#18 Tennessee (25-8) vs. #4 Louisville (27-4)
Saturday, March 26th, 2022 | 3:00pm CT
Wichita, KS | Intrust Bank Arena | TV: ESPN2
Knoxville, TN – No. 18/17 Tennessee women’s basketball (25-8) returns to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the 35th time in history and for the first time since 2016.
Kellie Harper joins her college head coach Pat Summitt and college assistant coach Holly Warlick among UT skippers who’ve led the Big Orange into the Sweet 16, and she makes her second career appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals, having taken Missouri State in March 2019 before being hired at Tennessee that April.
Harper’s No. 4 seed Lady Vols will meet No. 4/4-ranked Louisville (27-4), the No. 1 seed in the Wichita Regional, on Saturday at 3:00pm CT (4:00pm ET) at INTRUST Bank Arena in downtown Wichita, Kansas. No. 3 seed Michigan (24-6) and No. 10 South Dakota (29-5) will match up on the other side of the bracket, tipping off approximately 30 minutes following the conclusion of the UT/UL contest.
The contest also will be available via NCAA broadcast partner Westwood One, with Phil Constantino and Kristen Kozlowski calling the action.
The broadcasts can be heard on Westwood One affiliates across the country and via satellite radio on SiriusXM channel 138 or 205 and on the SXM app on channel 968.
The Only School In All 40
The Lady Vols are enjoying their 40th appearance in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, and UT is the only program to appear in all 40 tournaments.
Tennessee was an at-large qualifier for the 2022 NCAA Tournament, finishing third in the SEC regular season for the third-straight season and bowing out in the semifinal round of the league tourney to No. 7 seed Kentucky, the eventual champion.
UT earned a No. 4 seed for only the second time ever and has a 5-1 record in that role after defeating Iowa, Georgia and LSU before falling to USC in the NCAA Final Four semifinals in 1986 in Lexington, Ky., and adding first- and second-round wins over Buffalo and Belmont in 2022.
The Lady Vols are 128-31 in NCAA Tournament play, and they rank first in games played (159) and victories (128) in NCAA tourney history.
Tennessee is second behind UConn in winning percentage at .805 in tourney play.
UT is 3-1 in NCAA play under Kellie Harper, making its first appearance with her at the helm in 2021 after the tourney was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global health pandemic.
UT has advanced to the NCAA regional round on 35 occasions now, owning a 28-6 mark in the Sweet 16.
The only seasons UT did not make the regional level were in 2009 and from 2017 to 2021. UT lost its opening round contest as a No. 5 seed to No. 12 Ball State in Bowling Green, Ky., in 2009. No. 5 seed UT lost its second-round game at No. 4 seed Louisville in 2017. No. 3 seed UT lost its second-round game to No. 6 seed Oregon State in Knoxville in 2018. No. 11 seed Tennessee fell to No. 6 seed UCLA in the first round at College Park, MD, in 2019. No. 3 seed UT dropped a 70-55 second-round decision to No. 6 seed Michigan in 2021.
UT has made the Elite Eight 28 times and in five of the past 10 tournaments, posting an 18-10 record in that round.
The Lady Vols have seen their season ended in the regional championship game in five of the past 10 years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016).
UT has advanced to 18 NCAA Final Fours and won eight of them (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008), ranking second to UConn.
Tennessee has finished second in the nation five times and third on five more occasions.
In facing Buffalo and then Belmont, UT played its 89th and 90th different opponents during all rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Harper NCAA History As A Coach
Kellie Harper is making her seventh overall NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach and second with UT. She also went to the tourney four other times as an assistant coach.
This marks her second Sweet 16 appearance, following a 2019 trip with Missouri State.
Last year’s Lady Vol squad was a No. 3 seed, marking her highest seeded team in the NCAA Tournament. That group advanced to the NCAA Second Round before exiting. This year’s seeding is the second highest of her career.
Kellie Harper is 5-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach, including 3-1 while at Tennessee.
She is 2-0 at home (2-0 while at UT), 1-2 away and 2-4 at neutral sites (1-1 while at UT).
