2nd-half key for Vols

By Todd McMahon

It was as different as night and day, or as Tennessee head coach Pat Head Summitt put it, “it was two completely different halves.”

The Lady Volunteers (12-2) extinguished any hopes of an NIU (9-6) upset Friday night with a furious 11-0 run to open the second stanza and finished off the 78-61 triumph with a flurry of free throws.

Sparked by Nikki McCray (15 points), fourth-ranked Tennessee was able to recover from its 29-28 halftime deficit by bolting out to a 39-29 lead with 17:28 remaining.

The sophomore forward, who was held to two points in the first half, converted two layups off steals and an 18-foot basket to account for six of the 11 points in the game-deciding spurt.

“McCray set the tone in the early minutes of the second half with her defensive intensity, and she created some things for us,” Summitt said.

“The game was lost in the first couple minutes of the second half when their pressure got to us,” NIU head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said. “We completely folded in it.”

The Huskies also were hurt at the end by fouls (23) and remarkable free throw shooting by the Lady Vols. In the last 6:31 of the game, Tennessee converted on 15 of 16 from the charity stripe.

In the last two minutes, Dena Head and Tiffany Woosley were a combined 10-for-10 from the line.

“One thing that continually hurts us is our fouling,” Albright-Dieterle said. “From the floor, it’s a two-point game (28-27 Tennessee field goal advantage), and then we foul them, and they get 27 foul shots. It continues to be our Achilles heal.”