LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As the game turned: Following yet another slow start, the Lady Vols found themselves clawing to get back into Sunday's Sweet 16 showdown with Maryland.
After trimming the Lady Terrapin lead down to nine with 7:44 remaining – the first time Tennessee had trailed by only single-digits sincew the 3:34 mark left of the first half – Maryland forward Alyssa Thomas hit a jump shot to extend the lead back to 11.
The Lady Vols would manage to scrap within single-digits two other times in the closing period, but each time Maryland – Thomas in particular – had an answer.
The final blow came when Thomas found a wide open Laurin Mincy on the wing. Mincy's 3-pointer gave the Lady Terrapins a double-digit lead for good, dashing Tennessee's hopes of advancing to the Elite Eight.
Spotlight: Despite Simmons missing out on her last chance to appear in a Final Four, she didn't go out quietly and brought UT within a single-digit deficit in the second half after trailing by as many as 18 points.
In between the 11:44 and 8:36 marks in the second half, she scored 11 points with the Lady Vols desperately needing to fight back in the game.
In the last 11:44 of the game, she scored 19 of her team-high 31 points, as she attacked the basket and was a constant at the free-throw line, while knocking down shots from behind the three-point arc as well.
"She is going to compete every time that she is inside those lines," said junior forward Cierra Burdick. "She is going to go on and do some great things and represent the Lady Vol program in great ways. She is probably one of the greatest scorers to play the game, and we are going to miss her."
The Cibolo, Texas native finished the game 9-of-22 from the field while connecting on 4-of-8 from 3-point range and sunk nine of her ten free throws. Her scoring output marked the fourth time in her career she scored over 30 points in a game.
"The next goal for her is to get her degree," Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick said. "Meighan works at her game and I think she will be a very good professional whether it's in the WNBA or overseas. She has a great ability to shoot the basketball. She will continue to be a professional and be tough. She had a great career and she will continue her effort at the next level."
Simmons finishes with 2,064 points in her career, just 49 points behind Lady Vol great Tamika Catchings.
The other guys: Thomas hit 14 of her 25 shots from the field, en route to a 33-point day. She also had a team-high 13 rebounds to go along with three assists.
"We wanted to limit her touches and wanted to force her right and keep her off the boards," Warlick said. "She came up with big rebounds when they needed them. We didn't have an answer for her. She just had a great night and you understand why she is an All-American."
Thomas, along with her teammates, were able to hold Tennessee's post combination of Isabelle Harrison and Bashaara Graves to just 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting.
"Our post players did a phenomenal job at limiting them," Thomas said. "We got them in foul trouble early on and played with a lot of physicality. We also kept them from getting second chance opportunities."
Outside the box score: The Lady Vols streak of three consecutive Elite Eight appearances came to an end on Sunday with their loss to Maryland.
Say something: Maryland head coach Brenda Frese on Thomas: "When you have Alyssa coming down the court, it's like you have Lebron leading your team to the hoop."
By the numbers:
82: The Lady Vols won 82 percent of their game during Simmons' career.
11: Jasmine Jones scored 11 points off the bench for the Lady Vols, her fourth game in double figures this season.
3: For just the third time this season, Tennessee was outworked on the glass. Maryland outrerbounded the Lady Vols 42-40.