Mar 2, 2012, Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Lady Vols players celebrate after defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second round of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. The Lady Vols beat the Commodores 68-57. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-US Presswire.

Lady Vols: Tennessee vs. UT-Martin : Round One Preview

This feature on the Lady Vols first round game against UT-Martin is a guest contribution by Paxson Spears. 

The Lady Vols (24-8, 12-4 SEC) enter this year’s tournament as the only team to make all 31 NCAA Women’s Tournaments since its founding in 1982. Coming off a brilliant showing in Nashville, the Big Orange looks to build on what could be quite a magical run. Standing in the way in round one however is quite the familiar foe, the UT-Martin Skyhawks of the Ohio Valley Conference (23-8, 15-1 OVC). Although they have only met 3 times in the last 15 years, the Lady Vols hold a significant 13-2 record over the Lady Skyhawks, including 13 straight. Not to mention the fact that a certain Lady Vol coach played her college basketball in Martin.

As most Lady Vol fans know, Coach Summitt is a UT-Martin alumni and player her collegiate career there. What you may not know is that there is more than one basketball court named “The Summitt.” The Lady Skyhawks also play on “The Summitt,” which they refer to as Pat “Head” Summitt Court. There is indeed a strong connection between the two schools, when you also throw into account that 9 of the 12 UTM players are from the state of Tennessee.

UTM is coming off of an OVC Regular Season and Tournament championship, making it 2 straight titles at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. The Lady Skyhawks also we’re seeded #15 last season and lost to #2 seed Duke in the first round. Here’s som UTM Bullet Points to consider:

  • 23-8 record OVC Regular Season/Tournament Champions
  • Very young team with 8 sophomores and only 1 senior
  •  Sophomores Heather Butler, Jasmine Newsome, and Jaclissa Haislip lead the team with 24.1, 19.9, and 10.2 ppg respectively
  •  Haislip Also leads the team in Rebounding with 6.4 per game
  •  As a team, shot 38.9% from 3-pt range, led by Butler who is a 43.5% Shooter from behind the arc

There’s no doubt that this team not only has had a great season, but a bright future. Lone Sr. Taylor Hall is a key contributor with a 7.8 point 3.5 rebound average, but there is no denying that this team is very reliant on its youth.

The Lady Vols coming off of its record 16th SEC Tournament Championship look to make their usual push into March. Riding a 4 game winning streak, including the 3 important wins in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to earn the crown, Tennessee looks to improve this already fantastic season. The great thing about “March Madness” is that anything can happen, but what are some ways Tennessee can keep the unthinkable from going down.

Keys to Victory: 

Lady Vol defenders must know where Heather Butler is at all times: She is by far the biggest perimeter threat for the Lady Skyhawks, and given the opportunity could make Tennessee pay from behind the arc.

The battle on the block between Glory Johnson and Jaclissa Haislip: Glory averages 14 points and 9 boards a game, giving her the edge against Haislip. The Lady Vols will need a big game offensively and defensively from the SEC Tournament MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

The Advantage of Experience: The Lady Vols must use their experience, not only the edge of having 5 seniors, but also the fact that this is only UTM’s 2nd NCAA tournament appearance ever.

This game should simple be a matter of Tennessee taking care of business and advancing to the second round.

Tip-off is Saturday March 17, at 3:10 pm it should be a historic day for women’s basketball throughout the entire state of Tennessee!

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