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Wednesday, March 26
Lady Vols are spreading the wealth

Scripps Howard News Service

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee women's basketball scoring column stands in total disarray.

What used to be neat and relatively predictable is becoming crowded and disorderly during the NCAA Tournament.

It's the Lady Vols' doing. The chaos is totally their fault.

And they are quite pleased.

"It's something I haven't been able to say in the past,'' senior forward Gwen Jackson said after Monday's 81-51 victory over Virginia in the second round of the Mideast Regional. "We're so balanced.''

Five double-figure scorers are at the head of UT's procession into the regional semifinals Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Trying to hold back the Lady Vols will be No. 4 seed Penn State. Colorado will play Villanova in the other semifinal.

Saturday's winners play Monday night for a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta.

Tennessee's double-figure scoring assembly has more than doubled since the regular season, when Jackson and Kara Lawson were well ahead of everyone with their output. The new order is as much a product of opportunity as it is necessity.

"They're not going to sit there,'' Jackson said, "and let Kara and I score 20 points.''

Now, sophomore forward Shyra Ely is out front with 17 points in each of the first two tournament victories.

Heretofore quiet scorers Brittany Jackson and Loree Moore suddenly are pushing forward and making more of a ruckus, too. They are averaging 11.5 and 11 points per game, respectively, for the tournament.

Gwen Jackson is averaging 12 points per tournament game and Lawson is bringing up the rear of the reconfigured group, averaging 10. The senior guard (team-high 10 assists) has been more of a server than a scorer.

Granted, it's just two games and two victories against overmatched opponents. But the scoring numbers, like the team, are heading in the right direction.

Ely has embraced her new role as a starter. Her scoring has been essential to fast starts in both games. She scored seven of UT's first 17 points last Saturday against Alabama State and nine of the first 11 against Virginia.

Undoubtedly, Ely will draw more defensive attention this weekend. That will be a scoring cue for Gwen Jackson.

"Any time you have two post players in double figures people are going to have to decide who they are going to guard,'' Gwen Jackson said.

The other noteworthy development has been a better distribution of the 3-point scoring.

In the past month, the Lady Vols' long-range shooting has been largely a Lawson production. In three games of seven or more team treys, the senior guard had six on two occasions and three in the other game.

In the tournament, Tennessee is 14-for-30 from 3-point territory and Lawson has just two.

Lawson was watching from the bench Monday when UT broke Virginia's spirit with four three-pointers over a three-minute span.

Brittany Jackson, who was shooting 31.9 percent on treys, is 5-for-8 (62.5 percent) in the tournament. Shanna Zolman, who scored four 3-pointers over the five games prior to the tournament, has matched that total in two tournament games.

Despite these encouraging developments, there are concerns. Lawson is shooting 5-for-18 from the field (27.8 percent) and the Lady Vols have committed 35 turnovers.

Of the two, assistant coach Holly Warlick is more worried about the turnovers.

"I think it's things we can correct,'' she said. "It's playing too fast.

As for Lawson's shooting, there's a crowd of Lady Vols covering for her.

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