Jackson scores 26 points as Tennessee dominates Green Bay in the opening round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Rickea Jackson led the charge with 26 points as Tennessee cruised past Green Bay 92-63 in the opening round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Sarah Puckett contributed 14 points, while Jewel Spear added 13 and reserve Tess Darby chipped in with 11 for the sixth-seeded Lady Vols, who hold the distinction of being the only team to participate in all 42 women’s NCAA Tournaments. This game marked a return to Raleigh for Tennessee coach Kellie Harper, who previously coached North Carolina State from 2009-2013.

“We were incredibly cohesive defensively today, communicating and supporting each other,” remarked Jackson. “We understood the strength of our opponent’s offense, and we knew that to secure the win, we had to excel in every aspect.”

The road ahead gets tougher as Harper and Tennessee (20-12) gear up to face third-seeded North Carolina State (28-6) on Monday for a spot in the Sweet 16 in Portland, Oregon. The Wolfpack advanced after defeating Chattanooga 64-45 in the second game.

Maddy Schreiber led 11th-seeded Green Bay (27-7) with 13 points, but the Phoenix suffered their most lopsided loss of the season, failing to secure an NCAA Tournament victory since 2012. Head coach Kevin Borseth acknowledged the fans with a heartfelt salute as he exited the court.

Tennessee achieved its 47th 20-win season, including the fourth under Harper’s tenure, with this victory. The Lady Vols have been seeded lower than sixth only twice.

“To secure a convincing win is significant,” Harper emphasized. “We’re witnessing upsets in the NCAA Tournament, and we were determined not to be on the receiving end of one.”

This game marked Tennessee’s return to action since their close encounter with previously undefeated and No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals on March 9.

“They were on fire,” noted Borseth. “Their shooting was exceptional, especially in the second quarter where they shot 70%.”

Tennessee’s dominance in the paint was evident, as they shot 58.3% from the field, with Jackson leading the charge at 10-for-14.

“We stayed disciplined within our offensive sets, capitalizing on their defensive lapses,” added Jackson.

Green Bay struggled at times to find open looks.

“They had size advantage, and they were physically tough,” remarked Schreiber. “It made it challenging for us, but we hung in there for a while.”

Tennessee took a commanding 44-28 lead into halftime, holding Green Bay scoreless for the final 5:53 of the half and tallying the last 11 points. They extended their lead to 62-37 with 18 points in the opening five minutes of the third quarter.

The teams combined for five 3-pointers in the early stages of the game, with Green Bay leading 12-6 before Tennessee took control with a 38-28 advantage, fueled by Spear’s 11 points in the first 15 minutes.

“They adjusted their defense, forcing us to change our approach,” explained Schreiber.

Tennessee center Tamari Key, a redshirt senior hailing from the Raleigh suburb of Cary, played in her home state for the first time in her college career, contributing seven points. Key and other starters saw limited minutes in the second half due to the Lady Vols’ comfortable lead.

In contrast, Green Bay’s roster comprised entirely of players from Wisconsin or Minnesota.

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