KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UTSports.com) -- After a sluggish first half, #1 seeded Tennessee took control and dominated the second half on the way to a 70-46 victory over 16-seed Northwestern State of Louisiana on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Senior Meighan Simmons, junior Isabelle Harrison and freshman Mercedes Russell all scored 12 points to led Tennessee's balanced scoring. Tennessee dominated the glass as the Lady Vols out rebounded the Demons, 47-27, led by Bashaara Graves' 12.
The Lady Vols (28-5) will take on the winner of the #8 St. Johns/#9 USC game, which will played later on Saturday. The winners will meet on Monday night at 9 p.m. The game will air on ESPN2.
Northwestern State (21-13) was led by Trudy Armstead, who also scored 12 points.
Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick coached the game after a bout with food poisoning which caused her to miss the team's morning shoot around. She sat on a stool at the Lady Vols bench for the entire first half before being more active on her feet in the second half.
Her return to normalcy coincided with the Lady Vols' success.
After NSU tied the game at 22 less than two minutes into the second half, the Lady Vols ripped off 12 consecutive points to take control of the game. The Lady Vols never let the Demons within double-figures for the final 16 minutes of the game.
Tennessee is now 51-1 in first and second round games of the NCAA Tournament. All-time Tennessee is 116-24 in the NCAA Tournament as the only team to play in all 33 years of the event.
At home, Tennessee is now 53-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament games including a 21-0 mark in the first round.
After making five of their first six shots to grab an 11-2 lead, the Lady Vols went 2-of-25 the rest of the first half and were clinging to a 22-20 lead at the intermission. Tennessee made just two baskets in the last 16 minutes of the first half. The Lady Vols had no baskets and four total points in the final eight minutes of the half.
Northwestern State never led Saturday, but the Lady Demons did tie the game 22-22 on a basket from 5-foot-2 guard Janelle Perez with 18:43 left. Tennessee responded with its 12-0 run and never trailed again.
Cierra Burdick started the spurt by sinking a jumper with 18:18 remaining. Harrison scored six points later in the run as Tennessee held Northwestern State scoreless for nearly five minutes.