Oregon State tops Lady Vols in NCAA Tournament

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

No. 16 Tennessee dominates Mississippi State on the road

No. 16 Tennessee (22-7, 12-5 SEC) dominated a red-hot Mississippi State team on Tuesday night in Humphrey Coliseum, 76-54. The Vols were virtually unstoppable in the second half of the game, knocking down 11 consecutive field goals at one point.

Before dropping Tuesday’s bout to the Vols, Mississippi State had won its previous three games and seven out of the last 10.

Considered to be one of the hottest teams in the league, the Bulldogs made it tough for the Vols at the beginning of the game, jumping out to a 25-18 lead in the first half.

Admiral Schofield, who served as the co-SEC player of the week coming off of a career-high 24 points, once again proved to be one of the key players behind Tennessee’s success this season.

Schofield matched last weeks point total with 24 and also added seven rebounds and a block with 33 minutes of game time.

Schofield finished Saturday’s contest against Ole Miss with 35 minutes, proving to be one of the most durable players on Rick Barnes’ team.

Previous to its loss to Tennessee on Tuesday evening, Mississippi State was 18-1 at home this season and its only loss was to then-No. 22 Auburn.

The close game continued into the second half as the Bulldogs were down only four points closing in on the first media timeout.

Barnes’ team began to light up the scoreboard, shooting 15-of-22 in the second half of the contest.

“We got some real good execution playing inside out,” Barnes said. “When we move the ball and play together, we’re capable of (doing what we did tonight).”

Lamar Peters, the player who shared co-SEC player of the week last week with Admiral Schofield, was bested by Schofield in the game, getting outscored 24-7. Peters finished the game 3-of-10 with a turnover.

Lamonté Turner played a big role in the game for the Vols, especially from outside the arc. Turner nailed two three pointers and logged 29 minutes off the bench, finishing a perfect 4-for-4.

Turner knows his head coach is looking forward to the SEC tournament but isn’t taking road wins for granted at this point in the season.

“Coach Barnes didn’t complain about anything after the game,” Turner said. “I’m kind of worried about him, he must be sick or something.”

The Orange-and-White will face Georgia on Saturday for their Senior Day to honor the lone senior on the team, James Daniel III.

With the win, Tennessee ties Auburn for first place in the SEC at 12-5.

James Daniel III finished with three points on 1-of-1 shooting against Mississippi State and his only make came when he connected on a deep bomb which banked in from deep outside the three-point line with the shot clock running down.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Takeaways from No. 18 Tennessee’s loss to Georgia

No. 18 Tennessee (19-7, 9-5 SEC) experienced another upset Saturday night in a game against Georgia (15-11, 6-8). The Vols never held a sturdy lead at any point. Here are the takeaways from Tennessee’s 73-62 loss in Stegeman Coliseum.

Pretenders or contenders?

National and local media hyped up the Vols in recent weeks.

Some claimed the Vols could land a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but Tennessee hasn’t been performing well since the hype began.

After dropping a road game to Alabama, the Vols followed it up with a terrible loss in front of a sold out Georgia crowd. If Tennessee wants to be a contender and not a pretender, it will have to learn to win big conference road games.

Tennessee started the season hot, winning neutral-site games over Purdue and NC State, but if this team wants to be a top-3 seed, it will have to learn how to pull out rivalry wins.

Young Vols will learn to put pressure on opponents

Down two points with under five minutes to go in the second half, coach Rick Barnes was unimpressed with his team’s decision making.

The Vols elected to take a three-pointer instead of putting pressure on the Bulldogs.

“Some of those 3’s at the end of the game, we still have time,” Barnes said. “It’s just being selfish and not understanding the game. When a team misses the front end of a one-and-one … just go down and get a point back, opposed to trying to heave up a desperation shot.”

Although Barnes was upset with his young team, he praised the Bulldog’s effort and the way they played.

“Gotta give them credit, last five minutes of the game they beat us,” Barnes said. “Any way you wanna beat somebody, they beat us.”

