OKLAHOMA CITY —
Tennessee’s offense was completely broken. The Lady Vols were unable to run their offensive sets due to the Cardinals defensive pressure. The Vols appeared befuddled over what to do about it.
Louisville pushed its lead to 41-26 by the half.
The Cardinals beat Baylor by drilling 16-of-25 from behind the arc. However, they made only four in the first half against Tennessee and still led by 15.
Once Louisville started making its 3-pointers, the climb back into contention became much tougher for Tennessee.
Still, the Lady Vols cut a 19-point deficit to six by playing hard nosed defense, holding the Cardinals to one shot and getting to the free throw line.
As the fouls mounted against the Cardinals, so did the frustration. Bria Smith fouled out with 5:56 left in the game.
The Lady Vols cut the lead to three points and had a chance to tie the game on a Taber Spani 3-pointer with 4:06 remaining. It was off the mark and it turned out to be the only attempt Tennessee had to pull even.
Monique Reid was fouled getting the defensive rebound, knocked down both her free throws and pushed the lead back to five points.
The threat was over.
Smith applauded her coach.
“I think it starts with our leader,” she said. “He believes in us and we believe in him. After watching that ESPN documentary on N.C. State, it put fire in our eyes.”