Maryland stops Tennessee in Sweet 16
By Dan Fleser, Knoxville News-Sentinel
Dec 15, 2015 at 2:45 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (MCT) – First, Tennessee couldn't stop the turnovers.
Then, the Lady Vols couldn't deter Alyssa Thomas.
All that came to a halt was Tennessee's season.
Maryland drew the curtain on the Louisville Regional's top seed with a 73-62 Sweet 16 victory Sunday afternoon at KFC Yum! Center.
The fourth-seeded Terrapins (27-6) never trailed after the first minute and led by as many as 18 points in ending Tennessee's season short of the Women's Final Four for a sixth consecutive year.
Vols coach Holly Warlick said flatly afterward that Maryland was the better team. Forward Cierra Burdick echoed the sentiment.
"They just outwilled us," Burdick said. "They out-muscled us."
Thomas personified the Terrapins performance with a career-high 33 points and 13 rebounds. She served as the closer, scoring nine baskets in the second half. She scored six in row at one point, thwarting a Tennessee rally that whittled its deficit to 60-52 with 6:27 left.
In her final collegiate game, Tennessee's Meighan Simmons countered with 31 points, two short of her career high. The senior guard scored 19 after halftime, shooting five for nine from the floor and hitting seven free throws.
Yet she, like the rest of the Lady Vols, was left answering for what they didn't do.
"I would've thought we would have had a little bit more fight," Simmons said.
Fewer turnovers would've helped as well. Tennessee committed 22, and Maryland converted them into 19 points.
The Lady Vols came into the game averaging 16.4 turnovers per game. They were within two of that total by halftime.
The mistakes sprang from all points of the floor and throughout the roster _ everything from ball-handling mishaps to entry passes that would've benefited from a GPS device.
Burdick divided them evenly between forced and unforced, referring to some as "dumb."
"We were really nervous in the first half," she said. "We weren't playing our ball. We weren't being the attackers, the aggressors."
Maryland's size and strategy stopped the Lady Vols' inside scoring and splintered their team play. Even when they got to the rim, they missed four layups, along with another shots from close range.
"Considering we're an inside-out team, we really didn't know what to do when they took away our inside presence," Burdick said. "We've seen double (teams), but as far as not being able to get it inside, that was the first time we've seen that this year."
The Lady Vols rallied to within 31-23 late in the first half and had the ball. But then suddenly they didn't have it. Burdick lost control after gathering a rebound. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough snagged the loose ball and converted a layup.
Assistant coach Dean Lockwood's accounting of the damage included transition chances and a 17-9 disparity in second-chance points, which resulted from Maryland's 42-40 rebounding advantage.
"You have far too many holes in your boat," he said. "You have water pouring in and you can't bail fast enough to get it out."
The Lady Vols' turnovers added fuel to the Terrapins' transition game.
"When a team doesn't expect to have to get back and you're in the middle of the offensive action and you turn it over," Lockwood said. " ... you are going to get caught with your pants down around your ankles."
Other than Simmons, Tennessee's only other double-figure scorer was reserve Jasmine Jones with 11. The sophomore forward had 10 in the second half. She followed up her driving layup with 16:36 left by hustling to force a backcourt turnover, which caused UT's bench to erupt in celebration.
It was a nice moment. But, like everything else, it came to an end.