Tennessee lost for the first time at home in women’s NCAA Tournament history when Marie Gulich had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead sixth-seeded Oregon State to a 66-59 win on Sunday.
The third-seeded Lady Vols had been 57-0 at home with most of those victories coming under late Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt, who led the team to eight national championships. It’s the second straight season that Tennessee lost in the second round of the NCAAs and will miss the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the program’s 37-year tournament history.
Oregon State (26-7) advanced to the regional semifinals for the third straight year.
The Lady Vols (24-8) and Beavers played a close game befitting of two teams separated by only spot in the AP poll entering the tournament. Tennessee’s swarming pressure defense flustered OSU early, forcing turnovers and contested shots. The national leader in 3-point field goal percentage, OSU started 1 for 7 from behind the 3-point line in the first half.
The Lady Vols went on an 11-2 run in the first quarter, punctuated by a Jaime Nared 3-pointer, to take a 17-7 lead. But OSU switched to a zone defense in the second quarter to slow UT’s offense and began hitting shots on the other end to claw back.
The Beavers embarked on a 13-2 run to take their first lead on two free throws by Kat Tudor with 2:44 remaining in the half. Rennia Davis hit a deep 3-pointer to send Tennessee into halftime with a 26-24 advantage.
The teams battled through a physical third quarter, with OSU attacking the basket and drawing fouls to end the quarter on an 11-2 run for a 44-39 advantage.
OSU grabbed two offensive rebounds to keep a possession alive to start the final quarter, and Mikayla Pivec capitalized with a 3-pointer to set the tone.
The Beavers gradually built their lead to as large as 13 points. Tennessee made a desperate attempt to rally in the final minutes, but OSU managed to keep the Lady Vols at bay.
After the final buzzer, the Beavers celebrated on the court as their small contingent of fans behind the bench cheered.
Pivec finished with 19 points and seven rebounds to offset her nine turnovers. Tudor had 13 points and Katie McWilliams scored 12.
Freshman Taya Corosdale came off the bench to provide some clutch plays down the stretch for OSU with a 3-pointer, rebound and free throws.
Senior Mercedes Russell finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds in the final game of her Tennessee career. Fellow senior Nared scored nine points on 3 of 14 shooting.
Tennessee: Although second-round exits won’t satisfy the Tennessee fan base, the future should be bright. The Lady Vols lose senior cornerstones Russell and Nared, but they started two freshmen (Davis and Evina Westbrook), had a freshman named SEC Sixth Woman of the Year (Anastasia Hayes) and have signed the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation. The only other time the Lady Vols failed to reach the Sweet 16 was 2009.
Oregon State: The Beavers were not an average No. 6 seed, and proved it. The switch to a zone defense in the second quarter changed the game for the Beavers and contained a Tennessee team that thrives on uptempo offense.
OSU advances to the Sweet 16 to play No. 2 Baylor or No. 7 Michigan in Lexington, Kentucky.
Source: Associated Press