published Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Lady Vols shooting for 53rd in a row

  • photo
    Tennessee center Nia Moore runs a gauntlet during practice Friday in Knoxville. Tennessee faces Northwestern State in a first-round game on Saturday.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee is ready to put its perfect NCAA women's basketball tournament home record on the line.

The Lady Vols (27-5) have won all 52 NCAA tournament games they've played on their home floor and will try to extend that streak today against No. 16 seed Northwestern State (21-12). No. 8 seed St. John's (22-10) meets No. 9 seed Southern California (22-12) in the other first-round game hosted by regional top seed Tennessee.

"I don't think we are paying it much mind," Lady Vols forward Cierra Burdick said. "I guess it's a great statistic for you all, but we're just focused on coming out and playing our game. We leave the statistics and the records for you all."

Northwestern State co-coach Brooke Stoehr played for a Louisiana Tech team that beat Tennessee 69-64 on Nov. 14, 1999, snapping a 41-game Lady Vols home winning streak. Stoehr, who was known as Brooke Lassiter at the time, said she's told her team about that game.

"What I didn't tell them was that there were about five WNBA players on that [Louisiana Tech] team," Stoehr quipped. "They didn't need to hear that."

Southern California tries to extend a six-game winning streak that includes a Pac-12 tournament title. The Women of Troy were 16-12 and unsure of their postseason status before going on this late surge that included a Pac-12 semifinal upset of Stanford.

"The fact that our season could be ending was looming over our head," USC forward Cassie Harberts said. "One game could be our last, and we knew what we had to do to even get a chance to get into the NCAA tournament."

Southern California is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. St. John's is making its fifth consecutive appearance.

USC "is a team that certainly got hot," St. John's coach Joe Tartamella said. "They're coming in hot. We know that. We also feel that we have all the tools necessary to match up."

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