on an 11-4 run to take the lead back for good at 27-26 on a jumper by Semeka Randall with 8:10 to go.
Tennessee kept rolling and outscored the Gaels 13-6 for a 49-41 lead at halftime.
Jermisha Dosty finished with 18 points for the Gaels, Jerkisha
Dosty had 17, Corrie Mizusawa 13 and Katie Davis 10.