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No. 6 Michigan stuns No. 3 Tennessee to reach first Sweet 16 in program history

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·3-min read

No. 6 Michigan is on to its first Sweet 16 in program history, while Tennessee's tournament skid continues.

The Wolverines upset No. 3 Tennessee, 70-55, in the River Walk region to advance and play the winner of No. 2 Baylor and No. 7 Virginia Tech. It was the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

Michigan advances to first Sweet 16

Michigan played in the second round for the fifth time in tournament history on Tuesday and successfully got through with a balanced scoring attack and strong defensive play.

The Wolverines opened it up in a 14-7 second quarter that pushed their lead to 28-19 at halftime. They won the third by eight points and kept Tennessee from any sniff of a comeback.

Naz Hillmon, who dropped 50 on Ohio State this season, led Michigan with a 19-point, 15-rebound double-double. Leigha Brown again led the way with 23 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals. Hailey Brown scored 14.

Michigan forward Naz Hillmon passes under pressure from Tennessee guard Jordan Walker during their game in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio on March 23, 2021. Michigan won 70-55. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Michigan forward Naz Hillmon passes under pressure from Tennessee guard Jordan Walker during their game in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio on March 23, 2021. Michigan won 70-55. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Michigan's season was halted for an extended period because of COVID-19. Those missed games likely pushed the Wolverines into a lower seed. The Big Ten as a whole appeared to be seeded lower than it should have after No. 5 Iowa also took it to No. 4 Kentucky early in their second-round contest. Iowa is in the top half of the River Walk region with No. 1 seed UConn.

Tennessee's dynamic backcourt duo of senior Rennia Davis and junior Rae Burrell couldn't get much going. Davis had 12 points and Burrell scored 10. The Lady Vols were 17 points below their season average.

Lady Vols tournament skid continues

Tennessee is one of the most storied programs in women's basketball history and has made the tournament all 39 times it's been played. That level of success extends to the Sweet 16.

Coming into 2021, the Lady Vols had missed the regional level only four times. The first was in 2009 when they lost as a No. 5 seed to Ball State in the first round of the tournament. They missed it in 2017 again as a No. 5 seed and the two tournaments following. They were also the No. 3 seed in 2018 when they were upset in the second round by No. 6 Oregon State.

With the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, it's now four tournaments in a row that they've been bounced early. The Lady Vols are 59-5 in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Tournament experience was lacking for the Lady Vols this season. Three players combined to give the team six games of tournament experience. It's also head coach and alumna Kelli Harper's first time heading Tennessee in March.

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