MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- You could only hang with Tennessee for so long.
Tennessee moved a step closer to another appearance in the Final Four by taking control midway through the second half and advancing to the Mideast Region final with a 77-56 victory over Virginia.
The top seed, Tennessee built a 13-point halftime advantage before having the lead sliced to three with just under 12 minutes remaining. But the Lady Vols responded with a 20-3 run that Tamika Catchings capped with a jumper for a 67-47 advantage with 3:29 to play.
On the verge of its 12th Final Four appearance, Tennessee (31-3) will face either Notre Dame or Texas Tech in the regional final on Monday. The Lady Vols have captured six NCAA titles, last winning the championship in 1997-98, when they went 39-0.
Catchings, an All-American, scored a season-high 28 points to lead the Lady Vols, who improved to 67-12 all-time in the tournament.
Virginia (25-9), seeded fourth, was appearing in the "Sweet 16" for the first time in three seasons. The Cavaliers blew a 17-point lead in the second half en route to a shocking 52-46 loss to Tennessee in the East Regional final in 1996.
The Lady Vols asserted themselves from the outset, scoring the game's first eight points and opening a 15-2 advantage not even five minutes into the contest on a jumper by Semeka Randall.
Randall, who finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, made 1-of-2 free throws with 5:42 left before the intermission, extending the lead to 31-13. Virginia used a 12-7 surge to close to 38-25 at the break.
April McDivitt added 13 points for Tennessee, which shot 44 percent (28-of-63), held a 42-31 rebounding advantage and forced the Cavaliers into an astounding 27 turnovers.
The Cavaliers continued their momentum in the second half and were able to pull within 47-44 on a turnaround jumper by Schuye LaRue with 12:03 to play. But that was as close as they would get.
Catchings, Randall and Michelle Snow each had baskets to help the Lady Vols restore control. Catchings had seven points in the decisive burst that pushed the lead to 20 with under four minutes to play.
Svetlana Volnaya netted 18 points and LaRue had 10 for the Cavaliers, who shot 39 percent (20-of-51).