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

Lady Vols steamroll Liberty, advance to second round

The No. 3 seed Lady Vols played a monumental second half to trounce 14th-seeded Liberty (24-10) by a score of 100-60 on Friday in Thompson-Boling Arena. Seven Tennessee players logged over 10 points in the win, the most the team tallied all season since its win over Troy three months ago. Freshman guard Rennia Davis led the Volunteers with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Tennessee seemingly couldn’t miss, as they shot an incredible 62 percent from the field and shot 4-of-12 from beyond-the-arc. The Lady Vols dominated the glass, as they outrebounded the Lady Flames by a 45-29 margin. The last time Liberty gave up 100 points was to Tennessee in 1998 in the same round of the NCAA Tournament.

Defense became the name of the game early for Tennessee, as they forced five turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game. However, the Lady Volunteers struggled to get things going on the offensive end until the end of the first quarter. A jumper from junior Cheridene Green started a 11-0 run for Tennessee as the Vols went up 20-10 after 10 minutes played.

Liberty cut down the score to just six points halfway through the second quarter, but Green once again started a run for Tennessee. Tennessee led 36-28 at the half. The Lady Vols thrived in the third quarter, as they outscored Liberty 38-20 and finished the second half shooting 24-of-30 from the field.

“We knew we had to pick it up in the second half and be more aggressive and our press definitely helped,” Vols senior forward Jaime Nared said. “It was really just about getting our tempo going and making buckets. That is something we had to adjust, and we did a great job in the second half.”

Tennessee went up 74-48 after three quarters of play. Meme Jackson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the quarter. The Lady Vols defense held the Big South Conference Player of the Year, Lela Sellers, to just 13 points with 5-of-11 shooting in the game. The 64 second-half points from Tennessee is the ninth-most in program history.

“We handled it fairly well first half. The second half, the turnovers turned into touchdowns,” Lady Flames Head Coach Carey Green said. “They only missed six shots in the second half, and part of that is turning the ball over and they were getting run outs and layups off that.”

The nearly 62 percent shooting from the field from the Vols is the best in NCAA Tournament history and is the most from the Lady Vols since 1987.

“I thought we checked off all of those things we wanted to focus on. I’m really proud of our young ladies,” Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick said. “They played hard and we got a lot of people playing time. They did an outstanding job.”

Warlick and the Volunteers get back into action against No. 13 Oregon State on Sunday in Knoxville. Tennessee is 2-0 against the Beavers in the Warlick era, and 4-0 all-time against Oregon State.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Lexie Little

 

Lady Vols secure No. 3 seed in NCAA Tournament

The No. 12 ranked Tennessee Lady Vols (24-7) received the No. 3 seed Monday night in the Lexington region for the 2018 Women’s NCAA Tournament. They will host the Liberty Flames (24-9) in Knoxville on March 16 at Thompson-Boling Arena for the first round.

Led by Head Coach Holly Warlick, the Lady Vols look to start their tournament run on a high note. Tennessee finished its regular season ranked just outside the top 10 and ended the season at fifth in SEC standings. Although first round games in the tournament usually come as a cake walk for top seeded teams, Liberty will likely give the Lady Vols a tough test.

“What I saw from their tournament is that they are gritty, they are tough, and they rebound,” Warlick said. “They’ve got kids that score, so it will be a tough challenge for us.”

Finishing their season 24-9, the Lady Flames prove they are capable of winning. Clinching their 17th Big South title this season, the ladies from Lynchburg come to Knoxville riding an eight-game winning streak. They look to extend that streak in the NCAA Tournament.

Led by seniors Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared, Tennessee possesses a large advantage by starting the tournament at home. However, the game will not be a guaranteed victory. The Volunteers looked like a top-notch team during portions of the regular season, while looking lost at other points in the schedule.

The last appearance for the Lady Vols came in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. They fell to eventual conference champions South Carolina by a score of 73-62. Tennessee looks to avenge its loss in their game on Friday. The Lady Vols will need contributions from various players to do so.

Feeding the ball inside to Russell proves to be effective, and if the Vols want to go far in the tournament, they must get their star senior the ball as often as possible. With Russell standing at 6-foot-6 and Liberty’s starting forwards both only standing at 6-foot-1, Russell should have a stout advantage on the boards and easy buckets inside the paint.

If there is one concern for the Lady Vols heading into the NCAA Tournament, it will be whether or not Nared will be able to play valuable minutes. Nared went down with an injury against Auburn in the SEC Tournament.

In the game against South Carolina, Nared played a full 40-minute game when she posted a double-double, but her injury could inhibit her against Liberty. The senior from Oregon will search to end her illustrious career at Tennessee with a bang.

“We had kind of a dry reaction, but I think that’s because we’re focused. We’re excited with playing home,” Nared said. “The team we’re playing, we don’t know much about them, but we’re excited to learn about them and to play hard and give it all.”

