(1) Tennessee 77, (16) Colgate 54
March 20, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Ashley Robinson had a big game at the right time for Tennessee.
Robinson had 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in 22 minutes, helping the top-seeded Lady Vols begin their quest for a seventh national title with an easy 77-54 victory over Colgate in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.
``When she plays at that level, we are a team that can go to another level,'' coach Pat Summitt said. ``This is an athlete we are going to continue to see.''
Robinson bounced back from a disappointing effort in the SEC tournament semifinals against Georgia two weeks ago, when she scored only two points in a 68-66 overtime loss.
With the 6-foot-5 Robinson leading the way, the Lady Vols (27-3) used their height advantage and depth to build a 46-24 halftime lead. Tennessee advanced to play DePaul -- an 83-46 winner over George Washington -- on Monday in the Midwest Regional.
``We knew we were outmatched, undersized,'' Colgate coach Beth Combs said. ``But we had to stick to what we knew our players were confident in. We did what's worked for us all year.''
Robinson scored 11 first-half points and forced Colgate's shooters to change their shots.
``I just wanted to play well on the offensive end today because I usually do a pretty good job on the defensive end,'' she said. ``I feel like the last few games I haven't played up to my potential.''
Tyesha Fluker and Sidney Spencer each added 12 points and Shanna Zolman 11 for the Lady Vols, who shot 48.6 percent for the game.
Tennessee has been in the NCAA tournament every year since it began in 1982. Though the Lady Vols have won a record six national titles, they are going for their first one since 1998.
Against Colgate, it never really was a contest. Tennessee opened a 29-14 lead 10 minutes into the game and took a 22-point halftime lead after shooting 55.6 percent in the first half. Meanwhile, the 16th-seeded Raiders (21-10) shot 20.6 percent after making just seven of 34 shots.
``We didn't shoot well, which had a lot to do with the tremendous defense of Tennessee,'' Combs said.
Colgate, which earned an automatic bid out of the Patriot League, ended the game shooting 25.7 percent and had 12 of its shots blocked. Milaina Lagzdins led the Raiders with 13 points and Malissa Burke added 10.
``Coach just told us to keep going at it stronger and stronger,'' Colgate's Emily Braseth said. ``If they block it, just take it up stronger. We knew what we had to do.''
Tennessee twice led by as many as 28 in the second half.
The NCAA tournament committee picked Tennessee as the top overall team despite losses to Connecticut and Texas at home and in the semifinals of the SEC tournament. But they were sent on the road for the first time for a first-round NCAA game.
That did not matter to the Lady Vols or their orange-clad fans, who dominated an otherwise sparce crowd of 2,287 in Florida State's 12,000-seat home arena.
Summitt said being on the road made her team even more committed to playing well.
``They were on top of it,'' Summitt said. ``That just speaks to their focus. They knew it was the postseason.''