The No. 1-seeded Lady Vols routed eighth-seeded Dayton 92-64 in the second round of the tournament Monday night.
Tennessee (32-2) earned its 28th appearance in the regional semifinals, playing 350 miles from home in Memphis on Saturday. The Lady Vols’ lone absence from the round of 16 in the tournament’s 29-year history came after last season’s loss to 71-55 to Ball State in the opening round.
And the Lady Vols are ready to prove that loss was an anomaly.
“I thought I could feel the energy in the locker room, and I mean they were wanting to get out on the court ASAP. With all that energy, I thought, they’re ready to play,” coach Pat Summitt said.
Alicia Manning scored a career-high 17 points and had 10 rebounds to lead Tennessee after fouling out of the opening-round game with two points. Manning was among five Lady Vols to hit double-digit scoring against Dayton.
“I felt like last game I kind of let the team down getting in foul trouble, so I definitely felt like I needed to pick it up and make up for what I didn’t do in the other game,” she said.
Tennessee will face either No. 4 Baylor or No. 5 Georgetown in Memphis.
Dayton (25-8), which rallied from an 18-point deficit in its 67-66 win over TCU in the first round, was tasked with playing only its second NCAA tournament game in front of about 10,000 orange- clad fans on the court named “The Summitt.”
A three-point play by Shekinna Stricklen launched a 17-2 scoring run for Tennessee. The Lady Vols had their way under the basket, hitting wide-open shots from the perimeter and slashing the lane to take easy layups.
Manning cut through the paint to hit a layup that gave Tennessee a 19-4 run with 13:31 left in the first half. Taber Spani, who hit her first seven shots, sank a smooth 3 from the sideline to push Tennessee’s lead to 23 points, and the Lady Vols entered halftime up 50-30.
“We knew we had to take away their inside game, so we were hoping they wouldn’t go crazy on us. And they went crazy on us,” Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. “I don’t know if they do that usually. If they do, you should raise the ticket prices because that’s some really good basketball.”
At the break, Tennessee led in every category except rebounds — something Summitt emphasized in the first-round game. two teams had 20 boards apiece at halftime.
But the Lady Vols didn’t need rebounds because they took care of the ball on offense and scored 13 points off seven Dayton turnovers in the first half.
Tennessee hit the first 10 points of the second half, and Manning reached her career high on a fast-break layup that put the Lady Vols ahead 73-44 with 12:11 left.
Justine Raterman led the Flyers with 17 points.
The Lady Vols hit 53.9 percent of their shots as their lead ballooned to 34 points off a layup by Glory Johnson with 14:59 left. The Flyers shot 41.5 percent from the floor.
The Flyers struggled nearly every time they reached their end of the court. They had at least a half-dozen airballs in the first half, and Tennessee blocked 10 shots — six by Kelley Cain.
And with 10 minutes to go, both Olivia Applewhite and Casey Nance had fouled out for Dayton.
“Offensively I thought we just looked nervous,” Jabir said. “Justine doesn’t shoot a lot of airballs and neither does Kendel (Ross). I think both of those guys had rim bypasses a couple of times.”