“It feels really good,” Horston said Friday. “It was really hard for me being injured and just having to watch the game instead of playing. I am really excited to be able to play the big game of basketball again. So I’m taking advantage of every opportunity that I am given.”
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Fellow senior Rickea Jackson, who announced Monday she’s coming back next season, has been lobbying Horston to join her. For now, the Lady Vols’ leading scorer can’t wait for her own NCAA debut after missing out at Mississippi State the last three seasons.
“I’m very excited for this and how far this team can go and the potential that we have to continue to keep playing great and build our chemistry,” Jackson said.
The 24th-ranked Lady Vols are hosting a second consecutive year thanks to the nation’s toughest schedule. Also in Knoxville is No. 17 Iowa State, the fifth seed in the Seattle 3 region. Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly plays his old team in 12th-seeded Toledo (28-4) for a spot in Monday night’s second round.
Saint Louis coach Rebecca Tillett led Longwood to the tournament a year ago as the Big South Tournament champs. She brought guard Kyla McMakin with her, so they’re trying to share their experience. The Billikens feel confident having won six straight and 11 of their last 12.
“This is a historical place,” McMakin said of the arena filled with Tennessee’s eight national championship banners. “Why not come out and make history?”
Iowa State (22-9) had its own argument to host in Ames as the Big 12 Tournament champ. They’ve won four straight, including knocking off a trio of NCAA teams by double digits for their first league tourney title since 2001.
Fennelly, who had been texting with Toledo coach Tricia Cullop, said he didn’t want to play his old friends and the program he took to three NCAA berths between 1988 and 1995.
“Of all the teams that could pop up, that’s the one that did ...” Fennelly said. “I’m sure the committee has a slight sense of humor. But no, I wasn’t excited about it.”
Freshman Denae Fritz is from Maryville, a short drive from Knoxville, and was a 2021 Tennessee Miss Basketball. Sophomore forward Maggie Vick not only is from nearby Morristown, her mother teaches at the University of Tennessee — though currently is trying to return from a trip to Africa for tipoff.
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