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, as they notched their 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 marked 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

Forman Files: Take it easy on the “Fire Holly” campaign

Lady Vols

[title_box title=”Forman Files: Take it easy on the “Fire Holly” campaign”]

A lot has happened since the 2015-16 women’s basketball season got underway. As even the casual women’s basketball fan can tell, things aren’t going quite as planned on Rocky Top right now.

The Lady Vols have struggled throughout the season and have already lost to Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Texas A&M in league play. They now boast an overall record of 14-9.

Do I really need to say things are bad right now? I think those numbers tell a lot about why some fans are upset. Some are even to the point of calling for Tennessee to fire head coach Holly Warlick.

The question is, should Tennessee fire Warlick?

For me, the answer is no. The fact that we are even having this discussion is somewhat shocking to me. Now, I get that things aren’t going well and living in “Big Orange” country my entire life has taught me how passionate Tennessee fans are — as well as how high their expectations can be.

But it is time for everyone to take a second and just calm down. There is no need to start a Phillip Fulmer, Cuonzo Martin-like uproar.

We will go ahead and get this part of the discussion out of the way. Warlick is not and will never be Pat Summitt. And neither will anyone else. Summitt is one of a kind.

To everyone that says the answer is to hire Tyler Summitt, hold on just a minute. Just because Tyler is Pat’s son does not mean he will be as good as his mom. Personally, I think he will be a great coach. However, that doesn’t mean he will be the next Pat.

The point being, we shouldn’t be comparing Warlick to Pat Summitt. Everyone should have realized that by now, so Summitt’s name will only come up once from here on out and it won’t be to compare the two.

Ok, here we go. Is Warlick a part of the problem? Yes. Is she the whole problem? No.

Could Warlick do some stuff differently? Yes, and she probably is trying new things all the time to right the ship.

The biggest issue is the players.

Oh no, someone said it was the players’ fault and not just the head coach’s?

That is a large part of the problem. The team simply lacks chemistry and doesn’t know how to play together. Warlick can only do so much to help team chemistry. The players have to develop it themselves.

Some people out there have questioned why don’t they know how to play together. They only added three players from last year’s team, so they should know how to play together.

True, they did only add three players (Diamond DeShields, Te’a Cooper and Meme Jackson), but only adding three players doesn’t mean they can’t have chemistry problems. Plus, Mercedes Russell missed all of last season and needs to figure out how to fit back in with the team.

Look at the three players the Lady Vols lost last season and how big of a role they played. Cierrra Burdick, Isabelle Harrison, and Ariel Massengale were essential to last season’s production.

So, yes it is acceptable for this team to still be trying to figure it out.

Let’s look at the 1996-97 Lady Vols for a minute. The 1995 team won a national title and Tennessee brought back a good part of that team. However, despite Summitt coaching the team, and star player Chamique Holdsclaw having a talented roster around her, Tennessee lost 10 games.

It was the first time Tennessee ever lost to Florida and Arkansas in program history. The regular season was a major letdown. However, the Lady Vols went on to win the national championship as a No. 3 seed.

The next year, Tennessee went undefeated and won its third straight NCAA title.

It just goes to show that despite talent and what you did last year, each team is different and has to develop its own chemistry and identity.

This year’s Lady Vols team also lacks leadership and that makes sense when you think about the fact that last year’s seniors had been the leaders of the team for years. There is no unquestionable leader on the floor or that person everyone knows will hold everyone accountable. Warlick can’t lead them on the floor. A player has to do that.

Let’s also look at the fact Tennessee hasn’t had a true star since Candace Parker. Since then, basically everyone has been on a pretty even level. Tennessee’s current players have never had to play in a star-based system or with someone that can create their own offense.

Turnovers have killed this team, too. Currently, nine of the 12 players to see time for the Lady Vols have more turnovers than assists. You typically don’t win every game when you have those stats.

Some people will say Warlick should have them practice not turning it over so much. To think they aren’t practicing that is just crazy. Warlick is not the one that is out on the court turning over the ball. Again, that would be the players.

Tennessee has at least done a better job of getting the assists up over the last to games.

It is also fair to point out that this is Warlick’s first bad year. She just won her 100th game last Thursday, in less than four full seasons on the job. She became just the second power five coach to reach 100 wins in their first four seasons in the last 24 years. She is also only the third coach ever from the SEC to reach that milestone.

With the company she is in, one bad year shouldn’t lead to a discussion to fire her.

Now, I said I was going to bring Summitt back up one more time and here it goes.

There was once a time when a group of Tennessee fans wanted Summitt fired too, because they thought the game had passed her by. That was the time between 1998 and 2007 when her teams weren’t winning championships. Then, of course, she won back-to-back national titles in 2007 and 2008.

Everyone just take it easy, keep supporting the team, and let’s see where things are at in March.

Edited by Cody McClure

The Tennessee Journalist does not necessarily agree with the viewpoints of this column.