This team needs a star, and Barnes has his pick

Grant Williams consistently anchors inside for this Tennessee squad, and Barnes holds the bar high for his sophomore forward.

“We’re gonna see if he’s the player he wants to be. This is the time of the year where key guys step up and they play,” Barnes said. “He wasn’t very good with his defensive coverage. He didn’t execute that the way we wanted him to.”

Williams posted only five points in 25 minutes on the night for Tennessee. The Bulldogs held Williams to 1-of-8 shooting and only four rebounds.

Kyle Alexander, on the other hand, anchored Tennessee on the night, posting his second career double-double with 10 points and 13 boards.

If Tennessee wants to make a deep run, it will need both Kyle Alexander and Grant Williams to show up in the same night.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Takeaways from No. 11 Lady Vols’ loss to Missouri

The Lady Vols (21-6, 9-5 SEC) dropped a second consecutive contest Sunday afternoon to No. 13 Missouri (22-5, 10-4 SEC). This matchup marked the second time Tennessee has lost to the Tigers in the history of the series.

The bench stays short for Warlick

As she has done in many games this season, Holly Warlick played nine players, but three of the bench players only played eight minutes or less.

The bench has talent, but Warlick sticks to her guns when it comes to riding her starters. Jaime Nared played all 40 minutes in the contest. Once again, Mercedes Russell logged substantial play time with 36.

Anastasia Hayes shines as the star off the bench for Warlick. Hayes has not hesitated in proving her worth, but the majority of Tennessee’s bench doesn’t see more than 10 minutes a contest.

Out of the 13 shots taken by bench players, Hayes took 11. She went 4-11 in the game, logging 29 minutes.

Though bench players saw little play time, Warlick made it clear the bench came in and did some good things.

“I’m glad to see them come in. They’re very capable,”Warlick said. “When you’re on the bench you don’t have the luxury of starting the game and settling in. You’ve got to come in and maintain and do better, and I thought they did better for us.”

Even when Tennessee out-rebounds opponents, not a guaranteed win

Before Sunday’s contest, the Lady Vols were 16-1 in games where they out-rebounded opponents. Tennessee won the rebounding tally 30-28 and smashed Missouri on the offensive glass with 14 rebounds to five by Missouri.

Teamwork not there for Lady Vols

The Lady Vols showed effort, but something just didn’t click as Nared seemed to carry the team the majority of the contest. 

Nared scored 25, a team-high, and trailed only Sophie Cunningham of Missouri who dropped in 32. Warlick acknowledged the troubles Cunningham gave the team, as she scored or assisted on 14-of-25 of Missouri’s buckets.

“She’s a competitor and she plays every possession all out,” Warlick said. “She was a handful for us … my hats off to her.”

Nared, logging every minute of the game, is the clear-cut leader besides Mercedes Russell for the Lady Vols. The minutes prove her lead.

Both Russell and Nared average close to 40 minutes per game, but when the bench players come in for the Lady Vols, maybe the chemistry just isn’t there with the lack of minutes they log.

Missouri logged 16 assists on 25 field goals in the game while the Lady Vols were lackluster in the passing lanes. The Lady Vols posted an awful seven assists on 27 field goals in the contest.

If this Lady Vols team is looking to make a deep run, it will have to both extend the bench and get the ball around more. Evina Westbrook posted only two assists behind five turnovers.

Edited by Lexie Little

Feature image courtesy of Channing Curtis

No. 15 Tennessee looks to continue hot streak at Alabama

Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC) will go on the road to battle Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) Saturday evening at 6 p.m. The Vols have been red-hot lately, winning their last six games and coming off their first win at Kentucky since 1999.

Rick Barnes has Tennessee rolling right now thanks to the defense. The Vols have been stingy on the defensive side of the ball, allowing slightly over 66 points per game on the season.

The Vols haven’t allowed over 65 points to an opponent in the last eight contests.

If Tennessee wants to succeed at a sold out Coleman Coliseum Saturday, it will have to make shut down star point guard Colin Sexton.

