Sixth-seeded Oregon State stunned the No. 3 Lady Volunteers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon. Tennessee fell 66-59 to the Beavers, its first home loss in tournament history, in front of 4,338 Vols fans. Tennessee exited in the second round for the second consecutive season, a program first.
“This was a huge win for our program. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us. It’s been a grind,” Oregon State Head Coach Scott Rueck said. “Today, this was really an incredible performance.”
The Lady Vols sparked an 11-2 run at the game start after a 3-pointer from senior forward Jaime Nared. Tennessee’s stout defense forced the Beavers to record just nine points in the first quarter. The Volunteers led 19-9 after 10 minutes of play, but the script flipped at the start of the second quarter.
Oregon State surged after a pair of free throws from guard Kat Tudor. The points sparked a 13-2 run for the Beavers to the give them the lead. Neither team scored for the next three minutes, until freshman guard Rennia Davis drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Tennessee a 26-24 lead at half.
The Volunteers shot just 25 percent from the floor in the second quarter. The Beavers knocked home nearly 60 percent of their shots from the field. Still, Tennessee had a prime chance to grind out the next two quarters for a win and defend its 57-0 record at home in NCAA Tournament games.
However, Oregon State transitioned to a 2-3 zone, which proved to be disastrous for the Volunteers in the second half.
“I think it just made us stagnate,” Vols senior center Mercedes Russell said. “”We were standing around on the perimeter a lot, not really passing and cutting and moving the defense, which we should have.
The Beavers went on an 11-2 run to end the third quarter and put Oregon State up 44-39 going into the fourth quarter. After Oregon State took its biggest lead of the game with more than three minutes remaining, Tennessee failed to claw back.
Four players logged double-digit points for the Beavers, as guards Mikayla Pivek and Katie McWilliams meshed for 30 points on the night. Seniors Russell and Nared led the Lady Vols in their last game in orange-and-white with a combined 30 points and 18 rebounds in the loss.
“My teammates, my coaches, everybody has just left an impact on my life. I wouldn’t change a thing. I think I’ve learned a lot,” Nared said. “It was a blessing to play here with the tradition and this team.”
Russell passed Candace Parker with her 46th career double-double on Sunday in her last game at Tennessee.
“I have a degree from the University of Tennessee, and I am a Lady Vol forever. Those are two things that you can never take away from me,” Russell said.
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Edited by Lexie Little