She is 3-4 in NCAA First-Round games (1-0 at home/0-2 away/2-2 neutral), 2-1 in NCAA Second-Round games (1-0 at home/1-0 away/0-1 neutral) and 0-1 in the Sweet 16 (0-0 home/0-0 away/0-1 neutral).
After the 2020 tourney was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harper led Tennessee to the tournament a year ago, finishing 1-1. The Lady Vols beat Middle Tennessee, 87-62, in the opening round in Austin, Texas, before falling to Michigan, 70-55, in the second round in San Antonio.
Harper’s previous entries fell in first-round match-ups: #16 Western Carolina at #1 Tennessee in 2005, #13 Western Carolina vs. #4 Vanderbilt in Albuquerque in 2009, #9 NC State vs. #8 UCLA at Minneapolis in 2010, and #13 Missouri State at #4 Texas A&M in 2016.
Harper’s Staff Experience
In addition to this being Kellie Harper‘s seventh NCAA Tournament berth as a head coach and 11th occasion overall including time as an assistant (Chattanooga-3, Auburn-1), UT’s coaching staff has plenty of postseason experience.
UT assistant coach Jon Harper has been on his spouse’s staff for all of seven of her NCAA appearances, including Western Carolina (2), NC State (1), Missouri State (2) and Tennessee (2). He also went as an assistant at Chattanooga (3) for 10 total.
First-year Lady Vol assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Samantha Williams has gone to 17 NCAA Division I Tournaments as part of staffs at Auburn (1), DePaul (3), Duke (4), Louisville (8), and Tennessee (1).
First-year Lady Vol assistant Joy McCorvey has gone to six NCAA Tournaments as part of staffs at St. John’s (1), Michigan (2), Florida State (2) and Tennessee (1).
Williams Familiar On Both Benches
UT’s Samantha Williams finds herself on the opposite bench from the previous two meetings between Tennessee and Louisville.
Williams was on Jeff Walz’s staff at UL from 2011-19, helping build that program with her coaching and recruiting efforts.
Williams and Louisville advanced to the Final Four in 2013 after defeating Baylor and Britney Griner, 82-81, and then Tennessee, 86-78, in the Oklahoma City Regional.
In 2017, the Cardinals held off the Lady Vols, 75-64, in a second-round match-up in Louisville.
Among other staff members, Williams worked alongside assistant Sam Purcell, who was recently named head coach at SEC school Mississippi State and will be a regular opponent of Williams and company.
During the postseason (SEC and NCAA Tournament), Tennessee has a trio of players leading the charge from a scoring standpoint.
Alexus Dye is heading that group with 20.0 ppg. and 11.5 rpg. while shooting 57 percent from the field.
Dye, Burrell and Key are all over their individual season scoring averages of 10.2, 11.8 and 10.7 ppg.
Jordan Walker has dished out 25 assists vs. seven turnovers and at 5-foot-8 matches the 6-1 Burrell and 6-6 Key for rebounds at 5.5 while tallying 6.8 ppg.
Recapping The Last Game
No. 18/17 Tennessee advanced to the Sweet 16 on Monday night, defeating in-state foe Belmont in Thompson-Boling Arena, 70-67.
It will be the Big Orange’s 35th trip to the Sweet 16 and first since 2016. Lady Vol head coach Kellie Harper will be taking her second team to that stage, having led Missouri State to the 2019 Sweet 16 before being hired by UT after the season.
The fourth-seeded Lady Vols (25-8) were led by graduate Alexus Dye who posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Tamari Key and freshman Sara Puckett were also in double figures with 18 and 12, respectively. Puckett hit a corner-three with just under 18 seconds remaining to put the Lady Vols ahead for good.
Destinee Wells was the high scorer for the 12th-seeded Bruins (23-8) with 22, while Madison Bartley contributed 16.
Notables From Our Last Contest
Graduate Alexus Dye recorded her fourth straight double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Belmont. She’s managed a double-double in all four of UT’s postseason games thus far.