The former five-star prized recruit for Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has lived up to his rating this season. Sexton is third in the SEC in scoring with 18.6 points per game.

Sexton went head-to-head earlier in the season with Oklahoma point guard Trae Young and bettered him in the contest. To say the least, the Tennessee guards will have their hands full in this one.

Tennessee has balanced scoring on its side. Barnes’ top seven players in minutes played average over seven points per game.

Both Lamonté Turner and James Daniel III make huge plays off the bench for Tennessee, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Vols bottled up Tremont Waters, a freshman standout for LSU, and sent him home after scoring only seven points on 1-9 shooting.

Only a week later, the Tennessee defense held Ole Miss’ standout guards to 20 combined points on 29 total shots. The Vols held Deandre Burnett to 2-13 shooting in the game.

Turner played a key role in the win over Kentucky Tuesday evening. He will need a big game both offensively and defensively for the Vols on Saturday. Turner must offset Colin Sexton, as Sexton will be one of the most versatile guards the Big Orange plays all season.

Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has his team playing very good basketball as of late, but the Tide has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference this season. Alabama is one of the few teams to knock off Bruce Pearl’s red-hot Auburn Tigers this season. The Tide also beat No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 23 Florida.

With the good comes the bad, as Johnson’s Alabama team has also been knocked off by far lesser opponents. The Tide lost by double-digits to Georgia, Texas and Ole Miss – all teams ranking in the bottom-tier of their respective conferences.

If Johnson wants his team to be respected come tournament selection time, the Tide will have to prove the good outweighs the bad and knock off lesser teams after a big time win. Both teams will have their hands full in this matchup, but look for the guard play to be the deciding factor.

Johnson and the Tide are 1-1 against Barnes since his tenure in Tuscaloosa. The Vols look to win only their 19th game at Alabama since the rivalry began. Tennessee is 18-44 all-time at Coleman Coliseum.

Edited by Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Takeaways from No. 15 Tennessee’s win at Rupp Arena

Rick Barnes and No. 15 Tennessee went into Rupp Arena on Tuesday night and knock off No. 24 Kentucky for the first time in 19 years on Tuesday evening. Tennessee basketball has been a rollercoaster ride in Barnes’ first couple of seasons, but it seems he has the team on track. Many would even say he’s ahead of schedule.

Here is what to take away from Tuesday’s win over the Wildcats.

Lamonté Turner is the go-to guy down the stretch

Turner was the reason Tennessee upended No. 3 Purdue earlier in the season, and he put the dagger in the Wildcats with only seconds remaining on the clock in Tuesday’s win over Kentucky.

Turner finished the game with 16 points and drilled four 3-pointers on his way to logging 31 minutes on the night. The redshirt-sophomore has now scored 15 or more points off of the bench seven times and has scored 20 or more points four times this season.

The Vols have needed a consistent closer and Turner has become that down this crucial stretch in conference play.

The Vols are back

The stat that will be thrown around until Tennessee plays Kentucky next season is that the Vols swept the Wildcats for the first time in 19 years.

Rick Barnes has Tennessee back in national contention in only his third year with the program, and Knoxville owes him a big pat on the back.

Tennessee, who has been knocked for its low recruiting rankings, has itself a coach that can not only bring quality and underrated players to campus, but can develop those players into some of the best players and teammates in the SEC.

Tennessee is being talked about for its chances of grabbing a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament – something that has never happened in Knoxville. Tennessee owes that solely to Barnes.

Bench play the deepest in the conference

Tennessee has seven players who log at least six points per game. Out of those seven players, all of them average over 20 minutes of game play per contest.

The Vols have not only the deepest roster in the conference, but the deepest bench as well. This is a team that has grown together tremendously since a tough 0-2 start to conference play in January.

This team relied heavily on Grant Williams throughout its tough stretches, but the depth on the roster has finally caught up to where the team wants to go – whether that is due to the development of those players by Barnes, or the unselfishness of the players, this will be a tough team to beat down the stretch if it can continue to close out games with key role players playing like they did tonight.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics