Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 21, 2010, when the Lady Govs took on the Lady Vols in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Govs fell to Pat Summitt’s team 75-42.
MARLON SCOTT | Senior Staff Writer
Throughout the postseason the Lady Govs have been overcoming one obstacle after another and junior guard Ashley Herring has been the key to their continued success.
First, the team defeated Tennessee Tech, who beat them on the road in the regular season by 19 points. Herring led the Lady Govs with 22 points in that game.
Second, the Lady Govs shut down Morehead State, the team who swept them in the regular season and featured OVC Player of the Year, Chynna Bozeman. Herring scored 21 points in that game a er an ankle injury suffered in practice.
Next, they overcame top seeded Eastern Illinois State to remain the Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Basketball Champions and earned a spot in the 29th Annual NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
Herring scored 15 points in the championship game, the second most on the team, and earned Tournament MVP honors. But the Lady Govs finally ran into an obstacle literally too big to overcome at Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, March 20, 2010.
The Lady Govs were defeated 42-75 by the Lady Vols. It was the seventh time a Lady Govs team made it to the NCAA Tournament, including the last two years in a row. But it was also the seventh time they were eliminated in the first round.
“Obviously we got o to a really slow start. We couldn’t get the ball to fall down,” said Lady Govs head coach Carrie Daniels. “That’s kind of been, throughout this season when the games have started that way. It’s been a rough go for our team.
“When we get going, get a quick basket we have been pretty good. We get a little more into our step. When you have a couple players step up and score for you and other players have a rough night shooting, it makes for a long night. at is the way it went for us today.”
From the opening tip it was clear the Lady Govs could not contend with the Lady Vols’ size. Lady Vol 6’6” sophomore center Kelley Cain wreaked havoc in the paint and her teammates gave her several opportunities.
“I thought we came ready to play,” said Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt. “We started out really strong then kind of gave in to fatigue and that is when you have to start coaching a little bit more. Kelley (Cain) has done a great job. Today, she really worked for the ball, and we were able to get the ball inside. You have to give our guards a lot of credit for getting her touches.”
Cain led her team with her sixth career double-double, 18 points and 12 rebounds. She was one of three Lady Vols who scored double digit points.
However, it was Herring who led all scorers with 21 points. Like she had been doing all post season, Herring provided a spark for her team.
Her 21 points were the second-most ever scored by a Lady Gov in an NCAA Tournament game. Brooke Armistead scored the most, 30 points, in 2003 against North Carolina.
“Tennessee is a great team. They are great competitors,” Herring said. “At the same time, we went in there with the mind set of this is going to be a competition for us. I don’t think it was intimidating. They outsized us, but at the same time, we were able to get points in the paint. I don’t think it was so much as intimidation as we did not play our game today.”
The first six and a half minutes of the game was all Lady Vols. Cain scored six of their first eight points, part of a Lady Vols 15-0 run.
Herring scored the first points for the Lady Govs at the 13:18 mark. The short putback was the first score in a six point run by Herring.
Battling in the paint, 5’10” sophomore center Jasmine Rayner added two points from the free throw line as the clock hit 10 minutes in the first period. Rayner spent most of the game playing fearlessly against Cain. She was one of only three Lady Govs to score in the first half. In addition, she led the team on the boards with six rebounds.
“All you can ask for is to go out there and play your hardest and give it your all,” Rayner said. “I mean it’s all or nothing; we had nothing to lose so we went out there and played.”
Unfortunately for the Lady Govs, their fearlessness did not translate into points. They finished the game shooting just 30 percent (16-of-53) from the eld. Normally potent scorers, senior forward Nicole Jamen and junior guard Brooke Faulkner, were held scoreless. Rayner finished with eight points and sophomore guard Whitney Hanley scored five.
The Lady Vols were never behind in the game and established the biggest lead, 73-35, with less than four minutes left in the game. They scored 23 points o of turnovers and put up 36 points in the paint. Despite being dominated, the Lady Govs played to the buzzer. Junior guard Salem Richardson scored the last two points for the Lady Govs from the free throw line with less than 30 seconds remaining.
“One thing we were not going to do was quit fighting until that final buzzer. We had to keep attacking and taking it to them, that was the main thing,” Daniels said.
“I was pretty disappointed that at halftime we were down only one rebound and then just got eight in the second half. But the main thing was we had to keep fighting.”