Friday’s game will be broadcasted on ESPN 2 and tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. ET.

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Davis buries Tigers, No. 12 Lady Vols advance in SEC Tournament

Tennessee (24-6, 11-5 SEC) lost its star senior Jaime Nared to an apparent hip injury in the fourth quarter of its contest against Auburn (14-15, 5-11 SEC) in Nashville on Thursday. However, the Lady Vols advanced to the third round of the SEC Tournament when freshman forward Rennia Davis banked in a dagger 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining in the game.

Although they lost the All-SEC forward, the No.12 ranked Tennessee finished off Auburn 64-61 and will advance to play the No. 2 seed Gamecocks on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

Nared tried to return to the game with five minutes remaining, but she clocked out for the night with 4:36 left in the game. She led the team in scoring with with a total of 17 points. Davis, the hero of the game for the Volunteers, logged 16 points and five rebounds.

Janiah McKay led No. 10 seed Auburn on Thursday night with 24 points, while her teammate Daisa Alexander stayed  close behind with 16 points. Alexander knotted the game up at 61 with 11.2 seconds to go when she stole a Tennessee inbound pass and took it to the rack for a bucket.

While Tennessee chalked up a whopping 24 turnovers on the night, it still cashed in from the charity stripe. The Lady Vols were 20-of-24 from the free throw line on the night while the Tigers were shot just 4-of-5 from the line.

While Anastasia Hayes and Cheridene Green were the only players off the bench for the orange-and-white tonight, head coach Holly Warlick knew Hayes would the player to create the last shot.

“We wanted to get (Hayes) to the basket because she had been doing so well,” Warlick said. “She attacked and it closed in, she kicked out to (Davis) and she let it fly… I hope she called glass.”

Davis was a perfect 2-of-2 on the night from beyond-the-arc and was the anchor for Tennessee when Nared went out. She created shots all night long and when the big moment came, the freshman cashed in.

“I’m just happy the shot went in,” Davis said. “We had a lot of turnovers, as we did (the first matchup against Auburn), I’m just glad we were able to come out with the win.”

Davis knew when Nared went down that somebody had to step up for the Lady Vols, and when Warlick called her name, she was there to answer.

“I’m just glad I was able to beat that person for my teammates,” Davis said. “I understand that (Tennessee) lost last year in the first round, we didn’t want to do that again, so I’m just happy.”

Edited by Seth Raborn

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 15 Lady Vols look to get back on track in Gainesville

Florida (11-16, 3-11 SEC) plays host to the Lady Vols in Gainesville Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Tennessee won the last two meetings with the Gators, but the Lady Vols are currently on their first two-game losing streak in over a month. The Volunteers sit five games back from Mississippi State for the lead in the SEC, while Florida sits 11 games back.

Tennessee’s four-game winning streak finally snapped Feb. 15 in a 72-63 loss to Alabama in Knoxville. Just three days later, the Lady Vols fell to No. 13 Missouri 77-73. Tigers guard Sophie Cunningham exploded for 32 points.

Surprisingly, the Volunteers out-rebounded Missouri by a 30-28 margin and only committed 14 turnovers in the loss. Tennessee’s inability to get any other player than Jaime Nared or Mercedes Russell involved in the offense became problematic. Nared and Russell combined for 35 points, 14 rebounds and six steals, but no other players tallied over 10 points. The guard duo of Rennia Davis and Evina Westbrook combined for 18 points but shot just 5-of-16 from the field.

In the second quarter, the Lady Vols came back from a 13-point deficit and knotted the game up, but Cunningham proved too much for Tennessee. Tennessee held Missouri to just six points from the field in the final quarter, but the Tigers tallied 11 points from the free throw line.

“We got in foul trouble early and got down early,” Vols head coach Holly Warlick said. “As a coach, when you lose a game like this it’s really disappointing, but I’m really proud of our kids.”

After losing its first six games, Florida got back on track Sunday with a big 88-71 win over Vanderbilt. Despite committing 17 turnovers, the Gators out-rebounded the Commodores by a 48-29 margin and shot over 50 percent from the field to win. Four Florida players scored over 16 points Sunday, including a team-high 25 points from guard Funda Nakkasoglu.

Only one starter for Vanderbilt scored more than 10 points. Commodore Rachel Bell scored 22 points. The Gators forced Vanderbilt to shoot just 40 percent from the field and 7-of-28 from deep range on the night. Although they snapped the losing streak, Florida now has both a five-game and a six-game losing streak this season.

“Well first of all, I feel like it gives us confidence. Yeah, we lost two games and some really close games, but we bounce back every game,” Gators head coach Cameron Newbauer said. “It’s the confidence part that we can conquer, and we can beat a lot of really good teams.”

Tennessee may be able to dominate this match up at the post, but Florida has shown that they can control the paint as well. If the Lady Vols don’t see solid production from Russell and Nared, this game could be closer than expected.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Channing Curtis

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