Lady Vols pull away in final 6 minutes to beat Green Bay

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Tennessee flirted with an ugly end to a disappointing season before a freshman led the Lady Vols out of trouble and to another NCAA Tournament victory.

Te’a Cooper scored 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting and Tennessee pulled away in the final six minutes to beat Wisconsin-Green Bay 59-53 in the opening round Friday.

“I was really ready to play,” the 5-foot-8 guard said. “I think I prepared well with coach Holly (Warlick) and with assistant coach Dean (Lockwood) with the scout report and watching film before the game. So I was ready and focused and I was in tune.”

The seventh-seeded Lady Vols (20-13) used a 10-0 run to take control in the final minutes after trailing much of the game. No. 10 seed Green Bay (28-5) went 6:07 without scoring after taking a 49-48 lead with 6:11 to play.

Tennessee improved to 28-1 all-time in first-round NCAA play and advanced to Sunday’s second-round contest against No. 2 seed Arizona State.

Diamond DeShields added 14 points but on 4-of-14 shootings. She scored eight points in the first quarter but was just 1-for-7 after that. Mercedes Russell scored eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Lady Vols.

Allie LeClaire scored 14 points, Kaili Lukan 12 and Jessica Lindstrom 11 for the Phoenix.

Green Bay, the Horizon League regular season and tournament champion, led by as many as eight points in the first half and five in the second.

The bigger Lady Vols finally began to exert control inside and caught the Phoenix at 40-40 on Cooper’s driving layup with 1:50 left in the third quarter.

After that, there were nine lead changes in a 5 1/2-minute span. Lukan’s layup gave Green Bay its final lead, 49-48, then the freshman Cooper sank a jumper with 5:50 to go to put the Lady Vols ahead for good 50-49.

It started a 10-0 run that put the game away for Tennessee. DeShields capped the surge with a pair of free throws that made it 58-49 with 21 seconds to play.

“I think we knew we just had to stay composed no matter what happened,” Russell said, “and then on the defensive end we had to really get big stops every time they came down the court. And then on the offensive side, we just had to convert and execute in our plays.”

The Lady Vols, who finished tied for seventh in the SEC and had their worst NCAA seed in school history, clinched their 40th consecutive 20-win season.

Warlick called it one of Cooper’s best games.

“Our defense, getting up and pressuring, finally made a difference,” the coach said, “and it started with Te’a. And she was aggressive and she played under control. I think during the season at times, she would play a little bit out of control. But high school to college, it is difficult, and I think just right now she’s understanding what she can and can’t do.”

The smaller Phoenix outrebounded Tennessee 40-38 and had a 30-22 advantage in points in the paint. But Green Bay, which relies on long-range shooting for its strength, was just 3-for-17 on 3s. Tesha Buck was 0-for-11 from the field, 0-for-8 on 3-pointers.

“We had really good looks and didn’t make them,” Phoenix coach Kevin Borseth said. “That’s usually what our forte is.”

The Phoenix were up 38-33 after Lindstrom sank two free throws with 5:11 left in the third quarter. But Cooper sank a 15-footer, then converted a three-point play and it was tied at 38-38 with 2:40 left.

There were four lead changes in the final 1:08 of the quarter with Mehryn Kraker’s inside basket with three seconds left giving Green Bay a 45-44 lead entering the final period.

Green Bay guards broke through for layups against the bigger Lady Vols early.

The Phoenix opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run to lead 24-16 on LeClaire’s short bank shot with 5:15 left in the half.

At one point, Green Bay had a 14-2 advantage in points in the paint, but Tennessee finally began to dominate the game inside.

Russell, the Lady Vols’ 6-foot-6 center, had a pair of rebound baskets as the Lady Vols finished the half with an 11-3 surge. Bashaara Graves’ 12-foot jumper with 20 seconds left tied the game at 27-27 at the break.

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

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As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.

Kentucky to allow college athletes to earn off likeness

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday allowing the state’s college athletes – including players on the nationally renowned Kentucky and Louisville men’s basketball teams – to make money through the use of their name, image or likeness.

The Democratic governor said he took the action as a matter of fairness for college athletes. It will spare Kentucky’s colleges from being at a competitive disadvantage with rivals in other states that will have laws enabling athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness, he said.

“This is important to our student-athletes, who for decades, others – whether it’s companies or institutions – have profited on,” Beshear told reporters. “These athletes deserve to be a part of that.”

Beshear said his executive order takes effect July 1, when similar legislation passed in several other states will become law. His office said he was the first governor to make the change by executive order.

The governor’s action won praise from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. UK plays in the Southeastern Conference and UofL competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical,” Vince Tyra, U of L’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said in a release issued by the governor’s office.

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said the governor’s action “provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness.”

“We are appreciative of that support, as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted,” Barnhart said in the same release from Beshear’s office. “The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago.”

In Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, laws go into effect July 1 that make it impermissible for the NCAA and members schools to prevent athletes from being paid by third parties for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances.

The NCAA had hoped for a national law from Congress that has not come, and its own rule-making has been bogged down for months. College sports leaders are instead moving toward the type of patchwork regulation they have been warning against for months.