When Tennessee landed at the Oklahoma City airport last week, lots of great memories came flooding back for senior Taber Spani.
When Spani played for Metro Academy — a Missouri homeschool team — she visited Oklahoma City four straight years for the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships, winning one title.
“Oklahoma City's a great city,” Spani said. “I love it and I really appreciate all the hospitality. I just have some great memories here, and hopefully I'll make some more.”
Spani's Volunteers beat Oklahoma on Sunday to earn a spot in Tuesday's regional final against Louisville, with the winner advancing to the Final Four.
WALZ: ‘I DIDN'T SEE MY KIDS DO ANYTHING THAT WAS OUT OF LINE'
Louisville coach Jeff Walz made no apologies Monday for the physical nature of Sunday's upset victory over No. 1 Baylor.
“There's nothing better than when you get an email from a 63-year-old ex-coach who's telling me that I'm an embarrassment to the game because I told our kids to go out there and foul every time Brittney Griner touched the ball,” Walz said. “That was never told. That's not what we did. Our entire goal was to go out there and be vertical and get in her space and make sure she just couldn't turn, catch and shoot, because if you allow that you're not going to win.”
After the game Sunday, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey was extremely critical of the officials.
“I didn't see my kids do anything that was out of line,” Walz said. “I was proud of their effort. I thought we competed. I've always been told, and this is back to my 18 years of doing this and going to I've listened to clinics, listened to Rick Pitino, all the great coaches, Mike Krzyzewski, they always say, when you're going into battle and you're the underdog, you've got to throw the first punch.”
VOLS HOPE TO LIMIT 3-POINT SHOOTING
Louisville rode its blistering 3-point shooting — 16 of 25 from beyond the arc — to an 82-81 upset of Baylor in Sunday's regional semifinal.
“We're going to defend personnel, try to limit touches,” said Tennessee coach Holly Warlick. “We're going to defend by committee. We've done that all year. We're going to take a lot of pride in one-on-one defense.”
In the Volunteers' last two games, they've played prolific 3-point shooting teams and limited them well.
Oklahoma is the nation's 10th-ranked team in 3-point percentage; against Tennessee, the Sooners were 5 of 29.
In the Volunteers' second-round game, they faced Creighton, another team known for its strong 3-point shooting. The Bluejays hit only 4 of 22 shots from beyond the arc against Tennessee.
“We're well aware of their strengths, and obviously we're going to try to take them away,” Warlick said.
BIG EAST TOURNEY LOSS WAS TURNING POINT
Louisville senior Monique Reid said her team's 83-59 loss to Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament semifinals was a turning point in its season.
“We just got together as a team and practiced hard,” Reid said. “I mean, that's what we just started to believe in each other.”