Tennessee Lady Vols suffer first home loss in NCAA tournament, falling to Oregon State

Dan Fleser
Tennessee’s Anastasia Hayes, left, is defended by Oregon State's Katie McWilliams, center, and Marie Gülich during Sunday's game.

March Madness finally reached Tennessee's home court on Sunday afternoon.

Oregon State summoned a fate that heretofore was unattainable with a poised, determined effort in an NCAA women's basketball tournament second-round game. The Lady Vols lent an unsteady hand before a crowd of 4,338 at Thompson-Boling Arena by zoning out on offense.

In the end, the No. 6-seeded Beavers celebrated a 66-59 victory and a semifinal spot in the Lexington (Ky.) Regional on Friday.

The No. 3 seed Lady Vols, meanwhile, trudged back to their locker room and into the offseason, having suffered their first home loss in NCAA tournament history. The winning streak, which began in 1982, ended at 57 games.

The loss also ended UT's season in the second round for a second consecutive season, which was another program first.

"Losing your last game is always hard, but losing in the second round at home is extremely hard," Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. "Look, we've got to go deeper into this thing. We've just got to go deeper than what we've done the last two years."

Mikayla Pivec and Katie McWilliams led four double-figure scorers with 15 points apiece for Oregon State (25-7), which overcame an early 10-point deficit. The Beavers shot 52.2 percent from the floor in the second half (12-for-23) and topped off a 19-for-23 performance at the free-throw line down the stretch.

More:Holly Warlick: Lady Vols don't 'deserve half the crap thrown at them'


Oregon State coach Scott Rueck compared the outcome favorably with the Beavers' NCAA victory over Baylor two years ago, which sent them to their first Women's Final Four

“This one, based upon where it is and based upon our experience level (having two freshmen play double-digit minutes)," he said. "The Baylor win, I prayed we could get it but we had the experience to compete. Today, this was really an incredible performance.

“This was a huge win for our program. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us. It’s been a grind.”

Mercedes Russell led Tennessee with 21 points. The only other Lady Vol scoring in double figures was reserve guard Anastasia Hayes, who had 10 before fouling out in the final minute. UT shot 33.8 percent from the floor (24-for-71).

Adams:Holly Warlick's response worse than Lady Vols' loss

Holly Warlick: "The things that are thrown at these kids are unfair"


While Russell shot 10-for-19 from the floor, Tennessee's other four starters – Jaime Nared, Rennia Davis, Evina Westbrook and Meme Jackson – were a combined 10-for-44 (22.7 percent) and scored 28 points. In her final game, Nared shot 3-for-14 from the floor.    

The Lady Vols started strong with their pressure defense forcing six Oregon State turnovers in the first quarter. They parlayed the mistakes and the pace into a 19-9 lead after the first 10 minutes.

Oregon State changed the course of the game, however, by switching to a zone defense in the second quarter. They Lady Vols shot 3-for-12 from the floor and scored only seven points. Their lead evaporated until a Davis 3-pointer sent them to the break with a slight 26-24 advantage. 

"They went to the 2-3 zone, which we struggled with all year, and we just got stagnant," Nared said. "When teams play us in a 2-3 zone, we kind of stand and we kind of freeze.

"We run our initial action but then we just stand. That was something that was translating over to the other end of the floor to our defense, which shouldn't really happen."

Tennessee went nearly four minutes without scoring to end the third quarter, falling behind 44-39.

A back-breaking sequence occurred about two minutes into the final quarter. The Lady Vols helped force missed shots twice on defense. Both times, however, Oregon State snagged the offensive rebound. The effort enabled a 3-pointer by Pivec and a 47-39 lead with 7:52 left.

The sophomore guard pumped her fist afterward as she headed back up the court. The gesture resembled a knockout punch.