Jackson has 26 points as Tennessee rips Green Bay in the first round of women’s NCAA Tournament

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Rickea Jackson scored 26 points and Tennessee rolled past Green Bay 92-63 in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament Saturday.

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Sarah Puckett added 14 points, Jewel Spear had 13 and reserve Tess Darby 11 for the sixth-seeded Lady Vols, who are the only team to participate in all 42 women’s NCAA Tournaments. It was the first game back in Raleigh, North Carolina for Tennessee coach Kellie Harper, who coached North Carolina State for four seasons from 2009-13.

“We were just so connected on the defensive end today and helping each other, talking,” Jackson said. “We were just doing everything because we knew that they’re a great efficient offensive team, and in order to beat them we would have to do that.”

Tennessee (20-12) will play either third-seeded North Carolina State or No. 14 seed Chattanooga on Monday for a spot in the Sweet 16 in Portland, Oregon.

Maddy Schreiber led 11th-seeded Green Bay (27-7) with 13 points, but the Phoenix remained without an NCAA Tournament victory since 2012 by suffering their most-lopsided loss of the season. Veteran coach Kevin Borseth gave a salute to teary-eyed fans as he walked off the court.

Tennessee reached the 20-win mark for the 47th time, including the fourth in Harper’s five seasons. The Lady Vols have been seeded lower than sixth only twice.

“For us to be able to get an easy win, that’s a big deal,” Harper said. “You’re watching the NCAA Tournament and you’re seeing upsets, and we didn’t want to be on that end of it.”

This marked Tennessee’s first game since nearly knocking off previously undefeated and No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in the Southeast Conference tournament semifinals March 9.

“They made everything,” Borseth said. “They shot really well. They were 70% in the second quarter.”

The impact from Tennessee’s interior size advantage was too much for Green Bay. The Lady Vols shot 58.3% from the field, with Jackson going 10-for-14.

“I feel like we just stayed within our offense, and we just know our plays so where the open person would be,” Jackson said. “I feel like we capitalized on their mistakes.”

The Phoenix had trouble at times finding open space for shots.

“They’re big girls,” Scheiber said. “They’re tough girls, so I think it was a little bit challenging when we got out there, but we played with them for a while.”

Tennessee held a 44-28 halftime lead, holding the Phoenix without a point for the last 5:53 of the half while scoring the final 11 points. The Vols scored 18 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, stretching their lead to 62-37.

The teams combined to make five of the first seven 3-pointers attempted. Green Bay went up 12-6 before the Volunteers built a 38-28 lead, with Spear collecting 11 points in the first 15 minutes.

“They switched up their defense on us, so I think our momentum with how we were first going at it kind of had to switch a little bit,” Schreiber said.

HOME COOKING

Tennessee center Tamari Key, a redshirt senior, is from the Raleigh suburb of Cary and she played in her home state for the first time in her college career. She scored seven points, her lowest total in an opening-round game in NCAA Tournament play.

“There’s so many great stories in women’s basketball,” Harper said. “I’ll be honest with you, bringing Tamari Key here to play in the NCAA Tournament is a great one, too.”

Key and other starters had limited second-half minutes because of the Lady Vols’ comfortable margin.

Green Bay’s roster was distinctly different. Every player is from Wisconsin or Minnesota.

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