TK On Top
With three blocks against the Bruins, Tamari Key rose to the top of Tennessee’s career blocks list, moving her total to 276 to pass Candace Parker (275). She did so in a shorter amount of time, needing 89 games to Parker’s 110. Earlier this season, Key also took down the UT season record that was previously held by Kelley Cain.
Puckett Gets Bucketts
Freshman Sara Puckett hit a clutch 3-pointer in the closing seconds to secure the win for Tennessee and move her total for the day to 12 points. It’s her seventh game with 10+ points on the season and first since logging 10 against Arkansas on Jan. 31.
Taking Care Of Business
Tennessee committed just nine turnovers against Belmont, the fewest of any game this season. It is the first time a UT team has posted single-digit turnovers since December 18th, 2018, when the Lady Vols turned it over just eight times against Stanford.
This marks the fifth meeting in a series that dates back to only 2009, with Tennessee and Louisville deadlocked at 2-2.
UT and Louisville are meeting for the third time in the postseason, with the Cards holding a 2-0 advantage in those contests.
Louisville, with current UT assistant Samantha Williams on staff, defeated Tennessee for the first time in three meetings, 86-78, in the 2013 NCAA Elite Eight in Oklahoma City to advance to the Final Four.
Williams was still onboard in 2017 when the Cardinals knocked UT out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round in Louisville by a 75-64 count.
The initial meeting between the Lady Vols and Cards came on December 16th, 2009, as the No. 3/3 Big Orange raced to a 30-point victory by an 86-56 margin in Knoxville.
Tennessee is 1-0 this season vs. ACC foes, getting a solid win in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech, 64-58, on December 5th.
All-time, the Lady Vols are 112-29 vs. schools currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
During postseason play, Tennessee possesses a 17-6 mark against the ACC.
Kellie Harper is 1-1 all-time vs. Louisville, defeating the Cardinals in Cullowhee, NC, 77-72, while head coach at Western Carolina on November 17th, 2007, and falling to the Cards, 91-49, on December 3rd, 2013, in Louisville during her tenure at Missouri State.
A Look At Louisville
Louisville is led by the trio of Hailey Van Lith (14.0 ppg.), Kianna Smith (11.9 ppg.) and Emily Engstler (11.7 ppg., 9.1 rpg.). Smith (59), Van Lith (43) and Engstler (29) are notable three-point threats.
The Cardinals have a scoring margin of +17.4 (72.39-53.58) and out-shoot foes 45.8-36.3 pct. on field goals and 72.1-70.6 pct. on free throws.
The squad has recorded 306 steals and forced 587 turnovers by foes on the season, for averages of 9.9 and 19.3.
About Louisville Head Coach Jeff Walz
Jeff Walz is in his 15th season as the head coach at Louisville and has a 412-112 record there.
Walz claims 10 trips to the NCAA Sweet 16, six visits to the Elite Eight and three Final Fours, with a pair of runner-up finishes.
Louisville’s Last Game
Hailey Van Lith scored 21 points. and Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16 after a 68-59 win over Gonzaga on Sunday night in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
Van Lith, who made 8 of 17 shots, was one of four Louisville players in double figures. Emily Engstler overcame a 3-for-13 shooting performance to post 12 points, 11 rebounds and five steals. Kianna Smith scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half, and Olivia Cochran added 11 on 5-of-8 shooting.
Last Time These Teams Met
Jaime Nared had 28 points and 11 rebounds and Mercedes Russell added 11 points and 13 boards, but Tennessee could not survive Louisville’s fourth-quarter surge as the No. 5 seed Lady Vols fell to the No. 4 seed Cardinals, 75-64, in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at the KFC Yum! Center.
Tennessee (20-12) held a 47-46 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Lady Vols missed their first 12 shots of the final 10 minutes of the game while Louisville (29-7) swung momentum in its favor.
Nared’s 28 points were the most she has ever scored in an NCAA Tournament game and her 11 boards tied for her most in NCAA play.
Russell logged her 19th double-double of season and had three assists and two blocks. Diamond DeShields added 15 points.
Asia Durr led the way for Louisville with 23 points, while Mariya Moore added 19.